Marijuana Deathsquads' Boston Massacre at Turf Club, 4/20/12

Marijuana Deathsquads' Boston Massacre at Turf Club, 4/20/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Wade Boggs' Wicked Boston Baked Bash
with Marijuana Deathsquads, Weird Boggs, Plain Ole Bill, Baby Boys
Turf Club, St. Paul
Friday, April 20, 2012

When the details were posted no one could've been fully prepared for this gig. The bizarre promo video didn't exactly clarify things either. The lineup -- which included such highlights as "Free jailhouse Bruins tattoos from POS," "Baby Boys featuring Jake Luck play the Cheers theme," and "Har Mar Superstar as 'Weird Boggs' doing a Bostonian karaoke set" -- left a lot to the imagination, particularly considering the auspicious date.

The closest thing on the list to a solid band billing, "Marijuana Deathsquads present the Boston Massacre," brought predictions that mastermind Ryan Olson (one of City Pages' artists of the year in 2010) and his core cohorts Isaac Gale (City Pages' Best Of 2011 Male Vocalist) and Ben Ivascu (member of Poliça and too many other bands to count) might have something to do with the gig. Regarding Deathsquads, it's best to expect the unexpected.

Floating down the Mississippi on a synth-laden barge while three drummers on the riverbank pound out polyrhythms? Yep. Going back to the same spot a year later with dozens of other musicians joining in a bizarre visual/rhythmic opus? Yep. Filming a music video in black and white with the help of an ancient tube video camera? Sure enough. Playing a residency in L.A. and collaborating with David Yow and Kevin Rumantis? Just another day in the life. So it came as no surprise that this particular evening at the Turf was a bit different than your usual three-band bill on a Friday night.

Marijuana Deathsquads' Boston Massacre at Turf Club, 4/20/12
Photo by Erik Hess

At 10 p.m., almost two hours after the entirely too specific 8:17 p.m. open, there were no jailhouse tattoos or Boston Irish Mafia to be found, and it sounded like Enjoyables' trivia had wrapped up a little earlier. Things were quiet in the Clown Lounge and Plain Ole Bill was spinning a bizarre array of Boston-related tunes while Playatta visuals with gratuitous and variously distorted Wade Boggs imagery danced behind him. As each song wrapped up, Bill cued up the insanely distinctive horn intro to House of Pain's "Jump Around," only to flip to another track like Boston's "More Than a Feeling" or Aerosmith's Walk This Way."

Around 11, Baby Boys took the stage, accompanied by Jake Luck (of Gayngs, Leisure Birds, and Yeti Records fame) on keys and Martin Devaney (of Crossing Guards) on sax, and launched into a 20-minute rendition of the Cheers theme. Yes, you read that right. Twenty minutes of Gary Portnay's "Where Everybody Knows Your Name." Har Mar Superstar even joined in for a bit. By the time Christy Hunt hopped on stage for a few verses and a chorus or two, it felt like they had been playing for hours.

Even for those who don't toke, the disorientation that came with such a bizarre performance was enough to leave the crowd a bit dazed and confused. While the band wrapped up and Bill went back to his Boston-centric DJ set, there was a marked change in the crowd. Those who were perplexed or annoyed by the incessant, well, "Bostoning" going on had left and the remaining crowd and their still-arriving friends were wholly invested in the pursuit, whatever that pursuit was.

Marijuana Deathsquads' Boston Massacre at Turf Club, 4/20/12
Photo by Erik Hess

After a crazy "Weird Boggs" karaoke set from consummate performer Har Mar (as promised), Marijuana Deathsquads got behind their gear. Isaac Gale, Har Mar, Slapping Purses, and Spyder Baybie Raw Dawg picked up mics and delivered distorted vocals and expert knob-twiddlers Mark McGee and Albert laid down a twisted wall of synth sounds while three drummers, Ben Ivascu, Sean Walker, and Justin Korhonen, climbed on stage. Even Plain Ole Bill joined into the set from his DJ setup across the room, adding accents and sample-based flourishes.

Like many MDS sets, this ended up being a loud, polyrhythmic assault. Unlike many MDS sets, which can be as short as 15 or 20 minutes, it morphed, crescendoed, and crashed through almost 50 minutes. Throughout the set, Olson continuously communicated with the crew, tweaking their output to match some crazy creative vision.

Marijuana Deathsquads' Boston Massacre at Turf Club, 4/20/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Immediately after Deathsquads set, and for the 45 minutes until the Turf's inevitable 2 a.m. closing, Plain Ole Bill returned to his Boston DJ set. After hours of teasing the crowd with "Jump Around," Bill delivered with a 30-minute-long chopped-up and occasionally interrupted live mix of the song that had the late crowd at the Turf jumping uncontrollably. Verses started, repeated, stopped, and were replaced by yet another Boston song, only to see the song restart, end up at another verse, then start the process all over again. Once the song was finally played uninterrupted, Bill jumped down from the impromptu DJ booth and jumped around with the crowd himself.

When 2 a.m. rolled around, the crowd left at the Turf was sweaty, deaf, and full of smiling faces. While the Baked Bash wasn't everyone's cup of tea, those who stuck with it were rewarded with an incredible set from Marijuana Deathsquads bookended by one of the strangest nights of music the Twin Cities has ever seen.

Reporter's Notebook:

Critic's Bias: I won't lie, Deathsquads is my kind of music: rhythm-heavy, electronic, chaotic, collaborative, seemingly uncontrollable but tightly orchestrated; the Minneapolis answer to Boredoms, Battles, and Holy Fuck. My $7 cover was worth it for them alone, to watch another step in their constant, bizarre evolution.

The Crowd: Early on, a mix of dedicated live music enthusiasts, Turf regulars, and friends of the greater Deathsquads crew. Toward the end, a motley crew of rowdy revelers dancing their hearts out.

Overheard: "HEY DJ! There are MUCH BETTER songs from Boston! Play some of THOSE!"

Random Notebook Dump: I didn't anticipate writing about this gig until I found myself repeatedly regaling friends with crazy stories. If I had taken notes, I would've filled them up with names of dozens of the songs Plain Ole Bill spun that I didn't even realize were Boston-related before that night.

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