Hoisted at the feet and head like a drunk being toted to a cab by its stalwart friends, tonight’s Twin Town High release show at the Turf Club began and finished magnificently but sagged limply in the middle.
Bill Caperton, best known from Ela, took the stage at 10:00 even, meandering his way through a set of low tempo, melodic pop rock. There’s a devil in such ethereally exact performance. Occasionally, a live sound can be so slick that it slides off the ear, and Caperton’s set at times had the airless choreography of a studio session. But who’s to fault a musician for executing well? Crooned plaintively, hitting enough sour notes to strike a blow below the belt, and exhibiting some genuine lyrical adeptness, Caperton’s set was moving at times and enjoyable throughout.
The Alrights followed. A three-piece hailing from Duluth, they proved to be a more concussive rewrite of Caperton’s harmonious pop detuning. The opening songs harkened to a parallel universe where Thom Yorke has a sense of humor-- beginning briefly in two part vocal harmony and metronomic down strokes, bassist Danny Cosgrove and guitarist Toby Churchill launched immediately into progressions taken wryly from the second act breakdown of Radiohead’s 2+2=5 before collapsing enjoyably into a plodding descent of sludgy guitar romp that proved as cathartic as a roll in the mud. A keyboard appeared, but its presence was a distraction from their more rapt moments as a stringed three piece. A little less gazing at the necks of their guitars, a dash enough of recklessness to allow a missed note here and there, and they might have found the crowd, which was admittedly meager, a bit more engaged.
Hip-hopper Muja Messiah, a 2008 Picked To Click winner in this very paper, marked a notable downturn in the evening. His lyrical posturing should be painfully familiar to anyone who has breezed by 96.3 on their way to the Current. Northside? Southside? Eastside? You all get your shout-outs, spread evenly across a half dozen songs, some of which cut out after a little over a minute, some of which simply faded to silence, painfully illustrating the wan applause that greeted his performance. His skills as a lyricist are respectable, and his production serviceable. But in a town that lays claim to acts like P.O.S., Slug, and Brother Ali, ingenuity is the sole hope for the Twin Cities rapper. In a genre that calls for a mountaineer’s boldness, Muja covers only the most well-trod, low altitude territory, selecting as his rhymes the easiest of prey. His targets are, thematically and lyrically, targets of opportunity, even if he does pick them off with the greatest of ease.
And on to Black Blondie, trippy purveyors of our good vibes, curators of almost every award our two burgs have to offer. How did they manage the unfortunate feat of executing a show that is lesser than the sum of its parts? Some things are just plain inexplicable. Vocalist Samahra and bassist Liz Draper are obvious virtuosos of their respective instruments. Bolstered by drummer Kahlil Brewington, it’s a band that ought to drop jaws. If only they selected as their influences something worthy of their abilities, and not the dregs of the mid 90’s soul bubble, which include such silky and forgettable acts as Sade and Des’ree. There was plucked upright bass. There was scat vocalization. There was brushed cymbals. And all brought off with a musical adeptness that can‘t be faked. But the difference between “jazz” and “jazzy” is the difference between cream and creamed corn. Outside the bar, a passerby too drunk to be allowed in shouted “Erykah Badu!” His inebriation aside, he was almost right.
It was Lookbook, another 2008 Picked To Click’er, that rescued the night. A synthetic echo of Q Lazarus and Martika, their sound was a moody reverberation that conjured from the evening’s ashes a sentiment of intensely fond and forward-looking nostalgia. Vocalist Maggie Morrison is pure magnetivity, Grant Cutler the iron ore, and their songs are a compass locked on North. One hears Lookbook and imagines themselves striding in slow-motion to that shy guy at the bar, backlit and valiantly tormented and bound for a heartbreak that will look magnificent on celluloid. It’s music that arouses a most precious and sincere sentimentality for things bittersweet and fleeting. After a middle act that so unfortunately manhandled its own talents, an emotional climax this nuanced was a welcome way to say goodnight.