Why Twin Cities music rules
On a Monday night last year, I went to the Clown Lounge for Jazz Implosion. I go fairly regularly now, but at the time, I'd only been a handful of times. More or less hosted by Fat Kid Wednesdays (unless someone is on tour), Jazz Implosion has been a Twin Cities' mainstay for years. It's an establishment, and so we more or less don't think about it.
But on this particular Monday, sitting in a booth tucked alongside the stage left wall (if you could even call it a stage--the musicians just move the couch and coffee table out of the way and set up), I found myself thinking about what it means to have Jazz Implosion here in the Twin Cities. I though about it while I watched Fat Kid Wednesdays (Michael Lewis on saxophone, J.T. Bates on drums and Adam Linz on bass) and munched on the homemade Sloppy Joe I'd gotten from a crock pot brought by Bates' wife. The bun was the soft, perfect, generic kind you get at Rainbow; the meat was warm and smokey. And I thought of everyone who leaves.
Spend any amount of time in or following the music scene here and you'll hear a typical complaint: I'm sick of the venues, or I want to try out another scene, or I want to start a new scene somewhere. We all get restless; there's no crime in that. And, by all means, I would recommend that anyone go and explore New York City (to name the most common destination) or San Francisco or Seattle. But I would just not ask them to be surprised when they realize how good they had it here.
Things like Jazz Implosion just don't happen everywhere. I know: I lived in Connecticut. Had you told me, six years ago, that there was a weekly night of adventurous jazz in the basement of a rock club, that there were regularly crowds of fifty to seventy-five people for these shows, that they often had cheap, homemade Sloppy Joes complete with sweet pickles to go on top, I would have said you were crazy.
Battle Cat in the Clown Lounge
Photo by Steve McPherson
I was used to bands sharing bills and not talking to each other, to the impossibility of finding a venue that would let you play original music, regardless of whether you expect to get paid. When I came to Minneapolis, I found what I'd been looking for in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
When a friend playing drums with a touring act came to town a while back, the guitarist (a session guy from New York) could not believe what he heard when I told him about bills blending all kinds of music and the appreciative crowds for such eclectic shows. His eyes bugged out. He'd been trying to organize similar stuff in Brooklyn but kept hitting roadblock after roadblock.
Is there a downside to this? Absolutely. The warm, enfolding embrace of the Twin Cities can have an effect not unlike warm blankets on a cold winter morning. Many are the acts that have hit the road and come back longing for the comfort and receptiveness of a night at the Turf like I've described above. And so they never go back out. Sometimes it's easier to stand pat than take a risk, and so I applaud people who give it a go somewhere else. I wish them the best.
Just know that if it doesn't work out, we'll be here, booking a show that features experimental ambient electronic music, traditional jazz, abstract thrash metal, and an acoustic singer/songwriter. And the first Sloppy Joe is on me.
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