Olympian Heights

Faster! Faster! Must... get... to... that... cheeseburger... First! Olympic Hopefuls
Darin Back

Lounging on the porch of his new south Minneapolis home, Darren Jackson wonders when his neighbors, members of bondage rockers All the Pretty Horses, might bring over a welcoming casserole. Then the topic of his band comes up, and suddenly he's doing the "Motobike," bending forward at the waist and rocking his hips back and forth, while making an inexplicable stirring motion with one arm. The dance has no apparent connection to the vehicle or the Olympic Hopefuls song it was named for, but it supports the relationship between the group's music and shameless body rocking.

Taking a seat, Jackson and fellow guitarist-vocalist Erik Appelwick discuss the urban/rural kinetic correlation. Basically, the less populated (and therefore, mind-suckingly boring) an area is, the easier it is to get people to dance. In South Dakota, for example, "the slightest semblance of a beat gets people gyrating," claims Jackson.

By that logic, it's impressive that on the next night Olympic Hopefuls get so many 24-Hour Day of Music Festival goers on their feet. There's the expected crowd of baby T-shirted young women who know all the words, but the glow of the stage lights also reveals a shuffling man in his sixties, a thuggish-looking guy in a wifebeater hopping from foot to foot, and a male poplocker sporting enough jelly bracelets to be a very fashionable seven-year-old girl circa 1985. Onstage, five guys in identical red tracksuits work up a sweat like so many steroid-popping jocks on National Pee in a Cup Day.

Appelwick and Jackson have experience wooing the locals, having footholds in the scene with roller rink heroes Vicious Vicious and the emotionally volatile Kid Dakota, respectively. Plus, some members pull double or triple duty with Alva Star, Storyhill, and Friends Like These. After playing infrequent shows as Camaro for a few years, the group launched a preemptive strike against lawsuits and thwarted Google confusion by changing their name. (They continue to taunt the legal vultures with their logo, the trademarked Olympic rings flipped upside down.) And the tracksuits, which the band originally donned for a photo shoot, have become mandatory attire despite their lack of adequate ventilation.

Channeling the rush of gold medal victory, OH's excellent debut album The Fuses Refuse to Burn (2024 Records) is the soundtrack to a summer of nonstop waterslides and beach volleyball. "Holiday" zips by like a banana-seated three-speed flying downhill. On "Shy," Appelwick plays the sensitive heartthrob, leaving a trail of swooning indie girls in his wake. The anti-sleep campaign of "Let's Go!" earns its exclamation point with fuzzy protester-with-megaphone vocals crying, "Hey all right/It's a.m. time/and we've got Mini Thins and nursery rhymes!" Jackson calls their music a cross between Weezer and Herman's Hermits, but really, they're related to any band that knows that the only thing better than more cowbell is more handclaps, and the only thing better than more handclaps has yet to be invented.

"We're hoping the album holds up during the fall and spring too," says Appelwick. "But winter obviously is not going to work. It'll have to sit in the corner with the beach balls and flip-flops."

Back at Peavey Plaza, Jackson introduces "Trust Fund" as a "slow" and "tragic" number. And yet, after the solemn first lines, the song clicks into the group's familiar follow-the-bouncing-tambourine beat, and its tragedy fills the dance floor to capacity. The band throws an additional chorus on the end of the song, and a minute later Appelwick flashes a grin to his bandmates, threatening to extend it again. They cut him off but it seems like the crowd would be up for dancing to this particular song for another three or four days. Teach them the Motobike and suddenly downtown Minneapolis has all the dance-crazed fervor of Sheboygan.

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