Rock Against Evolution

Let it blurt: The American Monsters' Croix Clayton

Let it blurt: The American Monsters' Croix Clayton

HEARING THAT THE Glenrustles had broken up should have been about as calamitous and earth-shattering as learning that the third-floor neighbor whom you nod amicably toward once every few months in the laundry room moved to St. Cloud last week. I hadn't seen the band play in months--and I admit, even then, I hadn't gone to see them specifically. That's no slam: The rootsy roil of the mighty Mattson brothers was consistently solid, the work of a meat-and-potatoes band with plenty of gristle and starch. And the Glenrustles' 12 years together is an admirably long tenure. So when the e-mail from Rich Mattson popped up in my mailbox, I felt a slight elegiac twinge.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not one of those pathetic folk who chronicle their lives by sub-seismic shifts in "the scene," the way some stereotypically curmudgeonly New Englander tells time by past blizzards. ("Yeah, we got married must have been the summer Balloon Guy broke up....") But Rich's announcement was both mundane and saddening, like ordering an omelet at your favorite breakfast spot and not having the waitress offer you the option of rye toast in addition to white and wheat. Maybe you hardly ever eat rye. But you do deserve that option, right?

Hard to say why I was in one of my defensively conservative "flux sux" moods after reading that e-mail, but maybe it's because I was on my way to a wake. The Siren 2000 block party wasn't intended to be a wake, of course, and its mood was hardly funereal. In fact, the event was as celebratory as you could ask, given the circumstances. (In case you haven't heard, the biweekly was laid to its untimely rest on August 19 after funds dried up--see last week's Offbeat for details). In any case, the event certainly wins bonus points for economy of space, neatly tucking away two music stages, a variety of informational and sales booths, and a dunk tank on a single block of Irving Avenue South, an adjacent pair of parking lots, and within Café Wyrd. Sure makes a lot more sense than, say, sprawling across a major thoroughfare and dealing in knicks, knacks, trinkets, and baubles. (Uptown Art Fair--you are my enemy, and eventually one of us will have to leave this town!)

I'd wandered fest-ward along with my pal Dan Monick, late of (speaking of defunct local bands) Lifter Puller. In exchange for helping him adjust to civilian life, he introduced me to the fury of the American Monsters. As we arrived, the Twin Cities quintet was attempting to transform the aforementioned Uptown coffee shop into some kind of reasonably punkish performance space. The serpentine counter ends up supporting drummer Misha Dashevsky--it acts as a kind of makeshift drum riser--and the others scrunch into the space in front of him. Spindly singer Croix Clayton is wearing a red T-shirt that exclaims, "Ask Me What My Husband Does."

"This [song] is called 'Bring Me the Head of Ayn Rand,'" he announces. What follows is pretty damn amazing--music that would break Alan Greenspan of any lingering objectivism from his callow youth. Clayton reels forward spasmodically, eventually collapsing into a picturesque fit of writhing on the floor. Elaborately coiffed guitarist Matty Letiel generates clean licks; in opposition, guitarist Emily Clausen and bassist Carry Bleser coat the songs in a deep casing of grit. Leaning into the mic, Clausen explodes into paroxysms of emotion. As the band scraps along, Clayton leaps up and down on the bar, wrapping his mic cord around a patron's neck. The anarchy of a full moon at midnight is breaking out at 3:30 p.m. in a well-groomed coffee shop.

Yeah, yeah, I know, every new beginning comes from some other et cetera and so forth and all that optimistic "Turn, Turn, Turn" crap. Change is the only alternative to that eternal Sisyphean schlep. (As Rich Mattson told me in his e-mail, the Glenrustles break was purely amiable, if rooted in some frustration: "We hit the ceiling in this town again and again.") Rich has launched a new band, Ol' Yeller, and continues to labor for ace acts like Danny Commando. His brother Glen has a great band with spouse Kat Bjelland, Katastrophy Wife, and a supercute baby son too. And sooner or later, some other idealistic investment group will sink their cash into another newspaper. (I really liked that lime-and-orange color pairing Siren used on their cover, though).

Oh, and the American Monsters are playing an upcoming benefit at the Entry for the Hard Times Café--another group teetering on the edge of some possibly fatal flux. Maybe, if they can scrape up enough support for the legally beleaguered cafe, some things won't have to change.