The Critic has Left the Building--Oops, She's Back, She Forgot her Keys
When the ink hits this page, consider me dead. Flossing with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's shoelaces. Doing the worm at Club Hades. Finally at rest in a place where the music scene is truly, indisputably underground.
Okay, so I'm not literally going to kick up soil with Dirt McGirt any time soon--unless the Reaper strikes me down just to spite me for saying that. But as far as this column goes, these are my last words.
After nearly five years of writing about music and editing arts coverage for City Pages, I'm packing up my records and heading out to New York to work as the reviews editor at Spin. I always figured that leaving this place would feel dramatic, that when I made my grand exit from this office, "Lust for Life" would be blaring and I'd light up a cigarette and rev up my U-Haul and take that long, epic drive...straight into the Honda that always blocks my parking space. But today is my final day here, and the only song I can hear over the hallway speakers is a Muzak rendition of "The Macarena." Plus, I'll probably walk home from work.
The truth is, you can't choose your own endings. If there's one thing I've learned from reviewing albums, it's that actual time doesn't work like a pop song. There's no intro or outro to anything, just an endless procession of minutes that segue into other minutes--which is part of what makes music's ability to turn three or four minutes into a "moment" profound. So instead of making some grandiloquent goodbye speech, a last exclamation point about what this music scene means to me, I figured I'd concentrate on a few random outtakes from the time I've spent within it--a mini-mix tape I made for the Twin Cities. Every track is a love song.
Track one: Lifter Puller at the opening of the Triple Rock's concert room. The brand-new bar, unfinished and fuzzy with sawdust shavings, slanted down at an angle so that thirsty punks watched their drinks slide down the counter and rinse their jeans with vodka. But the fans who flew in from Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles--all of whom were outdone by the dude who drove all the way out from San Francisco just to throw his LFTR PLLR-tattooed knuckles in the air--still sang every word of every song, right down to the "assless chaps" line on "Math Is Money." When frontman Craig Finn yawped, "Twin Cities, they're double-teaming me!"--that was the first time I felt like Minneapolis was home.
Track two: Arguing about who was the better drummer, Poison's Rikki Rocket or GNR's Steven Adler, with a group of local music fiends at Eli's. The debate was settled when the bartender busted in, slammed our beers down on the table, and ended the argument with six words: "Tommy Lee, Tommy Lee, TOMMY LEE!"
Track three: Melodious Owl's first show. Back then I wrote that their full-force new-wave dance-party freakouts made me want to do eight million consecutive triple-tiered back flips through a field of singing dandelions and land in a perfect-10 position right in a giant pile of wagging puppy tails. Six million cartwheels to go.
Track four: Friends Like These singer John Solomon's advice for every local musician who thought of giving up. "Head down. Plow forward. Hope for the best."
Track five: Animal Collective at the Kitty Cat Klub. The two Brooklynites mumbled beautiful nonsense into their microphones, distorting their voices into near-shamanic shrieks and beating a wobbly-legged snare drum as if, once it was dead, they would skin it and eat it right there in front of everyone. On the ride home, I heard music in everything. The between-station radio static on my car stereo was the crackle of a fizzy drink, the crinkle of a chiffon dress folded into a suitcase, a handful of crickets trapped in a cigar box.
Track six: A winter freestyle competition at the Loring Pasta Bar. A heavyset rapper took flak for looking as if every time he got his ass kicked, "pork chops fell out." A long-torsoed guy got slammed for legs that were "shorter than Hank Hill's dad." And when Booty Regulator finally emerged as the winner after giving his contender a mannish back pat, the host scolded, "Stop hugging and shit! This is a battle."
Track seven: The summer night that DJ Jake Rudh played Cheap Trick's "Surrender" at the Imperial Room, and everybody--even the shy kids--danced.
Track eight: Everything that happens in this town after I leave the office tonight. If you're lucky enough to keep living here, I know you're going to see countless great shows that I'm going to miss. Please write me at Melissa.Maerz@gmail.com and make me jealous of you when I'm gone.
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