Saturday, October 25, 2008

Minneapolis Trip Exeeds Musical Expectations

I'm sitting in one of the food courts at the Mall Of America stealing WiFi from one of the nearby stores. My daughter and her friend are placating the god of consumption with some last minute sacrificial rites before we head back to Iowa. I'm tired and I want to go home but last night was great!

Boy, was I ever wrong about not being able to hear music last night. By the time we headed to The Target Center for the Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson show I had Google Maps printouts for two different venues in the neighborhood with electronica on the bill for last night. One was the legendary First Avenue. The other was a venue I know almost nothing about called Ground Zero. They don't seem to have their own web presence but Google returns many and mixed reviews with lots of references bondage.

The thing is I never ended up going to either one. I never actually found Ground Zero (I probably screwed up the map) and I wasn't willing to stand in line outside First Avenue. The real good news starts with what I saw on the marquee outside the Pantages Theatre while the girls and I were walking from our hotel to the Target Center. Henry Rollins was going on stage at the Pantages at 8:00! This required serious consideration.

After the girls headed into their show I sarted walking around to see what else I was in danger of missing. A lot, it turns out. Amy Ray was playing at a clup a few blocks north of the Pantages, for example. Unlike the musically disapointing weeks I've spent in San Francisco during WWDC I couldn't tripped over my own feet lastnight without falling into a venue with interesting music.

I decided I couldn't miss Rollins. It was timed nicely so that if he did a two hour show I should have time to meet the girls on their way out of their show. The marquee said "Henry Rollins" not "Rollins Band" so I knew it might be a spoken word gig rather than rock n roll, but that was fine.

It was spoken word, or as "talking," as he unpretensiosly puts it. Parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny and others were dead serious. Comparisons to Jello Biafra are unavoidable (they fronted extremely important wext cost punk bands at about the same time before extensive, successful spoken word work) but this was different. I think he's as political as Jello but Rollins has a very different energy. I've not seen Jello in person but I can tell you that the sarcasm of his recordings leaves me with a mush more negative feeling than I walked out of the Pantages with last night.

He talked a lot about his travels, including trips to Pakistan and Cambodia. He tied everything together with a message of people everywhere being kind, generous and needing eachother. Not that he isn't mad. He's mad as hell and talked about his desire to get madder because he finds it's his best motivator. But for all that anger the feeling in the room was phenomenally positive. It was a great experience.

After the girls regaled me with the first round of comentary and replays of their show I got them settled at the hotel. They ordered pizza and I hit the street again. Minneapolis is a remarkable place. I've never been out on the street at night with that many other people and felt so safe. Of course, I'm a 6' tall guy who wears a lot of black so I'm not most predators' target of choice but you never know when some drunk ass hole is going to pick a random fight.

The streets were packed last night and I saw very, very few signs of trouble. The cops were relaxed and chatting with people. The one time I heard cops yell at a group of guys to move the 20-somethings loitering on the corner exchanged ideas about where to go next and moved on...and that's as bad as it got.

Oh, ya...the music. After wondering for a while I decided to find out what was up with Bar Fly. I told the bloke at the door straight up that I was a tourist and didn't know which part of the club (they had three rooms going last night) I wanted into. As soon as he uttered the word "techno" I knew I was headed upstairs. When I got there I was directed away from the Halloween party to the left and into a very dark dance space populated with about 30 people bobing and dancing to minimal techno.

Nobody was showing off. Actually, it was so dark that would have been kind of pointless. Nobody was mashing or grinding. Nobody seemed dangerously intoxicated. It was just a few dozen people feeling good listening to a good DJ spin good techno. Entirely unpretentious. Entirely positive.

I love being wrong.

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