There's a fine line between roots and kitsch, history and nostalgia, but the smell of the real thing is as timeless as springtime in landlocked Minnesota. "Surf music is the roots music that connects all roots music," said Rosemary Erb, as she and her husband, Sicbay guitarist Dave Erb, took a break from dancing Saturday night at the Hex. To be sure, surf may be the ultimate dance music; you don't need lessons or style, you just need to get out there and look as dorky as the band.
Onstage were the Surf Dawgs, whose primordial Fender-fueled beat wed the tribal rhythms of local groove experimentalists Brown Rainbow with surf kings of yore the Trashmen, the Underbeats, and the Overtones. On lead guitar was Zip Kaplan, founder of Minneapolis's most famous local band of the 1960s, the Litter, whose hit "Action Woman" has been covered by countless garage bands. The crowd was peppered with the Augsburg College hockey team, old-timey car collectors, sock-hop refugees, and youngish rockers who get their surf shirts at the best-such vintage shop in Minneapolis, the Corner Store on Lake.
As on the first Saturday of every month, DJ Jean, co-host of KFAI's Radio Rumpus Room, set up her turntables in the corner. Palm trees were everywhere: a big plastic one near the sound booth, on the stage backdrop, and on the shirts of pasty-skinned would-be California girls and boys. Then there were all those rumbling bass and guitar lines, announcing the coming of the endless summer. The next day, as a psychic coda to Rosemary Erb's assertion that surf music is not a thing of the past, the Current's Jill Riley played the Raveonettes's "I Wanna Be Taken," which hangs 10 on a sinewy surf riff, and that night's episode of The Sopranos concluded with--what else?--Johnny Thunders's undead reading of "Pipeline."