It was another huge weekend for local music. Both the Cloud Cult CD release show and the Afternoon Records 5th Anniversary party filled the First Avenue Main Room with local music fans, while the Deaths released a new album at the Turf and the God Damn Doo Wop Band played their first show in ages at the Hexagon.
Here's a rundown of the best sets I caught this weekend:
E.L.nO. Lee's Liquor Lounge, April 25
The crowd was a strange mix of hipster and barflies for the ELO cover band's show Friday night. But that didn't stop everyone from dancing like the drunk attendees of a distant relative's wedding reception. As Jeff Allen, guitarist for the Plastic Constellations, commented to me during the show, “This music has a strange effect on people. It makes them crazy.” We giggled as we watched an older couple act out some PG-13 moves during a slow song, finishing it all off with a dramatic dip.
Highlights of the show included “Telephone Line” (my personal favorite, complete with a crowd sing-along to the “Doo wop, dooby doo doo wop” parts), “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” and “Can't Get it Out of My Head.” But really, who am I kidding? Every song was a highlight. E.L.nO.'s sets play like a greatest hits compilation, to which the blue leisure suit-clad lead singer Dave Campbell/Jeff Lyne remarked: “Don't worry, we're gonna play all the hits tonight. That's what we do.” Each time I see the band they seem to get tighter as a group, and their set at Lee's was enhanced by a surprisingly dramatic light show that seemed out of character for the blue-collar bar.
Photo of E.L.nO. frontman Dave Campbell taken by Stacy Schwartz.
God Damn Doo Wop Band Hexagon Bar, April 25
I skipped out of the E.L.nO. show just in time to catch a set by the God Damn Doo Wop Band at the Hexagon. The band had been inactive for a spell, but they regrouped Friday night to release a "new" 7" single which singer Kat Naden explained was actually recorded almost a year ago. The lineup has changed a bit since I had last seen the group, with a new drummer and a new singer named Annie, but the change in vocals was hardly noticeable sonically. In fact, hardly anything was noticeable sonically at first above the feedback and fuzz of the backing band--it wasn't until I put my earplugs in that I was able to distinguish the ladies' vocals at all. I was glad that I had earplugs on hand, though, because Annie really shined on the new song "I'll Always Be Your Girl."
The set derailed into total chaos at the night's end, with members of openers Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels storming the stage to sing harmonies on "S-L-U-G" (at least, that's what I am guessing it was called given the content of the song) and scooping up the girls while they sang. It seemed appropriate that the set would end with insanity, given this group's dichotomy of squeaky-clean '50s harmonies and their more rough-around-the-edges punk inclinations, and it was a fun ending to a night filled with doo wop ditties.
Photo of the God Damn Doo Wop Band by David de Young.
Cloud Cult First Avenue, April 26
I can't imagine seeing Cloud Cult playing anything but big stages from here on out, and it's not just because I think they're destined for widespread success. Cloud Cult's live show demands that they play big rooms. With five band members, two painters, a video screen and a fantastic light show, the entire Main Room was awash with lead singer/ringleader Craig Minowa's colorful, explosive vision.
It would be easy to write off Cloud Cult as too hippie, too peace-loving, too positive--in this day and age, aren't we supposed to hate joy unless it is expressed ironically? But Minowa and company are so genuine with their love that it was hard to keep from smiling during their set of psychedelic, harmony-infused indie rock.
My favorite part of the night was the screening of Cloud Cult's new music video for "Everybody Here is a Cloud," which was filmed just last month at Como Park. It's especially cool to know that this video is filled with extras from the Twin Cities:
The evening ended on a high note with a quick succession of some of their most recognized songs, including "Take Your Medicine," "Chemicals Collide" and an all-out encore version of "Love You All." In a particularly endearing moment, Minowa sang the last line "Love you all" and a guy from the audience replied at the top of his lungs, "Love you too!"
Here's the full set list:
Hope No One Said It Would Be Easy Pretty Voice Made Up Your Mind Man Jumped Out the Window Please Remain Calm Chain Reaction Story of the Grandson of Jesus Happy Hippo The Ghost Inside Our House Journey of the Featherless Freddy Million Things Hurricane and Fire Survival Guide Everybody Here Is A Cloud Take Your Medicine Chemicals Collide Intro The Tornado Lessons Love You All
Photo of Cloud Cult by Daniel Corrigan. More photos in the slideshow.
The Deaths Turf Club, April 26
A sizable crowd had gathered across the river for the Deaths CD release show. I wasn't terribly familiar with the Deaths prior to seeing them at the Turf, but after being charmed by their '60s garage rock harmonies and slow-burning songs I am kicking myself for not finding them sooner. The band consisted of four dudes in plaid shirts, and they just sounded like the Turf Club, if that makes any sense--both in spirit and in style, they embraced the down-home charm of the club and reminded me of other harmony-laden dude rock bands like the Beatifics or Polara.
Afternoon Records 5th Anniversary First Avenue, April 27
All ages shows are a strange beast. Don't get me wrong, I am completely supportive of underage kids seeing as much music as possible, and I think Afternoon Records has done a great job advancing this cause--but there is something unsettling about going to a rock show when it's still light outside. It also didn't help that there was a poor turnout for the event, and the whole scenario made me feel like I was crashing a high school lock-in instead of stumbling into First Ave for a normal rock show.
But anyway: the music. Poison Control Center stole the show with their raucous-yet-poppy rock, and I was especially amused at how guitar player Devin Frank insisted on laying on the ground and throwing his feet up in the air every time he had a guitar solo. Seriously, it was like a tic; like he was incapable of soloing without assuming such a position. At the end of their set, PCC invited members of One For The Team and Battle Royale on stage to help them sing their last song, which resulted in members of the Afternoon Records family picking each other up and swinging each other around like a bunch of rock and roll kids gone crazy.
My other favorite act of the evening was Haley Bonar, who played a solo set with only an electric guitar as accompaniment. Despite the fact that she was without a band, I think this was one of the most "rocking" Haley Bonar sets I had ever seen, and it made me excited for her new record. Haley played a handful of new songs off the upcoming album, Big Star, which she announced will be released June 10, in addition to a positively gut-wrenching cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." Photo of Haley Bonar by Daniel Corrigan. See all of the Afternoon Records bands in the photo slideshow.