There's a drinking game associated with American Idol: Every time Paula Abdul pays a compliment ("Two words: phe nominal!"), you take a swig. The idea is that your blood alcohol content might, in some roundabout way, measure talent, a concept familiar to anyone who has made it out of the 7th St. Entry's New Band Night alive.
This got us to thinking. A lot of currently sober people around these parts seem to like the C.O.R.E., Michael Yonkers, and Dosh--who finished fifth, eighth, and second in our Picked to Click best new band poll. Big deal. The real question is, How would these emerging locals go over with an audience of 18 million viewers? And who's got the Jäg?
Unfortunately, repeated calls by City Pages to the producers of American Idol went unreturned. (Okay, we were too lazy to make them.) So we created a special panel of judges to subject our favorites to the same kind of humiliation and Abdulation dished out by Paula, Simon Cowell, and whatever the other guy's name is.
Our noncompetitive event would occur at Montana Coffeehouse, in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. Performers would bring only what they could carry. Renditions of "Careless Whisper" would be forbidden.
So how did our hip-hop crew, psychedelic guitarist, and electronic tunesmith stack up?
Profile: Young south Minneapolis hip hoppers who host shows at the Circle of Discipline boxing gym
AD and Toki take the stage with microphones. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Anybody from Cleveland?"
They launch into an a cappella rap.
"Our music is soul stirring 'cause this is--"
"We do this for our people, plus those that ain't--"
"--used to it!"
"It stimulates your thought, instead we can get--"
"--loose to it!"
Then they're chanting together, fists in the air: "Children. Of. Righteous. Ele...vation. Do this for your nation!"
Craig Rice: I like the content. I think your flow is really strong. But as you write music, you need to sort of figure out: What is the piece going to be? Not that you have to be traditional, but there's a reason for an introduction, bridge, chorus, and stuff like that--even in hip hop.
David Campbell: I like your relaxed delivery. One of my complaints with live hip hop is that it's mellow on the recording, and then when you see it live, they're screaming.
Jayda: I like the relaxed message. The way you got it across was very calm, and you said some very bold things. You guys rocked my ass. Are you from here? You're not from Cleveland?
Profile: Sixties psychedelic guitar pioneer who just released an acclaimed album of old recordings, Microminature Love (Destijl)
Yonkers takes the stage with a small amplifier and what looks like nothing more than a guitar neck with strings, which is attached to his side on a leather belt.
"Is that too loud?" he asks, as feedback streams from the amp.
He performs seven short, bluesy songs--sounding part ravaged folkie, part Hendrix growing a new hand. The set lasts 15 minutes.
Rice: I think you have an issue with your songwriting ability, but I can't tell because I don't know where the songs begin and where they end. You have a good voice, and I think you're trying to say something in your lyrics, but I don't know where you're going.
Campbell: I've got to know, as a guitar player: What is that thing?
Yonkers: This? It used to be a Telecaster. I cut it down in about '68, believe it or not.
Campbell: It's a unique sound. How do you normally perform?
Yonkers: I haven't really performed much for years. I've just been kind of dragged out not too long ago. There was a reissue of my band from '68, and I've been performing more since then.
Campbell: It's not a surprise to me that people are digging your sound, because you look at the White Stripes and the Strokes, and garage-y guitar sounds are happening now. I think you sing a little like Grant Hart, actually.
Jayda: All I can say is: Wow. Definitely original. At times I did get lost in the words. I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to visualize because there were a million things going through my mind--and they were all good things.
But your live style reminds me of a female impersonator whom I perform with on a regular basis. You've got originality, and I think you should go with it, 'cause it's done her justice.
Yonkers: Was it Tiffany you're talking about?
Jayda: Tiffany Cartier? No, but I know her really well. She's in Alabama.
Profile: Ambient electronic bricolagist who plays drums and keyboards in Lateduster and Fog
Dosh walks onstage with two children's toys, a melodica, and a primitive-looking sampler. With these, he creates a rhythm track, then some riffs, then a melody.
Rice: I'm impressed, and I don't impress easily. Talk about the Sixties! Watching you create this art was like a "happening," which was big in the Sixties--the night becomes whatever it's going to become. I don't know how you do what you're doing, but it looks fascinating.
Campbell: If you go see some laptop artist, it's just like they press "enter." They may be manipulating the sound as it's happening, but you can't see that. So it was really cool to see your creative process.
I think you've got a great ear for melody, and you've put together things that are just enjoyable to listen to--both eerie and happy.
Jayda: That was one hell of an emotional roller-coaster ride. I have three kids at home that would be impressed. At the beginning I kept waiting for Trent Reznor to come popping out. I would have been extremely pleased with that.
But definitely keep on keeping on. I don't know how you put it together, but I was definitely entertained by the fact of seeing it be put together.
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