P.O.S., Brother Ali storm into autumn

Posted on September 16th, 2009 – 1:40 PM
By Chris Riemenschneider

pos.jpgSo cool: Fresh from his Warped Tour summer, P.O.S. is playing three West Coast shows with (African American) punk-rock legends Bad Brains starting tonight in San Francisco. So, do you non-indie-rap fans believe the guy’s a bad-ass yet? Meanwhile, he has confirmed a headlining show at First Avenue on Oct. 24. He’s also playing tour dates with Eyedea & Abilities next month, including Duluth (Oct. 23) and Mankato (Oct. 26).

brother-ali.jpgAs if Rhymesayers didn’t already have enough on its plate this year, the label is issuing Brother Ali’s new one, “Us,” on Tuesday. There will be the usual midnight sale at Fifth Element on Monday night (with Ali there to sign and perform), followed by a tour kickoff Tuesday night at Pizza Luce in Duluth. He’s not performing in Minneapolis until the tour finale at First Ave on Nov. 20. 

Todd Rundgren @ State Theatre

Posted on September 15th, 2009 – 11:01 PM
By Jon Bream

It was the ultimate in rock geekdom: Cult hero Todd Rundgren playing his influential, obscure and cult-loved 1973 album “A Wizard, A True Star” in concert Tuesday at the State Theatre.First, we had to sit through a set of Utopia tunes played by Todd and three other guys (Roger Powell, Kasim Sulton, Prairie Prince) in plain white T’s and black jeans.

After intermission came “A Wizard, A True Star” with an expanded band (including Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes, saxist/keyboardist Bobby Strickland and guitarist Jesse Gress), white tuxedos with tails for the six musicians, and a series of colorful costumes for Todd.

Back in 1973, this music was experimental, adventurous and oddly eclectic. On Tuesday, it was merely a curious grab bag of unbridled creativity as Todd traveled through vaudeville, R&B ballads, prog rock, Broadway, hard rock, cabaret, pop, etc.

With the sound something less than stellar (Todd’s vocals were difficult to decipher much of the night), the costumes may have been as fun as the music.

To be sure, some of these costumes came out of the closet and had to be let out. Several were quite a trip like the feather-and-lame ensemble that looked like something Cher might have worn in her video for “Half Breed” or the Dreamsicle-orange suit (and electric orange satin-like shirt) that Rundgren sported for his R&B medley of “Ooh Baby Baby” and “La La Means I Love You.”

Near the end, when a truly rockin’ Todd was carrying on with scraggly, sweaty hair in an outdated outfit with a slight paunch and a puffy face, he suggested Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler.” But when he ended by slipping on a gold lame-like suit with oversized Elvis-like sunglasses to perform “Just One Victory,” it was clear that Todd the Rock God still rules.

For me, the “AWATS” experience wasn’t as rewarding as seeing Brian Wilson and his band do “Pet Sounds” in concert. But for all the Rundgren runts, they went ga-ga.

Todd Rundgren, performing Tuesday at the State Theatre. Photo by J Bloomrosen.

Todd Rundgren, performing Tuesday at the State.

Photo by J Bloomrosen (click to expand).

Dirty Three + Low: Give it up for under-used venues

Posted on September 15th, 2009 – 10:26 AM
By Chris Riemenschneider

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A lot of things went through my head last night at the Dirty Three’s nearly two-hour set, including the idea that the only way instrumental rock bands really work is if one of the instruments “sings” in lieu of vocals (which Warren Ellis’s violin did all night). I also kept trying to remember the obtuse titles of the songs to compile the set list, most of which I knew by melody but not by name (no dice; among the ones I nailed down were the openers “Some Summers They Drop Like Flies” and “Restless Waves,” the two encore gems “Some Things I Just Don’t Want to Know” and ”Last Horse on the Sand,” and in between “Sister Let Them Try to Follow”).

The one constant thought, though, was how terrific it was to see that show in a venue as unique and electric-feeling as the Southern Theater, with its brick-wall backdrop, ornate overhang and scruffed-up walls. Warren marveled over the space, too. When somebody yelled asking when they’re going to come back and play again, he quipped, “Tomorrow night, in fact” (no kidding, the band does have a second gig tonight).

I had a similar reaction Saturday night watching Low at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. Former Low bassist Zak Sally, btw, earned a shout-out and then a hug from Warren at the Southern.

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The historic Harriet Bandshell is a venue I have long contended is tragically under-used for music gigs (and I’m not talking string trios or hippie folk singers I’ve never heard of). Alan Sparhawk & Co. sounded magical under the curvey, wooden stage with the lake for a backdrop and crisp September weather, a perfect setting as the trio churned out a few new songs alongside such favorites as “Canada,” “Sunflower,” “California” and “Dinosaur Act.” The show was the kickoff to the Vita.mn Autumn Music & Movies series, and I highly recommend the rest of these Saturday night installments.

More important, I’d like to make this a call-to-arms to local bands: Think outside the Turf Club/Entry/Triple Rock boxes. As much as I love those places, there’s something extra special about gigs in non-typical venues, where the spaces can act like a fifth-member collaborator in the band. There are other rustic theaters like the Southern (The Ritz in Nordeast, the Lowry in St. Paul, Intermedia Arts Center on Lyndale where B-Girl Be lands again Saturday). There are neighborhood bars with empty stages. There are rec centers, warehouses, school gyms, whatever. Let’s make it an interesting winter venue-wise.

Kanye was right! Lady Gaga is so wrong!!

Posted on September 14th, 2009 – 11:06 AM
By Chris Riemenschneider

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Not exactly a shocker statement to make: Beyonce did deserve to win over Taylor Swift last night. Granted, they’re both pinup stars who make us forget their weak singing voices by being incredibly soft on the eyes — hence, they’re the perfect MTV stars – but that Beyonce video was truly killer. That Swift video? Utterly forgettable.

I think MTV was clearly going for the suburban youth TV-viewing market by crowning Taylor over the B-Girl. I applaud Kanye for pointing out the obvious. Of course, he probably just did it for his own benefit — let’s face it, Mr. West has been slipping from the headlines of late — but he was still in the right. By the same token, don’t feel bad for Ms. Swift: She’s getting a lot of publicity and sympathy-vote attention out of this, too. Click here if you haven’t yet seen the clip of him crashing the stage.

Now onto the real controversy: How in the world did Lady Gaga become the biggest star of the night? Having the backing of Perez Hilton is no match for having the talent of Paris Hilton. Her performance on the show was a comical Madonna-wannabe send-up, and her many costume changes just reeked of being desparate for attention. No wonder Kanye likes her, too.

Regina Spektor @ State Theatre

Posted on September 12th, 2009 – 12:47 AM
By Jon Bream

It was the opening night of Regina Spektor’s North American tour and she seemed nervous and tongue-tied (her description, which was accurate). She screwed up a couple of times (she apologized to her three sidemen) and blurted, “This is just like my life — except with lights.”

Spektor, 29, didn’t command the stage quite like she did in her previous Twin Cities appearances (the Myth in 07 and Varsity in 06), and she seemed more insecure and immature, which had a certain charm to it (but that wore thin after a while). In fact, the sellout crowd of mostly teen and 20-something women were charmed, responding with gleeful screams throughout the 85-minute performance. (Didn’t we all know of someone like Regina in high school — that artsy, nerdy, goofy, nervous-y outcast with major talent whom no one seemed to understand.)

For about half the tunes, Spektor was accompanied by a drummer, a cellist and a violinist. Her solo numbers were on grand or electric piano, and electric guitar. It took her about a half-dozen songs to kind of find her intensity, which she did on “Ode to Divorce,” when she became lost in her singing. Too often she seemed to be thinking about her own cleverness instead of merely singing. Her pacing was a little off, too, especially ending the main set with the slow “Man of a Thousand Faces.”

Spektor was terrific during her encore, showing consistent passion as well as delightful musical diversity, covering everything from rich piano pop to 1960s-flavored novelty to a Russian hoedown.

Here is Spektor’s set list:

The Calculation/One More Time with Feeling/???/Machine/Two Birds/Laughing With/Ode to Divorce/Blue Lips/On the Radio/Dance Anthem of the 80s/Bobbin’ for Apples/That Time/Apres Moi/Poor Little Rich Boy/Lacrimosa/Man of A Thousand Faces

ENCORE Samson/Us/Hotel Song/Fidelity/Love, You’re a Whore

Gleaming benefit at Hex for Rosie tonight

Posted on September 11th, 2009 – 11:25 AM
By Chris Riemenschneider

gleamandrosie.jpgKeeping a low-profile of late while working in a new drummer and working on a third album, The Gleam is finally performing again tonight at the Hexagon Bar, and it’s for a great cause. The rowdy country-rockers hope to raise money for Rosie, the Hex’s den-mother-like waitress, who has amassed some medical debt of late and now has to retire to maintain her health. The Gleam is bringing along its pal Rich Mattson and his band the Tisdales. Dusty’s regulars the Bill Patten Trio opens. Showtime is 9:30. There’s no cover, but do pony up some green for the cause.