Local Music Yearbook '05
The Current hit the airwaves. The Varsity opened. Atmosphere played eight nights in a row. And that was just January! How could 12 months that began so well go so wrong? As the Minnesota music community mourned the death of Soul Asylum's Karl Mueller—then watched in horror as another community downriver was washed away—some of us took comfort in the diversions a scene can bring: Zombie Pub Crawl! Scavenger hunt to find a band's CD-release party! Jordis on Rock Star: INXS! Here are the Hopeful highs and Low lows from a year nobody could possibly text-message.
Minnesota Public Radio launches a new station, the Current (KCMP-FM 89.3), with Atmosphere's "Shhh," a locally recorded hip-hop track touting the benefits of Minnesota living. "If you can drink tap water and breathe the air, say shhh," raps Slug in the chorus. But the new MPR building has no running water and is filled with diesel fumes—power was accidentally cut during construction, leaving a backup generator in the basement and the accompanying stench of truck stop. Within weeks, "anything on the Current" becomes a hot seller at local record stores, including the Minnesota music championed by longtime local radio personalities Mark Wheat and Mary Lucia.
In an echo of the Replacements' five-night stand at the 7th St. Entry in 1985, Slug plays eight nights in the same room backed by a live band. The shows kick off an ambitious year for the Rhymesayers, who expand their national roster, renovate their Fifth Element record store, and transform themselves into a Vatican-style nation-state that then buys the city of Minneapolis.
Not to be outdone, Mark Mallman plays seven free nights at the Hexagon in July, celebrating seven years and seven releases. (Wait, isn't seven Slug's lucky number?)
The 90-year-old Varsity Theater in Dinkytown reopens as a music venue for the first time since 1991, with DJ nights, theater events, and beds for seats. The club closes for renovations in March, but reopens again in April. Across town, the all-ages Speedboat Gallery merely closes. Other venues to leave the scene this year include the Norshor Theater and "the MAC" (Twin Ports Music and Arts Collective) in Duluth, BC Night Club and Urban Wildlife's "rock room" in Minneapolis, and the legendary Ralph's Corner Bar in Moorhead, where everyone from Hüsker Dü to the White Stripes played, and where Fargo rockers Battle at Sea send the venue off in May with pyrotechnics and splintered guitars.
R.I.P.: Joel Hickman, musician and programmer at MIDIRingTones.
Doomtree rapper Dessa gets her hair cut onstage at the Triple Rock Social Club, as the DJ plays Pavement's "Cut Your Hair."
The Jayhawks quietly announce they have broken up, 20 years after they formed. The band reunites in December to celebrate First Avenue's 35th anniversary. Quad Muth, meanwhile, who play a squealing bleach bottle and wear fake muscles, loudly announce their own demise. Other ex-bands of 2005 include Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears, Tin Horns, V9R9D, Martyr A.D., and the Midnight Evils—whose final show in September sets an all-time bar sales record in the 7th St. Entry.
Officials at Winona Senior High School send home senior Carrie Rethlefsen for wearing a button that reads "I (heart) my vagina." Other students show solidarity with "I (heart) my vagina" and "I support your vagina" T-shirts. In May the administration allows students to wear this gear on school grounds—but only during a rally around the flagpole. Six months later, five students are suspended for refusing to remove the straps from their "bondage pants."
R.I.P.: Paul Storti, big-band trumpeter and educator.
Sibling rockers Brother and Sister coax 100-odd fans into joining an elaborate scavenger hunt to find...Brother and Sister. Notified by e-mail, the participants gather at a cul-de-sac in Dinkytown, where a co-conspirator hands out clue workbooks and secret agent badges. (According to the scenario, the duo has been "kidnapped.") Soon various teams puzzle over clues such as the following words painted on the Washington Avenue Bridge: "Go to Difficult Mathematics—Heavy Thinking" (i.e., go to the Hard Times Café.) Nine clues in, two contestants run into a masked girl outside the Triple Rock Social Club who forces them into the back of a Budget van. It peels off, barely muffling the sound of live music inside, and a Brother and Sister cover band plays for the captive audience as the vehicle circles the neighborhood. The hunt eventually ends at the downtown YWCA, where the real Brother and Sister play a pool party.
Unique in most respects, Brother and Sister exemplify the year's oddest trend: a proliferation of local rock two-pieces, including Mute Era, Knife World, Birthday Suits, Ova!, Dead Swayze, Ghost Band, and Awesome Snakes.
In a more modest stunt, the STNNNG hold a meat raffle at the Dinkytowner, perhaps eventually tipping the scales in the City Pages "best new band" poll, which they win in September.
The Turf Club in St. Paul gets a new owner, spurring the departure of longtime booking agent Rob Rule and his band, the Mammy Nuns, who played Tuesdays for 10 years as part of the Saint Paul Music Club. Clown Lounge manager Dave Wiegardt also leaves, taking his clown decor with him—though he's back by summer, sans decor. (The basement's jazz regulars, meanwhile, relocate to the Acadia Café in Minneapolis.) The Turf keeps its rep, and eventually reopens the downstairs bar. In October, longtime SPMC soundman and Ol' Yeller frontman Rich Mattson announces he's moving back home to the Iron Range, and it's the quiet end of an era.
Signed at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in 2004, the Minneapolis smoking ban goes into effect, and Hennepin and Ramsey counties soon follow suit. Whatever its impact on liquor sales, the ordinance at least results in a series of memorable nights on the patio at Grumpy's downtown. The Seawhores accompany a Derek Hess opening at the Ox-Op Gallery one evening in July. In September, Doomtree rapper Sims performs a show out back with the Birthday Suits and Cardinal Sin. A few blocks away, the new Nomad World Pub (formerly 5 Corners Saloon) wisely builds a patio.
Looking a little like MF Doom's mask draped over a parking lot, the newly redesigned Walker Art Center hosts a gala opening celebration attended by Kim Gordon, Leonard Nimoy, Yoko Ono, Björk, and much of Twin Cities "society." Olympia, Washington, performance artist Wynne Greenwood (a.k.a. Tracy + the Plastics) rear-projects a video of herself saying "um, uh" and "hmmm" while uttering the same onstage, in person. When the harmonious "ums" die down to what feels like a quiet lull of 10 minutes, an audience member sits up and asks, "Is this part of the show? Are we supposed to be saying something?" Greenwood says, "Um.... uh.... Mm.... Maybe."
Radio K (KUOM-AM 770) moves its FM transmitter, which it shares with St. Louis Park High School, to a 24-story apartment building near Lake Calhoun. The result is a boost in the college station's FM signal (at 106.5) by a factor of three. When the school goes on summer vacation in June, Radio K can suddenly be heard 24 hours a day throughout downtown Minneapolis and the western suburbs. Within months, KUOM has an FM translator station in Falcon Heights to cover most of St. Paul and the northern suburbs, at 100.7 FM.
American Head Charge guitarist Bryan Ottoson is found dead in his bunk of the bus while on tour with Mudvayne, the cause of death later determined to be a prescription-drug overdose. In October, the band plays an emotional benefit show for Ottoson's family, who at one point join the group onstage at First Avenue, as does Jordis Unga of the Fighting Tongs.
R.I.P.: Gene Adams, jazz trumpeter and member of Red Beans and Rice.
Low cancel tour owing to what guitarist Alan Sparhawk calls his own "battle with sanity," and the band eventually loses bass player Zak Sally. But Sparhawk otherwise has a freakishly productive year, touring in other bands (he has at least three), expanding his Chairkickers label, and returning to First Avenue with a new Low for the first time since the trio released its masterful Sub Pop debut in January. For his part, Sally gets busy with comics, publishing, becoming a new father, and appearing as a member of the made-up band Hot Tears in Steve Martin's Shopgirl.
The best year for block parties since the demise of the Lyn-Lake Street Fair kicks off with Cinco de Mayo in St. Paul. (Art-A-Whirl, Pride, the Bryant-Lake Bowl block party, Bastille Day, the Pizza Lucé block party, and others follow.) The West Side fiesta of lowriders and accordions also marks the year of the ascendant Spanish-speaking market: salsa, cumbia, and reggaetón CDs all spill into the bins of K-Mart and Best Buy. Minnesota Public Radio announces the sale of American standards station KLBB-AM (1400) to a Spanish-language chain this month, and the formats switch in November.
The Voltage: Fashion Amplified event sells out First Avenue on a Wednesday night by mixing fashion and music, the runway and the bandstand. In a similar fusion, B-Girl Be's celebration of women in hip hop at Intermedia Arts turns away dozens from a sold-out fashion show in June. Industry Minne-Zine, meanwhile, capitalizes on the trend by taking the novel journalistic approach of dressing and photographing local rockers and hip-hoppers to look gorgeous. The magazine hosts its own, similar event in August at Solera.
An island of local music enthusiasm in commercial radio, Mei Young's Homegrown program moves from KQRS-FM (92.5) to Drive 105 (105.1/105.3/105.7 FM) on Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m., further narrowing the chance that classic rock fans will ever hear Happy Mother's Day I Can't Read. Unfortunately, this is also the same time that Jason Nagel's Minnesota Music airs on Drive's corporate competitor Cities 97 (KTCZ-FM 97.1).
R.I.P.: Percy Strother, blues singer and guitarist. Roger "Buzz" Peterson, trumpeter with Gene Autry's touring band and founding member of the Mouldy Figs. Daniel Heilicher, record distributor and co-founder of Soma Records.
Hundreds attend a memorial service for Karl Mueller, bass player and founding member of Soul Asylum. A year earlier, after he'd begun treatment for throat cancer, Mueller was asked by a visitor what he wanted to say to people who were concerned about him. "I'd say to people just live the best you can," Mueller wrote on a legal pad. "Enjoy the lilacs while you can and slow down. There are also some people I need to thank. I can't do it individually right now, but here I go. Mary Beth you've been a rock. Love forever. The St. Paul Grill has been more than generous to all people concerned. My family is better than I ever imagined. And to my friends—wow. It's been overwhelming, touching & flattering. Thank you all so much."
He put down his pen and handed the pad to his visitor. Then he took it back, and wrote a final thought. "Can we make those Thank You's not look like album credits?"
After 18 years, rock and dance music retail landmark Let It Be Records closes its doors to make way for condos. The Velvet Underground's White Light, White Heat blares in the background as longtime patron John Kass buys the last record sold at the store, a copy of the Beatles' Let It Be. (The business lives on as an online mail-order outfit, www.letitbe.com.)
Walt Mink reunites at the Triple Rock for no apparent reason—and without drummer Joey Waronker. Fans don't seem to mind.
Testing the concept of portable amplification during the second annual Heliotrope Festival, guitarist Scott Brown begins his set with White Map standing outside Franklin Art Works. He then walks into the show wearing his equipment—a backpack fitted with an amplifier (powered by a motorcycle battery), a belt with guitar effects, and a speaker cone that looks like a tuba above his head. Before joining drummer Zak Sally onstage, he's able to weave through the audience unhindered.
Aspiring 16-year-old rapper Nile Greenberg, a.k.a. Blizzard, attempts to step out from the shadow of his father, "Funkytown" creator Steven Greenberg, on an episode of the MTV series Made. Coached by New York rapper C-Rayz Walz, and directed from behind the scenes by local MC Toki Wright, Greenberg achieves his moment of glory at the Dinkytowner, where he declares, "I did it! ... I performed in front of a real hip-hop audience!"
R.I.P.: Jerry Mayeron, pianist and bandleader who worked with Tiny Tim. Ralph BeBeau, "the singing DJ" of radio, and singer of the Nite Riders. Margaret Norling, string bass player and music educator.
Dreadlocked St. Paul singer Jordis Unga belts out a metal-soul version of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" on CBS's Rock Star: INXS, a reality-show competition in which the winner becomes the new voice of Australian band INXS. Though she's eventually given the boot, Sony signs her for an album. In December, her bandmates in Liars Club (formerly the Fighting Tongs) announce they've formed a new band without Jordis, the Payback, with ex-2Ton Crutch vocalist Kris Weiser. Other reasons to stay glued to the tube this year include Drinking With Ian (MCN Channel 6, MTN Channel 15, and SPNN Channel 16), Nate On Drums (KSTC Channel 45), SearchMode (MCN Channel 6), and Strictly Original (WB affiliate KMWB Channel 23).
"Musicapolis: Scene and Seen 1965-2005," an exhibit surveying four decades of local music photography, opens at the Minnesota Center for Photography. Other archiving, restoring, and exhibiting efforts concerning the local scene continue at the Hennepin History Museum, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Sound Unseen music and film festival. So when do we get the coffee table book?
First Avenue alienates the dance-music scene when it discontinues Ba-sik Saturdays, citing poor turnout. Friday's Energy Lab hip-hop nights gain steam, but the club adopts its first-ever dress code—no doo rags and no plain white T-shirts on Friday nights.
R.I.P.: Jules Herman, trumpeter and orchestra leader at the Prom Ballroom for 35 years. Sam Mersky, longtime jazz musician and house organist for the Minneapolis Woman's Club.
Olympic Hopefuls are forced by objections from the U.S. Olympic Committee to change their name to the Hopefuls. Christ Punchers are forced to tell their grandparents that they're in a band called Christ Punchers.
Tenor saxophonist Irv Williams celebrates his 86th birthday by releasing another outstanding jazz CD, making him either the coolest old guy or the oldest cool guy in St. Paul.
Bands from Austin, Texas, and the Twin Cities meet each other halfway during the three-day North Vs. South music fest in Lawrence, Kansas. Austin's Grand Champeen encores with Soul Asylum's "Cartoon," dedicating it to Karl Mueller, then Kruddler joins them onstage for a rousing rendition of Cheap Trick's "Surrender." Red states and blue states, we're all alright, we're all alright.
I Self Devine discusses "street credibility" with mayoral candidate Peter McLaughlin and others in the 7th St. Entry during a forum presented by the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop. "We live in a gangster society," the MC says. But out-of-town rapper Mikal Lee disagrees. "Young people don't want to be a Bush gangster or a Rumsfeld gangster. They want to be what they see around them."
Northeast Minneapolis ODs on hip when the Spring Street Tavern starts booking bands four nights a week in its downstairs Club Underground. And the renovated 331 Club—a new home for Raleigh's Texas Taco Tuesdays (formerly at the Turf Club)—begins booking bands nightly this year.
A rainstorm causes the power to go out at the Blue Nile during the club's Tuesday oen-mic night, leaving the band without amplification and the room in near total darkness. Soon, a group of rappers forms a circle on the dance floor and begins an impromptu freestyle session. A couple of women in the audience sing harmony, and the show goes on without power for nearly an hour.
Two months later, a urinal cap at the Triple Rock pops off during a sold-out show by Mates of State, sending a geyser of water out onto the floor and flooding the show room. Most fans keep standing where they are, in up to two inches of water.
R.I.P. George Stahl, jazz player and bassist with the Minnesota Orchestra for 31 years. Robert "Dr. Jazz" Caldwell, guitarist with the Jurassic Trio, who performed with Louis Armstrong, and Tony Bennett.
In the wake of the natural and human disaster in New Orleans, every corner of the music scene organizes a hurricane benefit, totaling 40-plus shows by November. On September 9, 150 Minnesota radio stations—from "community-" to Clear Channel—unite to broadcast a live radiothon, "River of Relief," from the Washington Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi, eventually raising $867,596 for the American Red Cross. The following night, New Orleans legends the ReBirth Brass Band play an exhilarating show at the Cabooze for an audience that includes at least 20 flood evacuees. "Katrina took every material thing from me," says trumpeter Shamar Allen. "But she can't take my music."
Myth Nightclub opens in Maplewood with a seating capacity of 3,500 and VIP accommodations, making it the first Las Vegas-style "superclub" in the Twin Cities. Unwisely, the venue's marketing team never adopts the obvious slogan: "Plus you can smoke."
During a concert at the Xcel Energy Center, members of Green Day invite teenage fans onstage to play the band's instruments. Moorhead's Corey Cook smashes Mike Dirnt's bass guitar, getting himself ejected from the venue and probably ruining any chance of being signed to Adeline Records.
Mint Condition, Spider John Koerner, and many others rock the 25th Annual Minnesota Music Awards at First Avenue. Longtime venue stage manager Conrad Sverkerson accepts the Connie Hechter Award for lifetime achievement. Mentioning Karl Mueller, he says, "I can feel his soul in the room."
R.I.P.: Mike Elliott, jazz and country guitarist of Natural Life, who recorded with Johnny Cash and taught Bela Fleck. Sean Blackburn, Western swing singer and guitarist, who appeared regularly with Dakota Dave Hull on A Prairie Home Companion. Ashanti Yoruba Maasai, manager of Uhuru Bookstore. Glenn Warner, choral music expert at Schmitt Music for three decades.
Dillinger Four's St. Patrick Costello joins the Fuck Yeahs onstage at First Avenue for an unannounced set. All the musicians are wearing custom-made G-strings. Evidently intoxicated, Paddy soon loses his G-string, bends over, and starts yelling, "This is where the chocolate comes from!"
The first annual Zombie Pub Crawl attracts more than 100 people wearing zombie makeup to northeast Minneapolis. One participant leads the crowd in a cheer of "What do we want?" "Brains!" "When do we want 'em?" "Braaaaains!"
The Children's Theatre Company hosts a youth guitar orchestra featuring guitarists aged 12 to 18, performing a concert composed and conducted by New York-based John King. The noise would make Glenn Branca proud. Meanwhile, students in the percussion ensemble of Minnetonka High School become internet stars thanks to a May video of the group covering two songs from DJ Shadow's 1996 instrumental hip-hop classic Endtroducing, "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" and "Changeling." Led by teacher Brian Udelhofen, the musicians transform material entirely created from samples back into live music, mimicking even the ostensibly impossible-to-play stutter of the drum breaks.
Though scheduled to play the 7th St. Entry, Soul Asylum and new bassist Tommy Stinson switch to the main stage of First Avenue due to PA problems in the smaller room. Twin Tone co-founder Paul Stark is drafted to do lights for the show. With more than a little sadness, singer Dave Pirner leads the crowd in a chant of "Karl, Karl."
R.I.P.: Diana Watters, photographer of many musicians for City Pages. Paula Joan "Polly" Alexander, rock guitarist and founding member of Tetes Noires. E. Thomas Bauer, organist and jazz tenor saxophonist and with the Boyd Raeburn Band in the '40s. Chippewa Falls High School band director Douglas "G" Greenhalgh, his wife, Therese Greenhalgh, and their 11-year-old granddaughter Morgan Greenhalgh, who died in a bus accident while coming home from a band competition in Whitewater.
After six years on the Duluth scene, free alternative rag the Ripsaw folds. "It was a good run," writes publisher Brad Nelson. "A&L Development tried to sue us. Much of the business community blacklisted it. Mayor Doty said he 'didn't read that tabloid'... We did well." While sponsoring Green Man and other local music festivals, the free alternative weekly struggled financially before going monthly in 2004, then bimonthly this year, with contributors migrating to Transistor—a smaller weekly publication. Nelson keeps drumming in the bands Black-Eyed Snakes and Boy Girl Boy Girl.
In other endings, meanwhile, Prince demolishes his house in Chanhassen, and Clear Channel closes its local concert booking office.
Local punk pioneers the Hypstrz become hip among hipsters, reissuing their 1980 album, Hypstrization!, on Bomp! Records and reuniting for a series of shows.
Having taught a workshop at McNally Smith College of Music, toured with Ja Rule, and played a series of instrumental-cover shows this year, Heiruspecs are set to play a climactic charity gig at the Mall of America. But management deems the hip-hop group "not family-friendly" and rejects them from the bill. In December, five people are treated for injuries at the Brookdale Center mall after fans rush the stage during a free concert by family-friendly boy band B5.
During a Cowboy Curtis show at the 400 Bar, a friend of the band climbs the stage to play tambourine, then calls for his girlfriend to join him. "Wouldn't it be weird if your parents were here from out of town?" he says. Then he points them out in the back of the room, along with cousins and friends, and gets down on his knee to propose marriage. She says yes.
R.I.P.: Richard Povlitzki, ownder of legendary country venue the Frontier Club in Fridley in the '60s and '70s. Robert "Dr. Bob" Nelson, Minnesota-New Orleans musician and driver for the Butanes. Yuri Merzhevsky, violinist in Zeitgeist, Klezmerica, and the Minnesota Sinfonia.
The Current broadcasts a day of kids' musical activities from the Children's Theatre Company, where MN Rollergirls hand out programs for events such as an "instrument petting zoo" and a "child-friendly disco." While Mark Wheat spins M.I.A. for hundreds of kids, Redefiniton Radio host Kevin Beacham allows toddlers to scratch records, hip-hop style. "You've got to do it to the rhythm of it," explains one father to his son. But the new DJ just enjoys the sound of it.
Mazta I (right, pictured here with rapper Sunburn) appeared on three of the best local hip-hop CDs of 2005—
I Self Devine's Self Destruction (Rhymesayers), Cheap Cologne's Something Random (Broke-Ass Records), and Atmosphere's You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having (Rhymesayers/Navarre). His smoky R&B singing and freestyle hardcore rapping were all over local stages, finding fullest expression in Eyedea's rap-jazz improv band. "I'm just trying to get everybody to relate," says the singer/MC. "I want to see a crowd with backpackers and suburban kids and the 'hood. Hip hop is a culture, it's not designated for a specific group."
Jordis Unga was a happy dose of genuineness in reality TV this summer, the "waitress from St. Paul" who became an underdog favorite to win on CBS's Rock Star: INXS. She ended up getting voted off the show, but not before catching the attention of Muhammad Ali, who asked her to perform John Lennon's "Imagine" at the November opening of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. (In the greenroom, Bill Clinton told her she more than did the song justice.) Surprisingly, the former Star Search contestant almost didn't go through with the initial tryout that got her on Rock Star. "TV is not me," she says. "It just didn't seem like something I could picture myself doing without wanting to kick my own ass. But the people on the audition staff were so excited that I decided it was something I couldn't not do." www.jordismusic.com
The Jack Brass Band's bass drummer Mike Olander and sousaphone player Erik Jacobson aren't street-jazz legends, but they are young heroes to men who are. In the days after Katrina hit New Orleans, the Minnesotans tracked down every member of the NOLA brass band community, putting musicians in touch with each other (when the 504 area code was fried), sending clothes, and even booking a tour for the Stooges Brass Band. In all, their efforts gathered more than 40 instruments and raised more than $4,000. "You're watching CNN and you don't want to, because it's so depressing," says Olander. "Then the cell phone rings, and the hairs on your arm stand up—'God, I hope it's somebody I can help out.'" www.jackbrassband.com
Myth Nightclub in Maplewood opened in September by filling its 3,500 capacity for Nickelback, and has since hosted sellout shows by Young Jeezy and Fall Out Boy. "It's been crazy since day one," says general manager Jeff Kehr. "We had hoped to do maybe 12 to 15 shows in a year, and we've done that in the last 90 days." With its dance-club look and triple-decker height, the venue has detractors calling it the big box of clubland. Yet audiences vote with their cars. "I saw Billy Idol at Myth," admits St. Paul poet Paul Dickinson, proprietor of the late Speedboat Gallery. "As I pounded beers in a van in the shopping mall parking lot, it reminded me of being dropped off at the Thunderbird Motel in Bloomington as a teen to see concerts at the Metropolitan Arena. Delusion is indeed where the heart and home reside."
Angela Gerend played drums in two great punk bands this year, Eufio and Gay Beast (a.k.a. Gabies). When the Gabies opened for V9R9D's final show at Big V's in July, an intoxicated daytime "regular" at the pub drunkenly took the stage. "She started playing air bass, slung low with a chillness that was way more stoner rock than the bassist's complicated patterns," says Gerend. "She'd also get right up in [the drummer's] concentrated stare, and yell, 'Go baby, go!' while jamming her head up and down. Not everyone gets so physically excited for six-minute drum and bass instrumentals. When she got off the stage, she asked me if she had made a fool out of herself. I told her what I honestly believed, that she had revved up the crowd and brought out everyone's energy. Then she said, 'I don't mean to get all dyke on you or nothing, but can I buy you a drink?' I said no thanks, but said I wasn't offended about the dyke-innuendo, 'cause I am a dyke. She put her hands up, and took a step back. 'That's cool. I don't judge.'"
Chris Roberts has hosted The Local Show on the Current (KCMP-FM 89.3) since January, featuring live performances from such offbeat Minnesota bands as the Birthday Suits, the Owls, and Mel Gibson and the Pants. Airing Sundays at 5:00 p.m., the program takes the participatory spirit of MPR's pop-music experiment seriously. "I've gone out and actually gone to clubs to get requests," says Roberts. "I'll take my microphone and recorder and just ask people what they want to hear. I'm still in need of music, believe it or not. There's a lot of bands that just haven't sent me anything."
Myspace.com replaced "the demo CD" this year for new bands and artists, freeing up shelf space for booking agents and critics. The free but private website allows bands to post music, concert information, and lists of favorite foods with alluring ease. "MySpace exists for one reason," wrote a skeptic at the message board TCPunk.com. "They comb through all of this data, seeking and finding patterns with which they can better manipulate the consumer class into ever-greater consumption." But half of the local music scene joined anyway. "It's a perfect 'ghetto' web page for those who can't afford a fancy one," says Ear Candy's Dawn Miller. myspace.com
Toki Wright toured with Brother Ali this year, performed locally with the C.O.R.E. and Aphrill (featuring Nomi of Kill the Vultures), appeared on MTV's Made, and co-organized the three-day Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop at First Avenue. This winter he takes a break from working at the nonprofit youth group Yo! the Movement to travel to Rwanda, where he plans to bring Tutsi and Hutu youth groups together using hip hop. "Being a rap star is a good thing, but I'm more concerned with doing right by people," he says, "and trying to get some equality going for everybody. The thing that irks me about the scene is that a lot of promoters avoid kids of color, avoid kids that look hard, avoid kids that wear long T-shirts and fake platinum jewelry. Kids are kids. Give folks an opportunity to fuck up first." www.amplifiedlife.com
Motion City Soundtrack enjoyed a motion-filled year, playing the Warped Tour, the Nintendo Fusion Tour, and headlining their own sold-out tour of the U.K. (They headline First Avenue on Saturday.) Still, singer-guitarist Justin Pierre was slightly cowed accepting an MTVU Woodie Award for the band's video "Everything Is Alright"—off this year's Commit This to Memory (Epitaph). "I said I felt like Halle Berry," says Pierre of his moment of truth, embarrassed. He's more comfortable dodging bottles from disgruntled fans of bands he's opening for. "It's like a little game of dodgeball while you're trying to play a song. It's kind of fun." www.motioncitysoundtrack.com
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