STNNNG, Tight Phantomz, and the Tanks storm the Turf Club

Back in the '80s (I hear), folks around town used to talk about "the pipeline" between the Twin Cities and Chicago, the drive down 94 that connected our local scene with that of Ruthless Records and Touch & Go. It's fun hearing older folks refer to the routes that joined various cities and their touring bands in the same tones your grandfather would talk about marches his platoon took in the war -- whichever war that was. The connections from town to town were powerful things, a handful of bands in each town striking out, forging pathways on maps and alliances with like-minded souls desperate for life on the road.

In 2010 it's a little more crowded, to say the least, and those bonds from town to town aren't always as evident, often replaced by the bonds from MySpace page to MySpace page. Friday night at the Turf Club, however, I got to see that the regional bonds of friendship and camaraderie among smart, hardworking bands are alive and well, on a bill that featured representatives from here (STNNNG), Chicago (Tight Phantomz), and Iowa City (the Tanks) getting together to celebrate local musician/photographer Adam Bubolz's birthday.


The Tanks and their daunting full wall of bass cabinets lining the back of the stage fired the evening's first shot. As singer Kevin Koppes belted in a snarling monotone and stalked the stage in a skirt and what looked like gloves stolen from a museum of medieval armor (or maybe a He-Man cosplay party), bassist Adam Lukseitch and drummer Joe Ross hammered out crushing lock-step metal-influenced riffs that not only didn't need guitar, but left no room for one.

Chicago's Tight Phantomz took the stage next. Having never seen these guys before, I wasn't sure what to expect, and their set kept me (and the rest of the room) on my toes the entire time. Veering between crushing stoner rock, '70s guitar harmonizing, galloping shit-boogie, '80s west coast hardcore, and even some country-fried twang, singer/guitarist Mike Lust and company mashed together their eclectic set with recklessness, sweat, and a level of hard-hitting guitar abuse that I'm sure would have leveled a lesser band. Their sound shifted around so much I was occasionally sure I was hearing a cover, although the only one I positively identified was "Wasted" by the Circle Jerks (although I kept thinking of the Camper Van Beethoven version as they played).


Rumors abounded through the night that local screamy legends Song of Zarathustra, one night before their scheduled reunion at the Triple Rock, were going to play a few songs but it seemed like logistics were not in our favor, as the SoZ team never made it on stage. Instead, after a round of shots with birthday honoree Adam, the members of STNNNG fired off an intense, tight-wound set that, like the last few times I've seen them, alternated between older material and new songs. Although I'm disappointed that some of my (and the crowd's) favorite songs haven't made the set list the last couple sets, STNNNG are still bringing the piano-wire garrotte energy that made them a pick to click just a couple years ago. Their set didn't end as much as it collapsed from sheer exhaustion, with singer Chris Besinger, having spent most of their performance standing on tables in the crowd and wrestling with the birthday boy, on the floor in front of the stage defiantly riffing on their lack of additional songs over the fading squeal of Nate Nelson's guitar.