Archive for June, 2011

Play 3 Songs

06/11/11 – The Moon Glyph Records Showcase featuring Food Pyramid, Velvet Davenport, Buffalo Moon, Larry Wish & His Guys, and Camden @ 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis

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It’s not often that you hear someone shout “Play 3 songs” at a show in regards to the total length of the set. Maybe for an encore, sure, but for the set itself? On top of that, it wasn’t a long set, but it wasn’t short either, probably clocked in at about 30 minutes. But when you are an experimental electronic group in the vein of Food Pyramid, that’s what you do. You step in there and play one five minute song with vocals, keys, guitar, bass, and drums that makes you think of the last couple Radiohead albums, and then you bust into a free-form synth jam that featured five different people playing various keyed instruments. Whatever the song was (I apologize for not being more familiar with Food Pyramid, or Moon Glyph over all, but there’s a lot of music to keep track of), it just built and built and built until the drummer finally sat back behind the kit instead of one of the keyboards back there and then it built some more until it finally built into its final, shimmering, arpeggio-laced glory and the song ended with a quick thank you. I imagine this is what a Boards Of Canada show would be like. I get the impression that that is what any good Moon Glyph set might be like, though I wonder since they might not always have that many people. But until you’ve seen a collapsible table that has Sharpie instructions on it in regards to where to set things up and until you’ve seen the dearth of chords they pulled out of their bag, I don’t think you can really understand what I’m talking about.

So what was the occasion for this batshit crazy headliner, you ask? Why, it was the Moon Glyph showcase. Until recently, it was a cassette-only imprint run right out of the Twin Cities by Steve Rosborough, a Minneapolis-via-Peoria resident who I recognized unconsciously because he’s also an employ at The Electric Fetus, the institution that does the best job of making me the fool in “a fool and her money are soon parted”. Moon Glyph puts out experimental tapes that are definitely not for everyone, with boundary pushing music that probably is best-served up in limited edition runs of 200 cassettes. But those artists are starting to grow up, to hone their sounds and polish off the rough edges, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them make the jump to slightly less obscure labels soon. Moon Glyph is a breeding ground for weird, edgy stuff, right here in Minnesota, once again proving that the Twin Cities deserve to be on any musical map no matter how you cut it.

The show itself was a showcase featuring 5 of their artists. Though Food Pyramid headlined, no band played for much longer than 30 minutes, and it really didn’t feel like a show with a headliner in that regard. If there were a headliner, it was the man with the cassettes in back, who every band thanked during and after the set. And as for the show itself, it was pretty full, a nice sight considering that I thought it could have been a ghost town in there.

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Velvet Davenport played before Food Pyramid, and they were the only other band I’d heard more than a song from, so it made since that those two were on the top of the bill. Velvet Davenport came to my attention the way anything does these days, via Altered Zones. I’ve been trying to see them for a bit now, but it hasn’t worked out. I was actually at a show they opened a year and change ago, but at that time, I had no idea who they were, and I was in the middle of a messy, tiring run of music so I don’t know if I had time for an unknown opener. My loss. They play relatively accessible, shorter slabs of 60s psych, which seems to be a sound that is faring decently these days. They provided the most entertaining moment only involving a band when they made it to the chorus of a song, just stopped and said, “Wait, we’ve gotta tune.” I think we figured that out, but everyone in the crowd was pretty patient. Even if Velvet Davenport is probably the most accomplished and ready to take their show to the next stage, as their songs showed, you could still tell based on little things like that that they had a bit of growing up to do.

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The band that surprised me the most was Buffalo Moon. A 5-piece, they played jangly, sunny pop that skewed almost to the edge of twee with its use of clarinet, lots of random percussion, and group vocals. The songs were short and sweet most of the time, but broken into sections that gave them a much longer feel, with breakdowns for random tambourine shaking or clarinet solos. Considering how drunk they both looked and professed to be, they still played a fairly tight set with no hugely discernible errors. They had a pinãta on stage that even had candy in it. Who know? And they were responsible for the funniest moment of the night when the lead singer in the impossibly short retro dress pegged some guy in the audience with some sort of Pokéball. Maybe if he’d been hurt, it wouldn’t have been so funny, but there was no harm, and it led mostly to entertainment. Though they were drunk and said so many times, they seemed to have the kind of sound that most people would eat up. Boy-girl vocals, sneakily good guitar work, random hand-held percussion, and (if you knew the songs) great sing-along moments? All there. Add in an attractive lead singer, and basically you’ve got a recipe for success.

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Larry Wish & His Guys were not all guys, and for all I know, the lead singer’s name is not Larry Wish. They had the weird aesthetic going on, with the lead singer rocking the sport coat, t-shirt, jeans and sweet stache look, two of the guys opting for shirtless with random light wiring and Adam Ant-like body paint, a drummer who looked like she was ready to step out of a magazine from the 50s (complete with the flower in her hair), and a keyboardist who didn’t fit with any of that. It was weird. The maestro of the label describes them as “Residents-esque”, and I’ll just have to take his word. I enjoyed them, but they were definitely strange, the way Frank Zappa is strange. Mining that late 60s/early 70s sound with a lot of misdirection and random waltz moments in their music and weird lyrics that put me in a mind of the weird lyricists of the world like the aforementioned Zappa or Neil Fallon from Clutch.

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Camden opened the night with possibly the most alienating music, as evidenced by the people who left during it, probably to come back later and support their friends in bands like Velvet Davenport or Buffalo Moon. Camden is the solo project of Cole Weiland, who is also a member of another local band, Daughters Of The Sun. But this is just a many and his synthesizers, his cold, cold synths. He built looping songs with unintelligible lyrics that put me in a mind of something like The Disintegration Loops. Whereas the other four bands that followed were trying to let you in, even if it was 25 minutes at a time, my impression from Camden was that this was very closed music. He neither cared if you liked or disliked it, or at least that’s the impression he gave as a performer which was quickly broken at the end of his set by his thank you, and later totally broken by his participation in the masterful conclusion of the show with Food Pyramid on drums. Maybe more difficult than the rest of the music that night, and definitely not very poppy, but that’s kind of what the mission was about. It’s a celebration of a label that exists to help bands push those boundaries, and if anyone who walked in at the beginning didn’t expect that, well, I have to wonder exactly what it is they hoped for. I got exactly what I wanted, and all for $7. Hard to complain if you ask me.

Beating The Buzz

05/27/11 – This Will Destroy You, SLEEP∞OVER, Pure Ecstacy @ 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis

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I’m beginning to think maybe I should go with out of town friends to shows. Not because I don’t enjoy them, but because they invariably seem to show up here in the Twin Cities for something of a minor disappointment. This happened back in February, and as I was sitting there in the Entry taking in the sameness that was SLEEP∞OVER’s set, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a minor curse. Not that you shouldn’t come up here and see a show with me. It’s fun, we’ve got historic venues, and unless you are coming from New York, LA, or Chicago, it’s likely that we have just as much or more music going on here between bands pulling through and local bands that seem to just be popping up every day.

I became enamored with SLEEP∞OVER last year when they released the Outer Limits 7″ on Forest Family Records in its NSFW-cover glory. If I sent you one of my mixes from last year, then you probably heard it. And it has a good ethereal quality to it, that, if memory serves, was described as what happens if Beach House recorded in a graveyard by either Altered Zones or some other outlet that I spend too much time reading. 45s like this are the reason any person should own an adapter (and a record player for that matter). So I tracked that down and spent some amount of time listening to a few other tracks that were available out there. Three ladies making great music? Sounds good to me. I waited for a tour or a 12″ or something more. What I got was a new band, Boy Friend, from two of the three members. I’m beginning to think that’s the part of the band that I want to see, and the part of the band responsible for the majesty of “Outer Limits”.

So SLEEP∞OVER marched on with just one of the remaining three members and I was leery. But then I heard “Casual Diamond” and I was willing to believe that maybe it would be a good show. Of course, things like SLEEP∞OVER’s Tumblr should have been clues in regards to what I was getting into. Sonically, though, I thought the show might at least be a little varied, but no, it was 7 or 8 songs that basically sounded like “Casual Diamond”. But when that song is already an indistinct sort of song…? I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the 30 minutes sounded the same or that the lead singer continually asked for things to be fixed in regard to sound to the point of getting the show going late, well, you get what you pay for. This is the opposite end of the Internet-bred band. Sometimes I’m surprised by the maturity of the band I’m seeing and sometimes I remember that all those local shows that bands play help them cut their teeth and get ready to play outside of their hometown. Somewhere in this there’s the moral and a longer entry about the nature of music in the new media environment; it used to be a band at least made an album before blowing up, or imploding and going onto great things separately, or whatever their journey may have been, and even then it was hard to hear about the band. Now, you know about the band as soon as they’ve dropped a couple songs on Band Camp, and before they make much more than a couple cassettes or 7″s, they have become new entities. It’s not a judgment. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s simply the environment that music is made in now, and you have to take the good (last year’s magical Active Child show) with the bad (see above).

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Pure X was also on the bill (as was This Will Destroy You, but I left before they played…sue me), and though they also had a problem of sounding relatively similar from song to song, they sounded a whole lot more professional doing it. They have a reverb-soaked rock feel, very classic, and I think something that anyone can at least get into and not mind. They sounded very much like they do on record (at least, songs I heard off their first record), probably because they record live as a full band with no overdubs. Which means that you know what you are getting. A bit of a laid back, stretched out rocker that’s perfect for lazing about on a hot summer evening while sipping a beer. They would have been better outside at sunset than under the lights at the Entry, but they still acquitted themselves well. I could tell just by listening, this isn’t their first time out away from home, away from a crowd that cares, which makes it a little strange that they were below SLEEP∞OVER on the bill…but that’s how things go on the road. Sometimes it’s not who plays best, but who’s going up, or down, or is going to draw, and while Pure X does what they do well, they are probably never going to do more than fill the Entry on a good night. But it seems like they don’t care, as opposed to the divas in SLEEP∞OVER wanting to make sure everything is always perfect. Maybe it was on stage, but they sure left the crowd out of it if that were the case.


Thursday was a pretty typical Thursday. I hopped on the bike way too early, put in my eight hours, briefly exchanged a flurry of e-mails and texts to change locations and plans for getting together with friends, found time to work out, and after all of that, I went and lost $10 like the best of them playing some poker. There were beers and pizza and discussions of TB, which I would say is unusual, but we can end up talking about some unusual stuff. In this case, it was prompted, but the specifics are unnecessary. After a good, if late, night, I made my way home and chatted with a friend until I realized that even if it wasn’t enough, I should probably get some sleep. Which I did, if only to be awake when I put in my final eight hours of the workweek. So like I said, it was a pretty typical Thursday

And yet, it was a pretty special Thursday when I reflect that three years ago, I feel like I finally started living. At least perceptibly to you, that’s for sure, because three years ago that Thursday was June 2nd, which then was a Monday, and was my first day at work after months and months of groundwork both there and outside that involved telling the world, hey, I’m trans and this is who I am. Which is a pretty awesome thing to reflect on. Roughly, it’s about 1/10th of my lifetime that I’ve been living as the person that I want to be (or at least trying to the best I can). Much of that authenticity has nothing to do with being trans and everything to do with being happy with who I am and being willing to stand up for and believe in that, irrelevant of whether it’s a reflection of my gender identity or not.

No one said anything particularly, which actually is just how I’d like it. I don’t need to be feted for it, and I don’t need a card at this point. I did get one from my former boss at Wells on the one year, which was really nice of him, but at this point, it’s just another day. In regards to me being trans, I feel that for others many other days were more important in terms of how they remember me, and other than my own thoughts, I don’t think it’s an anniversary that requires a card or notes or wishes or anything like that from a lot of people. We all (I hope) have days in our life where we feel a little internal swell of pride remembering something that is not necessarily worth outwardly celebrating. Times where we remember overcoming obstacles, where we start really being ourselves, where we did something formative, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time, to us or others.

If I am a positive example to some, the date doesn’t matter. Special days are wedding anniversaries, birthdays, employment anniversaries and such. I don’t need a party. So why write about it at all? Well, of course it matters to me, and it’s a personal reflection, but I actually like the fact that it’s not recognized in the sense that I hope everyone’s view of me that knew me before is continuous. I don’t really want people to have a dichotomy of pre- and post-transition in terms of how they think of me, and I think recognizing something like that viewpoint enforces that a bit. Of course, in writing about it, I’m making you think of it. See, it’s a complicated subject that deserves thoughts, definitely, and it’ll never be totally seamless (how could it be?). All I really know is that fraction is going to keep getting bigger.


05/21/11 – Eternal Summers, The Beets @ 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis

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It isn’t often that I can say this, but I can say with certainty that I’ve played to more people in the Entry than I saw at the Eternal Summers show. Which is strange all around. Especially considering it was a Saturday. Maybe it was because it was a beautiful weekend, maybe it was Death Cab next door or maybe it was as Nicole, the guitarist and lead singer joked: “This is our first time in Minneapolis. We were like ‘everyone was dressed for an Usher show because they were.” On a Saturday night in Minnesota, there’s a lot of competition, from something so simple as a nice evening to fish to plenty of other arts, and that Saturday was a nice night, complete with the Bible-shouting man at the corner of 7th and Hennepin. That’s the mark of a nice evening. So when I rolled in just after 11 pm after a rather nice evening of dinner and drinks with friends, I was surprised to see how few people were there. Maybe thirty, including band and staff. I suppose one might code that as intimate, or as Florafauna might say, too intimate, but it’s actually refreshing to see a show like that every so often. Not elbowing everyone and fighting through lines to get drinks or pee and wondering what the hell those people paid $10 each to just talk over the music for. I doubt the band feels the same way about that, as it’s a money making business for them, but any band that’s on the road has to have played a few shows like that, and if they didn’t in any other city, they did here. It just seems odd because I go to many Sunday and Tuesday shows that sell out, but here on a nice Saturday night to go out and enjoy live music, everyone scattered after the big shows. As to what they missed…

There’s a lot I don’t know about Eternal Summers. Going in, I had heard a song on Altered Zones, “Cog”, which led me to a couple other songs on MySpace. And that’s about it. So the bulk of their 40 minute set was rather unfamiliar to me. As for their overall sound, it’s a duo who added a bass for the road. In that arrangement, Nicole does the guitars and most of the singing, with Daniel, the drummer, pitching in occasionally; if I had to guess about the songwriting, though, I’d say it’s a split or co-writing. But I could be wrong. Anyway, their songs are spiky, taut 2 minute affairs most of the time, with the requisite jangle to recall the onslaught of 00s bands that were 80s or 60s leaning. As for where they fall in that influence, it’s anyone’s guess, but I don’t think they are rolling across the country listening to Talulah Gosh even if it sounds like it. I do think they are rolling across the country listening to Grass Widow or The Beatles. But pegging influences in tough, and probably a game left for another day. They got through about 15 songs, I estimate, and if they were disappointed by the small turnout, it didn’t show. They played everything with precision and they were workmanlike in their set except for the rotating instruments moment.

Let’s take a moment to talk about that gimmick. I’ve only ever seen one band do it like Eternal Summers did it where everyone switches instruments. Obviously it’s not uncommon to see one or two people shuffle around as songs demand, but usually people don’t just do a rotation. It’s a fun thing to see, even if you know you’re not seeing anything amazing. In the case of Eternal Summers, what we saw is a band potentially taking a chance on something they’d try every so often in the future. That’s what shows like this are for. Whether it was sincere or not when Nicole said they’ve never played it in front of an audience is irrelevant. It gave the show its own uniqueness. Not that a show obviously isn’t inherently unique. That’s the point of going to see live music. Seeing the same show over and over again is not fun, and band draw people for their ability to consistently provide that uniqueness. When it’s live, you never know what’s going to happen. So on this night, in front of a couple dozen people, Eternal Summers debuted a song. It could be a staple at all their live shows. It could never be played again. They could have just been saying that to make us feel better about our experience. It could be a ploy so that next time 25 becomes 75. Or maybe they’ll get some play some where for the Prisoner EP and that will be the driving force. But like a good movie or book, it’s the willing suspension of disbelief. If you are into the music, then you enjoy the moment, which I enjoyed immensely. I thought it was fun and quirky and added the right touch to a less attended than it should have been show. Next time you should too.


I have, as I usually do in most writing endeavors, gotten a bit behind, and I will get around in the next day or two to providing my thoughts on shows, but I felt more in the mood for a baseline entry heading into June, as my lease prepares to start over tomorrow morning and I contemplate exactly what to do with the next year in the Twin Cities, and where I believe I might be at the end. I have toyed with the idea of putting together a list of all the things I haven’t done even though I’ve lived here for 8 years. Because I’ve done a lot of things, but I’ve never made it over to Mill City for a tour or had a steak at Manny’s. The reason I’m thinking of it all? Because a friend just visited who had never had much of a Midwestern experience. So in a few days, I crammed in a few rivers, a couple more lakes, some Wisconsin and Minnesota beers, cheese curds, a Juicy Lucy, and more pastry than was probably necessary, even if it was delicious. Because I don’t know where the next opportunity in life is really going to take me. I may not be going anywhere depending on what kinds of opportunities come up at work, but I could just as likely find myself heading further west. Don’t ask me why, I think it’s in our blood as citizens of this country. Or who knows, maybe back east, but I doubt it. Anyway, it’s entirely likely that with my next professional move I’ll be changing scenery. Why?

Because I can. Is that a good enough reason? I would say yes. I have a lot of flexibility in my life, especially now that I am through with the transition phase of my life. So I think it’s time I follow the trail where it leads. The past few years, I feel like I have been making my own trail here in Minnesota. Not a bad thing to do by any means, but more a matter of circumstances than anything. In order to not tamper with some important things in life it was necessary to stay put, and now it isn’t. Anyway, it’s not a bad philosophy to approach the city you live in like someone who may not see it again tomorrow. I want to capitalize on the opportunities that are right here, and I want to see things. I won’t see it all. I’m not naive, but I still haven’t done plenty of Minnesotan things, and there are other things I’ve only done once or twice that I keep saying I will do again, and sometimes I have…but sometimes I haven’t. Of course I’m working with finite resources like time and money, but that’s no excuse to not do the next 60-70 miles of the another Saints game. Or another trip to Grand Old Day. Maybe a band or two at Music In Mears if I don’t feel like driving to the west burbs some Thursday to play poker (though that night will probably not be the 30th, just saying). Of course there’s the State Fair. And that’s all just stuff right here in Saint Paul. That doesn’t include the plethora of fun opportunities in Minneapolis or the fun and exciting activities that lie outside the Twin Cities. I did, after all, just get a new annual park pass up at Interstate, and it may be time to get back to a couple more of them. There’s pints of Surly to celebrate on site (if we ever get a tour together again) and Flat Earth and Harriet and Summit and Fulton too if I get around to those places. Of course, even if the Twins suck, it’s not every year you get to see a team loose 100 games, so maybe I should go catch one.

Of course there’s all the shows I have tickets to, and all the other shows yet to come. And somewhere in there I’ve got to ride my bike periodically. Then there’s any trips that take me out of the Twin Cities, to Iowa or LA or whatever destination I may end up at. Somewhere in there I will actually be working at getting my money’s worth from the ACFE and finishing the test. And between buying hiking supplies and records and specialty burgers and pints, I’ll probably be finding some time to just relax with my friends. As if there’s time for that. And if there’s not time for that, then there’s definitely at least time for this, which kinda feels like a nice combination of the two. And somewhere in between all of this, I want to find time to write more? Yeah. There’s always too much to do, but there’s never so much to do that I can’t sit down and do this. Even if it doesn’t feel relaxing at the time, it usually ends up being once I’ve gotten whatever thoughts out of my head that were bouncing around in there. Plus, now that I have a laptop again, there’s really no excuse. I can do this from just about anywhere. So yes, in a couple days, I’ll clean up the concerts and have some thoughts on 3 years (in a more explicit way than just 1/10th of my life so far, but actually, looking at it that way, kind of awesome) and all sorts of things like that. And if I break this promise (again), well, it’s probably because I’m out eating delicious pastry or riding to Victoria or seeing Bill Callahan or checking out Phantom Tails or sharing a beer with my friends at The Bulldog. Maybe it’s because they just don’t have a good internet connection in Tettegouchee. Rest assured, if I’m not writing, I’m probably doing something. Just the same, if you don’t have time to read, well, no surprise, there’s a lot to do.

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