Memory Lanes Block Party, 5/24/14 + 5/25/14
Photo by Bridget Bennett
Memory Lanes Block Party
Memory Lanes, Minneapolis
Saturday, May 24 & Sunday, May 25
Each day of this past weekend's Memory Lanes Block Party catered to two very different individuals. Saturday's lineup, which included the omnipresent hip-hop group GRRRL PRTY and soulful rockers Black Diet alongside other cool kid acts like Latin-indie experimenters Buffalo Moon, seemed geared towards the twenty-something tattooed hipster who gets by on pizza, PBR, and whatever the hired security confiscated at the gate.
Sunday's performers, especially those later on in the evening like Eleganza! and Deadstring Brothers were better aligned with Sunday's crowd of tattooed moms and greaser dads. Interspersed were middle-aged rockers swaying with their beers, and a steady flow of black-clad women with a face full of retro makeup and hairdos that probably required even more time to assemble than this review did.
The lineup choices were likely strategic play on Memory Lanes' part, considering that all of those hot young things grinding up on each other during GRRRL PRTY's set on Saturday were probably doing exactly the same thing at Soundset the next day, leaving Memory Lanes with a big parking lot to fill and an entirely different prospective audience.
Photos by Bridget Bennett
Red Daughters had everyone swooning early in the day; in fact, revelers were still talking about how incredible their performance was while sitting at the bar hours later. Mary & the Percolators got the early evening crowd revved up with Mary Ellen's spastic wailing and dynamic stage presence. Southside Desire delivered their usual set, with sophisticated vocal harmonies yet a somewhat lackluster performance style. Their song transitions are impressive and act as a wave that picked up the crowd and kept them moving to the music, while they stayed largely within their own spaces on the stage.
By this point the crowd began to swell. People were buzzing about Buffalo Moon, who hadn't performed in Minneapolis in some time, as singer Karen Freire recently relocated to New York. Freire stalked the crowd, dressed stylishly in a leather skirt and transparent flower-patterned giant T-shirt, with white stacked platform sandals -- as if stepping off the pages of a summer fashion catalog.
When Buffalo Moon took to the stage, everyone moved forward. They blazed through a set entirely lacking in cohesion, which dipped into a whirlwind of genres and utilized multiple languages. In this case, having a common thread wasn't necessary. It was certainly intriguing to watch Freire casually move from one idea to the next. Clearly her recent travels have contributed greatly to her personal artistic evolution. She was joined onstage by two backup singers, whose voices certainly didn't detract from the performance, but didn't necessarily add to it either.
Photos by Bridget Bennett
Black Market Brass followed, with the emcee declaring, "They're like Chippendales, with sex!" as they mounted the stage. The large ensemble recently underwent some lineup changes, and had guest musicians filling in for this performance. Black Market Brass performed both originals and renditions of classic '70s Afrobeat and Afro-Funk music of West Africa.
They are a unique and befittingly eccentric facet of the local music scene. For this particular performance, they were joined onstage by Sean Anonymous, whose rapping made for an interesting juxtaposition with their blend of deep funk and Afrobeat. The audience was pleased, and for the first time in the night, everyone was on their feat dancing enthusiastically.
Of course, GRRRL PRTY stole the night. Shannon Blowtorch stood menacingly over her tables, spinning an ear-crushing mix of trap beats and classic hip-hop samples. It seemed as if the crowd had tripled in size somehow immediately before the GRRRLs jumped on stage. Small pockets of twerking broke out. Lizzo kept the crowd riled up by engaging everyone in chants, in between frenzied bouts of aggressive rapping. It is almost impossible to avoid being sucked into the energy of a GRRRL PRTY performance, and impossible also to look away.
Photos by Bridget Bennett
The three have formulated their own choreographed movements, and hand off raps to one another with high fives and head nods. They each have their own distinct vocal style. An impressive moment was when Sophia Eris rhymed to a classic Biggie beat. Their hits "Nightwatch" and "Ashes" were big crowd pleasers. People went nuts ever time Manchita swung her hips as she swaggered seductively across the stage, dropping slick-tongued verses.
Later Saturday evening, the party moved inside for some jams from the Hotpants/Hipshaker DJs, local favorites Black Diet, and Grolar Bears, which was a transition that seemed better suited to happen after Black Market Brass -- yet no one could be mad at the GRRRL PRTY intermission. In fact, it seemed to have gotten everyone a but more turnt for the closing acts.
Kicking off Sunday, Crankshaft, Drug Budget, and Nato Coles played sets to a relaxed crowd. L'Assassins asserted their garage rock prowess. Then, Frankie Teardrop. Frankie's music did perhaps serve to bridge the generational gap in some ways, as even the older generations could be seen engaging in some potentially offensive ass-shaking directly beside a group of teenage girls with big marked X's on their hands, swinging each other around in a whirl of white sundresses.
Yet his onstage presence and demeanor is frigid, alienating at best. He flagrantly dropped an F-bomb between almost every song, even declaring, "Fuck you, let's party," before even beginning the set. We get it Frankie, you're cooler than we are. The only time that Frankie actually tried to tell the audience an anecdotal story turned into an assertion of why people in Holyoke, Massachusetts, were terrifying when the band recently stopped there on tour.
Frankie Teardrop does have lots of catchy tunes. His catalog is full of fuzzy rock songs that feel really good to listen and move to, even if they are about dead friends. Wavves occasionally comes to mind. The playing is tight, and his voice is strong, clear, and consistent. The gimmick, however, is somewhat unsettling, the aloofness off-putting. It can become difficult to separate the high quality of his music from his distractingly bizarre in-character performance style. Off-stage, the man behind Frankie Teardop is almost unrecognizable. Are the stage-antics hurting or helping him?
Another highlight of Sunday was Deadstring Brothers. They were immensely talented, an outfit of honky-tonk, Americana and blues musicians who sprung magically from the harsh Detroit landscape. The crowd was substantially less in number than Saturday, the sky much cloudier. People seemed more inclined to engage in conversation than to watch the music sometimes.
All of the performers were obviously having a great time, though, and the overall vibe was very positive. How could it not be, considering that Minneapolis was enjoying basically its first beautiful weekend since winter hit months and months ago. Also, with Memorial Day being the day after the block party, most were free to drink into the night given the extra day to stave off their impending hangovers.
Late in the night, Shannon Blowtorch turned the indoors into a dance party, followed by Black Hearts Burlesque and Ross Kleiner & The Thrill. A long weekend, full of a somewhat random-feeling collection of music, was coming to a close. Those who had the stamina stayed late to party, some heading over to the Buildings show at the Hexagon Bar nearby. The parents and kids were long gone. Some older, significantly drunker attendees wandered the parking lot, swaying. The PBR continued to flow, the summer's promise of many more block parties to come lingering in the air.
Overheard in the crowd: "Side boob? I was thinking about side boob yesterday." "Move please, your father's coming through."
Critic's bias: It was a long two days. I've seen a lot of these bands before so maybe I was a little harder on them than a first-timer may have been. This was my first Memory Lanes block party, but probably won't be my last.
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