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Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14

Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Photo By Tony Nelson

Turf Club grand reopening
with Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee, Erik Koskinen, and the Cactus Blossoms
Turf Club, Saint Paul
August 28, 2014

The Turf Club is back! Well, a cleaner, better smelling version of the Turf Club. After First Avenue purchased the St. Paul establishment a few months ago, it has undergone some necessary renovations. New bathrooms on both levels (no more trough, boys!) with updated fancy green and black tiles. The stage has been modified and expanded with a vintage horse-racing mural as the backdrop. There's a brand spankin' new sound system that is crisp and clear without a hint of buzz.

These, among other changes, were on display for the first time last night at the grand reopening party with Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee, and Erik Koskinen. Oh, and it wouldn't be a grand reopening party without a surprise set by club staples, The Cactus Blossoms, who closed out the night.

As you walk through the new doors at the Turf, the most noticeable change is the raised ceilings that make the club feel much more expansive and roomy. With the sold-out crowd and pristine audio equipment, the bands had no problem filling the extra space. Erik Koskinen and band lead off the night with his trademark country blues, which seemed to be the theme for the night.

Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Photos By Tony Nelson

After Koskinen finished his set, some of the crowd flooded downstairs past the vibrant murals to the Clown Lounge where things still feel pretty clown-y. There's a phone booth with clown memorabilia and more updated bathrooms for the patrons.

As Frankie Lee took the stage, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman were seen mingling in the crowd, highlighting the huge importance and impact this club has on many Twin Cities residents. Lee opened his set with "East Side Blues" and afterward had everybody raise a glass to toast the Turf Club staff for "busting their ass."

Trampled by Turtles fiddle player Ryan Young joined Lee for a song and also played a few tunes with Dead Man Winter later on in the evening. "Ryan is the reason I cry when I go to Trampled By Turtles shows," exclaimed Lee.

Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Photos By Tony Nelson

After a break in the action giving people time to check out the renovations, the crowd was ready for more music, and rockers Dead Man Winter were happy to oblige. The side project for "acoustic barnburners" Dave Simonett (Trampled By Turtles) seemed to get a lot of people dancing with grins from ear to ear.

"It's great to be back at the Turf Club!" shouted Simonett before going into a rousing electrified version of Trampled By Turtles "Repetition." It was nice to hear some of the electrified versions of the typically acoustic bluegrass tracks.

Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
First Avenue general manager, Nate Kranz, dressed appropriately for the grand occasion
First Avenue general manager, Nate Kranz, dressed appropriately for the grand occasion
Turf Club grand reopening with Dead Man Winter, 8/28/14
Photos By Tony Nelson

The night wasn't over after Dead Man Winter left the stage. Nope. The Cactus Blossoms were in the house and brought along drummer JT Bates -- who played in all 4 bands that night -- as well as Michael Lewis, who did double duty himself. Their classic country crooning was the perfect end to a promising future for the reborn Turf Club.

Critic's Notebook:
Critic's Bias: I've played here a few times, and it's definitely my favorite club in St. Paul. 
The Crowd: Giddy music people.
Overheard In The Crowd: Someone shouted "My Sharona!" at the Cactus Blossoms. 
Random Notebook Dump: Folks were dancing from the minute I set foot in the club to the minute I walked out the back door. Good on ya, St. Paul.

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