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Lizzo Looking for Dancers

10 Aug

Is it you?  

Lifter Puller at D4th

4 Jul


Overheard in the crowd before/during/after Lifter Puller‘s first show in Minneapolis in 12 years, mainly yelled in our ears by the super-excited bro behind us.

“Let’s all freak out!”

“You can do it, Steve!”

“Let’s get fucking incredible!”

“Holy shit, how good was that?”

“Damn it feels good to be young again.”

True, bro, true.

“To Live and Die in LBI” Lifter Puller #D4th #lftrpllr from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

The end of “Nassau Coliseum” – Lifter Puller #D4th #lftrpllr from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

“Let’s Get Incredible” Lifter Puller #D4th #lftrpllr from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Heartless Bastards with Craig Finn at First Avenue

30 Jun


Just thunderous. Rolling, driving, relentless like a storm across the prairie, Heartless Bastards blew in to First Avenue on Monday night and shook the stage for almost a solid two hours. Touring in support of their latest effort, Restless Ones, frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom announced from stage, “We’re really excited about our new record, it came out what, two weeks ago? Tour ends up blurring it all together.”

Their set showed no such confusion though, kicking off with fan favorite “Simple Feeling” and then tearing into the new single “Gates of Dawn” for a set that was focused and rarely let up. They alternated throughout the night between established songs, leaning heavily on 2012’s Arrow and new tunes, each one standing up to the next. With Jesse Ebaugh on bass and pedal steel, and Dave Colvin on drums providing a constancy and thrill on songs like “Gotta Have Rock and Roll” and the new “Hi-Line,” the country-inflected rock filed the whole room. For the slower touch of the new “Pocket Full of Thirst,” Mark Nathan’s longing guitar held the crowd in thrall.

Wennerstrom’s evolution throughout the band’s career has given her an enviable and mesmerizing range, from a plain-spoken country warble to raspy rock n’ roll bellow to an almost ethereal incantation. For the last third for the set, surrounded by what may be pound-for-pound the best bar bands you’ll hear outside of a honky-tonk, Wennerstrom Held the center as her bandmates popped up to deliver cheer-inducing flourishes of talent as they moved through roaring tunes like “Low Low Low” and the set closer “Parted Ways.”

Heartless Bastards weren’t quite ready to let it go, though, as they had to make up for not having been through Minneapolis in three years – “Too long!” in Wennerstrom and the crowd’s estimation. For the encore, they wrapped it up with the haunting, pulsing “Tristessa” from Restless Ones, Wennerstrom solo on stage as the reverb washed around her, a powerful benediction from a singular voice.


Another singular voice was on the bill on Monday, although probably more acclaimed for his lyrical intelligence than his musical range. Still, Craig Finn, usually of the Hold Steady, formerly of Lifter Puller, did pull out some new sounds while showcasing his trademark narrative wit while performing in advance of his second solo full-length, Faith in the Future, out this September.

Finn performed all of his songs with an acoustic guitar, joined onstage by Arun Bali on electric guitar providing “atmospherics,” as he called them in a listening party with 89.3 The Current on Sunday night. Finn kicked it off with the new song “Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son,” a heavy recounting of a father seeking some closure at the end of an eventful life, including the portentous line, “There a darkness in my body / and I think I may be ready.”

There were a couple nods to his previous bands, with two tunes from The Hold Steady’s 2004 Almost Killed Me making an appearance in the set, “Modesto is Not That Sweet” and “Certain Songs.” He also brought up Lifter Puller’s Steve Barone for a rendition of “Mission Viejo” and intimating that the upcoming D’4th of July at the Triple Rock Social Club would be a good place to be if you liked that band.

From songs about studio life inspired by his experiences with 9/11 (“Newmeyer’s Roof”) to the lucid dreaming of being on tour (“Extras”) Finn’s incisive, poetic slices of life were wrapped in more gauzy sonic touches than the more straightforward bar-rock of the Hold Steady, but it was in the lyrics that he still had the sharpest hooks. Closing out the night with “Dennis & Billy,” a solo tune about two friends growing apart through addiction, Finn delivered one of his most poignant lyrics about life – “He went for the handle / Got bit by the blade” – in a voice that has seen a lot. But as Finn put it, the new record is about “finding light after darkness,” and the power of music to help that along.

"Parted Ways" Heartless Bastards at First Avenue [SNIPPET] from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

"Mission Viejo" Lifter Puller – Craig Finn with Steve Barone at First Avenue from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Algiers at The Triple Rock

17 Jun


Algiers is huge and you don’t even know it yet. The band may have played to a half-full Triple Rock on Tuesday night, but they sounded enormous and incredibly of-the-moment. Their sound is a roaring doom-dance electronica, layered on with frontman Franklin James Fisher’s gospel-inflected preacher-man cries and guitarist Lee Tesche in a distorted overdrive. Bass and synth player Ryan Mahan started the show beating his hand to his chest with a look of wild-eyed defiance, and that energy was palpable throughout the set, even as he was running through eminently catchy, bouncing basslines that cut through the feedback and fuzz.

Algiers put on a show which rarely let up in energy and featured really no stage banter (“We are Algiers, we’re from Atlanta.”) but played most of their just-released self titled debut, with some added jams, samples and flourishes. The album opener “Remains,” which came in the middle of the set, started off with a double foot stomp and a sharp clap, reminiscent of chain-gang work songs, and drove the point of disaffection home with Fisher extolling, “We’re you’re careless mistakes / We’re the spirits you’ve raised / We are what remains.”

For “Games” frontman Fisher took the slow, sparse tune solo, jamming out an occasional chord on his Fender and sounding like a sorrow-filled bluesman as he wailed out “We bury ourselves in our bottles / We bury ourselves in our bibles / And then you come around singing my house is burning / Why do you come around?” And although the lyrics cut deep and the tone of the show was full of foreboding and anger, “Games” also had the lightest moment of the night when, in the midst of pregnant silence, someone sneezed and Fisher couldn’t help but laugh and bless them.

Pick up the debut record, and put it in rotation alongside D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. That’s the soundtrack of what’s happening in America right now – the tensions of race, disinvestment, anger and power, as told through creative, genre-bending, expansive music. As was intoned in a sample last night, “They care about the black creative genius, but they don’t care about the misery that created that genius.” It’s not easy music, but it is powerful, driven and deeply human. Get it, get into it, and get to the next Algiers show you can.

Black Eunuch
Irony. Utility. Pretext.
And When You Fall
Old Girl
But She Was Not Flying

The Rolling Stones at TCF Bank Stadium

4 Jun

The Rolling Stones with VocalEssence – You Can't Always Get What You Want #StonesMinny from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

It was good, you guys. Immortal, deathless, wizened magicians exploding, lolling, laughing, it was so good. You can read more reviews in The Current, Pioneer Press, City Pages and Star Tribune for the full coverage, but know this: they make it look easy, and that’s astounding. They’ve earned the right to do what they want, be where they are, and thankfully, as Keith Richards put it in his grumbly chuckle, “It’s good to be here. It’s good to be anywhere, really. Heh heh. But here’ll do.” They played so many hits, and were so solid throughout, and yet there were so many songs that they didn’t play, but we’ll take it, because we got a lot of what we wanted, including a gorgeous choir. Let’s do it again soon, you wizards of rock n’ roll, before you all disappear into the smoke.


Elvis Perkins at Icehouse

29 Apr


“This one’s a little more straightforward,” joked Elvis Perkins at Icehouse on Monday night, before playing his new tune “My 2$.” But, he carried on, “it still can be cryptic.” Six years after his last record, it’s good to have Perkins back on the scene, and he really is as cryptic as ever. The new disc, I Aubade is a play and pun in and of itself – an “aubade” is a piece of poetry for the dawn, but it sounds like “I obeyed.” For this self-produced and released disc, Perkins mainly seemed to be obeying himself and his whims, which takes us all over the map. on “My 2$” Perkins channels his early Dylan and writes a biting topical song with lyrics like, “It matters less who I vote for/than what I put my dollar towards.” The performance of “I Came for Fire” was a welcome tune for long-time Perkins fans, with an element of longing and mystery in love, and the satirical “Hogus Pogus” played with porcine wordplay and imagery to set up an unexpected revelation of kindness and love. In all, cryptic and far-ranging, as Perkins has always been.

If there is a criticism of the new record itself, the production can feel over-wrought and layered on, but there was no such problem on stage. Supported by Danielle Akroyd on bass and a variety of synthesizers, as well as a hurdy-gurdy, and Mitchell Robe on keys, the support was just enough to let Perkins’ own sweet, wry tenor to shine through on new tunes and old. The quiet Sunday-night Minnesotan crowd offered little support on a singalong to “Doomsday” but the sharp and spare arrangement of “Shampoo” cut through the crowd to close out the set. It was reminiscent of the first time that I heard the tune, at a hootenanny in the Java Jack’s basement eight years ago, with a rapt audience eager to sing along. In closing out his encore, Perkins included the epic, gorgeous, “While You Were Sleeping” and there more than a few mouths joining in and humming along. If Perkins is making a break for a new day, there is at least the memory of our love, as we decide what to do next.

Elvis Perkins at Icehouse – Encore snippet from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Crime and Punishment at the Soap Factory

12 Apr


There’s an old Borscht Belt joke that has two patrons at a restaurant complaining about the food. “The food here is so terrible,” the first exclaims. “Yes,” agrees the second, “and the portions are so small!”

Live Action Set’s Crime and Punishment feels very much in that vein, including the “terrible” part – as in, full of or causing terror. The narrative of Dostoyevsky disappears into installation of the set in the Soap Factory, you could be a scholar of Russian literature and come away with no idea of what happens in the book itself. But the tone – pre-Dickensian Russian poverty, the debauchery and depravity of desperation, is all-encompassing and inescapable. The design of the show is audaciously engrossing, a triumph of minutiae and disorienting surprise that has antecedents more in the work of Gregor Schneider and Ed Kienholz than traditional theater design. There are diaries to discover, phones that ring and pass on furtive, horror-filled messages, peepholes that open up new worlds, not necessarily more pleasant or enticing than the one at hand.

Into this built horror are thrown almost two dozen performers, characters seeking escape and and respite, domineering control, drink, and maybe even love. There are hookers and hawkers, landladys and repo men, cops and villains, ingenues and and the shadow of death. You can follow any of them singularly, or bounce between characters, but the strength of Crime and Punishment is in the moments of pure surprise – an achingly sweet and powerfully lithe dance between a Cossack and his lover, the moment of holding all tension before an axe is brought down, being pulled aside by a character and told of a dream where you were together.

Depending on how you move through the space you may experience any or none of this, and that is the second part of the joke. At an hour’s run time, a visit to the Soap Factory basement barely scratches the surface of what it is or what it could be. When the performers came through, banging on trash can lids and herding people together, my first hope was that here was the use of the space to bring people together for a shared moment to create something together that could then be diffused back into the playing space. But no, they were coming through to clear us out, which was as terrible and jolting as anything that had been a part of the show.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Orchestra Hall

31 Mar

There are many New Orleans institutions – beignets at Cafe Du Monde, Mardi Gras beads, jambalaya and po’boys – but few travel so well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. On Friday night the seven members of the traveling band ventured to the northern shores of the Mississippi, playing two sets that linked their past and present, and filling Orchestra Hall with joyous, raucous, warm and enveloping Louisiana glow.


For the performance, the band featured bandleader Ben Jaffe on upright bass and tuba, trumpeter Mark Braud, pianist Rickie Monie (one of three living Steinway artists from New Orleans, the other two being Dr. John and Harry Connick Jr.), ageless clarinetist Charlie Gabriel, trombone player Ronnell Johnson (a former highschool student of Jaffe’s), drummer Joe Laste Jr. (who, on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was pointedly introduced as being form the Lower Ninth Ward) and the sleek Clint Maedgen on saxophone. The first set of the night was taken entirely from the Sweet Emma and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band record, which was recorded in 1964 at the old Guthrie Theater on the band’s second trip out of New Orleans – the first trip had also been to the Guthrie in 1963. The Current MC Bill DeVille had been out to introduce the band, and had found out that there were a number of people in the audience who had been in attendance at the Guthrie when the Sweet Emma record was cut. That record was recently added to the Library of Congress, and Jaffe told the story that the tape machine had only been rented for one night, so his parents, Preservation Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, raced back to the apartment and spent the night rushing through and cutting the tape to make sure they had the record by morning.


On the night, their renditions of tunes like “Yellow Dog Blues,” “Whenever You’re Lonesome,” “Basin Street” and “Closer Walk With Thee” featured a lighter, slower touch than maybe the frenetic pace of earlier recordings or the intimacy of Preservation Hall might afford, but there was nothing lacking. Languorously prolonged, trilling sax solos came out of Maegdan, and Johnson had star turns with his full-bodied, big-swinging, rasping, bellowing elephantine trombone. The whole effect was one of venerable tradition, but not simply for the sake of posterity, but because the songs still move, and still swing.


The second set was taken from their recent record That’s It, the band’s first recording of original tunes. That a band whose mission is to preserve New Orleans jazz has recorded new material may seem out of place, but if any group of musicians is to add to the canon, it should be these musicians, with their New Orleans roots running deep. The best gardens grow with careful tending and new planting, and the songs from That’s It blossomed in Orchestra Hall, from the gospel-inflected call and response of Johnson on “Halfway Right, Halfway Wrong,” to the roaring, pulsing horn Braud brought to center stage in the title track, to Charlie Gabriel’s sweet, spare phrasing in the smooth charmer “I Think I Love You.”


For a man about to celebrate his 83rd birthday, Gabriel closed out the night on a youthful, inviting note. After coming out for their encore with a swinging rendition of the traditional “Down By The Riverside,” Gabriel finished with the new song “Come With Me.” Jaffe noted that it was his wedding anniversary and his wife had asked for this song, and then invited couples to get up and dance, which a surprising number of people (for a Minnesota audience in Orchestral Hall) took him up on. “Come with me to New Orleans,” Gabriel smiled out to the audience as the couples shimmied, “I show you a great time. All your dreams will come true, with my by your side.” And for the night, they did, up at the northern tail of the Mississippi, coming back to that place that they had been before, to arms ready to welcome them back.


The Suicide Commandos and The Hold Steady at The Turf Club

17 Jan

“Little Hoodrat Friend” The Suicide Commandos + The Hold Steady #Current10 from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

“Anyway, I got a proclamation, so listen up,” Mayor Chris Coleman announced from stage at The Turf Club on Friday night. His proclamation, between confessions of his own rock n’ roll dreams, recovering bagpiper status and swipes about STP being cooler than Minneapolis (“If Betsy Hodges were here I’d be nicer about Minneapolis, but, what the hell.”) was that Friday, January 16th was The Current (“My personal favorite radio station.”) Day in the City of Saint Paul.

The crowd at the Turf, gathered for one of the events in The Current’s 10-day celebration of their 10th anniversary, were certainly happy to be there, proclamation or not. L’Assassins opened up the show with their amber-coated shit-kicking rockabilliy punk, but the crowd really got into the night when The Suicide Commandos took the stage. The full house of 20-somethings and folks who were 20-somethings when the Commandos started as band 40 years ago pogoed and jittered around as Dave Ahl, Steve Almaas and Chris Osgood made it look easy up on stage. Ahl’s crackling drums drove every everything forward as Almaas’ giddy energy reverberated through the room with his bouncing bass lines and Osgood stalked the stage, planting and delivering huge hooks.


A young person looking to get in to music could learn a lot from them, and they pulled up a special guest who did – Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, joined by his bandmate Tad Kubler. Together, they all moved through a couple Commandos tunes, including the huge “Burn It Down,” and ended with a version of “Little Hoodrat Friend” that saw Finn deliver an extended monolog about his relationship with Osgood while the band vamped in the background. Watch it above, it’s worth the 10 minutes.

For the grand finale, Mayor Coleman came back out to join them on The Who’s “My Generation.” After the whistling and stamping pulled them back out stage, the guys through together a song that Finn tried to play with his first band 20 years ago but hadn’t played since then – The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” That would have been it for the night, but Almaas and Kubler giggled conspiratorially with Ahl, and then they launched into The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Both songs were rowdy, loose and cut short because hey, they hadn’t planned on doing them, but they were fun. You want them to think that you’re having a party, and we sure as hell were.

Fair Oaks and The Starfolk at the Cake Shop

8 Nov

Cake Shop November 16

We’re excited to announce that bands are coming back to The Cake Shop! Sunday, November 16th at 6pm will see not one, but two great bands will play an intimate house show. We’re welcoming Fair Oaks and The Starfolk – it’s a $10 bill, so come out and support these bands. Get your tickets here!

Who: Fair Oaks and The Starfolk
When: Sunday, November 16th, doors at 5:30pm, show at 6pm
Where: The Cake Shop (private house show)
How Much: $10/person

About Fair Oaks:

Formed in two cities founded on the intrinsic turns and tails of one of Earth’s longest waterways, Fair Oaks from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, has made an album that aims to shine a solar-hued spotlight on nature in the urban environment.

The group’s debut full length This Is The River is bookended with a basket’s worth of texturally and lyrically dense fuzzy pop songs that guard the album’s centerpiece three-part titular track. Like spilt oil paints, “THIS IS THE RIVER” is a sprawling and polychromatic piece that at times gallops and at others whirs south along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi.

Made up of singer-songwriter Andy Ulseth, multi-instrumentalists Eric Carlson and Molly Manning, as well as bassist Mitch Schumer and percussionist Matthew Lenard, Fair Oaks has crafted an enthralling and elegant debut release that will reward multiple listens.

About The Starfolk:

The Starfolk makes melody-rich chamber pop music that rocks in front man Brian Tighe’s quintessentially ethereal way. Tighe fronted power-pop darlings The Hang Ups in the 90’s, co-fronts bittersweet girl-boy poppers The Owls, and plays lead guitar with the belovedly hush-toned Jeremy Messersmith.

“Tighe still boasts that distinctively airy tenor and a penchant for setting beautiful vocal melodies atop unusual chord progressions recently described with rightful awe by Messersmith as “like doing ballet in a minefield.” In fact, The Starfolk achieve a far broader sound than that of their frontman’s power-pop past.” -Rob Van Alstyne, City Pages.

In The Starfolk, Tighe is joined by Allison LaBonne (The Owls, Typsy Panthre) on bass, Jacqueline Ultan (Jelloslave, Saltee) on cello, and Stephen Ittner (The Hang Ups, The Owls) on drums. Their debut full length is out now on Korda Records.

About The Cake Shop:

The Cake Shop is dedicated to providing artists and audiences with a unique and intimate experience that allows artists to freely experiment with new material. Shows at The Cake Shop directly financially support the musicians playing. Previous performances include Caroline Smith & Jesse Schuster, Rachel Ries, Spirits of the Red City, Zoo Animal, Dark Dark Dark and Elephant Micah, Pezzettino, Roma Di Luna, Jeremy Messersmith, The Pines, Ben Kyle & Carrie Rodriguez, We Are The Willows, batteryboy, Communist Daughter, and Chastity Brown.