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STNNNG’s Hat Trick of a CD Release at Midway House, Turf Club, & Big V’s – February 23, 2013

5 Mar

By: Connor McDaniel


STNNNG’s release show for their new album “Empire Inward,” billed as an “old fashioned Midway Blowout,” served not only as a release show, but a get together for what was Minnesota’s 2000s post-punk/post-hardcore scene – and beyond that a showcase for rising stars developing from those roots. Moving between venues from 5PM to 2AM, the shows featured a total of twelve half-hour performances (and one 15 minute comedy act), three of which were by STNNNG. All venues were filled with both veterans and newcomers to the scene, beautifully unified and organized by one band.  It was no ordinary event, but rather nearly everything you could want from one.

The show began at the Midway House, and unfortunately I was not able to make it for the first two performances there (STNNNG and The Vets).  The venue itself was filled with people and (delicious) food, and the lighting was the best I’d ever seen at a house venue. Blue light strips covered the walls and ceiling, giving it a unique vibe, and the basement was larger than most. By the time the third band of the night, Animal Lover, got prepared to play, it was more than packed, despite the spaciousness.

Animal Lover played a strong set of Melvins-esque sludge noise, something like Kyuss’ first album but with more aggression and without any of the bad riffs and cheese-ball lyrics. Among the “newer” bands playing the night, they clearly set themselves apart from the post-punk that was to come with heavy, bass-lead heavy metal rhythm.  Before they even played a note, you could tell they were good simply by the fact that the drummer was wearing a “Wipers” shirt.  This is the type of band that will, or should, give most of what passes for “aggressive music” in the indie scene a run for their money.

Following Animal Lover was Signal to Trust, who were initially billed as a “super secret band” as not to detract from their second performance later that night.  They were clearly a crowd favorite, as a large number of people sang along with the band and danced energetically.  At one point, the band commented something along the lines of, “You know, we would play more often if you put together more shows like this, where we didn’t have to quit our day jobs for them.”

ows_136148637237289At this point the show moved to the Turf Club, where STNNNG played their second set of the night.  Here they ran through a variety of tunes, including a few tracks off of their newest album.  This was clearly the “standard” performance of the night for them, but was executed with just as much or more energy than one might expect.  Bass player Jesse Kwakenat jumped and ran about what little space he had with more energy than every member of most bands can muster.

After STNNNG’s second performance, Big V’s hosted the next band, Weakwick.  Despite having what might’ve been the smallest turnout of the event, they put on what was in my opinion the best display of musical innovation, energy, and raw power of the night.  Though only a simple two piece, they unleashed a fury unlike anything I’ve seen or heard before.  Sure, you have your Lightning Bolt noise trash and the like, but these two guys pushed it to the next level.  Their guitars sounded like the screeching of a thousand banshees, or the cry of the mother Xenomorph from “Aliens,” and drums that could simply knock someone out. How they managed to stay in such perfect sync through such chaos is beyond me, all I know is that it absolutely floored me. I highly recommend everyone check them out if you haven’t yet.

Weakwick continued with their last song as Tight Phantomz began at the Turf.  It was here I began to expect something of a pattern.  While Weakwick played harsh noise, Tight Phantomz sounded like some sort of 90s throwback “alt rock.”  It quickly became clear why the Turf was much more populated.  Regardless, the Chicago locals put on an interesting show, having actually a quite diverse repertoire of styles within their music, but not doing anything too crazy (outside a cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted” which I adored).  At the very least, it was fun as it was easily digestible.

Buildings continued the “noise bands play at Big V’s” trend, though without quite as much excitement as Weakwick, their style falling more into your typical post-hardcore “with a hint of noise” fare.  Rather than 90s alternative, it was 90s “kinda like a Jesus Lizard thing, ya’ know?” deal. I couldn’t say this band was particularly enjoyable as an Animal Lover, but were they trying to be? In a genre that is going on twenty years old, they added very little new, and didn’t display any stage presence worth noting. Abrasive is pushing it.

Signal To Trust’s second set began soon after, and outside of the larger crowd, it was nearly identical to the first, even in terms of the setlist. Suffice to say, it was very well received by said crowd.  I can honestly say it’s not my bag, but it went over very well at the Turf, believe it or not.

Gay Witch Abortion followed at Big V’s, and the duo succeeded on all fronts as always.  Something of a staple of the MN “noise” scene, the band continues to show that innovation has little to do with age.  By the time they got on stage it was midnight, and their weird sludge sound was a perfect accompaniment for the night. By this time, the crowd in V’s had grown to nearly match that at the Turf, and with good reason.

Vampire Hands reunited to close out the night at the Turf. The rarely-playing maraca punks drew what was likely the largest crowd of the night between every band, and put on a good show for it. Their airy, drum driven rock provided a very good closing for most people at the show. Their feel-good vibes cleansed the room of anything that may have come before, and their joking announcement at the end of their set that they “have a new album in the back!” defined the night quite nicely.

STNNNG closed the night after a short spot by the “Robot Comic” (a robot with a speaker telling jokes through text-to-speech) at Big V’s around 1:30 AM.  After a short history lesson on the band’s first show at the venue and the bands that played with them, they launched into the first song they ever played, and a variety of their very early material just afterwards.  It was during this last set that STNNNG shined, with the entire band getting into the performance like no band previous that night.  The whole group thrived and launched themselves about the small stage, blasting through song after song until late until the night (though not too late, fortunately).  This is how release shows are meant to be done.

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