Run Westy Run at First Avenue, 12/27/13
Photo by Steve Cohen
Run Westy Run
with San Dimas and the Goondas
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, December 27, 2013
Minneapolis will always have its musical history and Run Westy Run will always be a part of it. People will always recall them with a reverence that few other acts in this city are ever afforded. Friday night at First Avenue, however, the RWR boys almost ended up with a Roger Maris-style asterisk next to their name by the end. What started off as a promising revisit to one of the more fun bands this city has seen in the past 30 years quickly devolved into a directionless miasma of style over substance.
After a too-long wait, the band took to the balloon-decorated stage amid the roar of the approving crowd. Lead singer Kirk Johnson popped up from under a long box that had been placed over him just prior to the screen being raised. The band promptly broke into "Dizzy Road," from their 1988 self-titled sophomore release, and it seemed to have little rust clinging to it, if any at all. As they continued, the set seemed to be coalescing nicely with songs like the tightly wound "Circles of Joy." It was reminiscent of the Replacements for its shambolic jangle, but funkier, the edges sharper.
Photos by Steve Cohen
It started to get stale quickly, however. The plot got lost in such a flurry, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what happened. But the show got old before it even had a chance to fully warm up.
The balloons in the background, we came to find out, were part of an art installation that began with "Dizzy Road" and continued for the entire set. Three other people, all with spelunking lights on, stepped out of the shadows between songs and taped things together. They assembled cardboard cutouts that were balanced on the floor, and other such oddities, but it seemed to have no point. It was pseudo-Dadaist and half-baked. If it was supposed to be funny, the punch line never came. If it was supposed to be serious, it was simply wrong-headed.
Soon after, the band brought out three special guests -- local luminaries Ed Ackerson, Marc Perlman and Jim Boquist -- to help with a couple of songs, and while it should have been a nice little detour, it stopped what little momentum they had so suddenly that the entire crowd should have had whiplash. From there the show never really regained any semblance of organization or anything else. It was nothing short of a complete mess from then on.
And maybe, in the end that was the problem with RWR. The show should have been much more fun than it was; what was fun was fleeting and the set lacked any sort of focus from the outset, something that was only so charming and actually served to drag the set along toward the end. The reunion show was a nice idea that never really gelled the way it should have -- a perfect metaphor for what happened in the '90s to the band. Instead of leaving the crowd with a "Man, the rest of the country sure missed out"-type vibe they cemented the fact that they were only big locally for a reason -- or several.
Photo by Steve Cohen
It was quite a disappointment overall and really put quite an ugly dent in their legacy. Sometimes leaving the past alone is the best course of action, especially if that past didn't play out the way everyone imagined it would the first time around.
Critic's Bias: I always felt I had missed out with Run Westy Run, I was never old enough to see them live and by the time I was, I was in college in a different city. After Friday, I was conflicted at best and felt lucky to have avoided them live at worst.
The Crowd: Drunk and disorderly. It reminded me of being at a frat party, except everyone was my age or older.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I just drank...what was it, Patron? Yeah, Patron! It was awesome!"
Notebook Dump: Kirk is a frontman's frontman, but these moves needed to stay in the early '90s, they just look cheesy.
Photo by Steve Cohen
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