Ordering a tall-boy at Emo's patio bar, Ryan Olson looked the picture of contentment last Saturday night in Austin, Texas. It was easy to understand why when Gayngs -- the regional supergroup he birthed and nursed for more than a year -- took the stage about a half-hour later.
"What you saw at First Avenue was way different from what you'll see here," Olson promised. "This tour turned us into a living, breathing band."
He wasn't just blowing smoke (actually, he was, but never mind). Operating with a pared-down lineup from the 20-plus roster at the "Last Prom" shows at First Ave in May, Gayngs managed to amp up and finesse their slow, throbbing grooves and hypnotic melodies on a two-week tour that culminated in a two-gig stand at the Austin City Limits Festival.
The Emo's concert -- officially an ACL Fest after-party -- wound up being the experimental soft-rock band's final performance. As everyone who knows the band knows by now, the company that owns Gayngs' tour bus hijacked the bus and all of their musical gear over a contract dispute just hours later. Olson & Co. had to cancel their festival appearance the following afternoon in front of 70,000 prospective fans.
When the press release went out about the cancellation Sunday, I thought it was a ruse launched in a cloud of smoke by a band born on a wink and a smirk. It reported the bus stolen at 4:20 a.m. (420 is code to marijuana smokers on par with "Miller Time" to beer drinkers). Then the name of the little-known band that replaced Gayngs was Lance Herbstrong. Come on, really?!
Really. While Lance Herbstrong was onstage, members of Gayngs were on the phone trying to figure out how to get their gear back and get home. It would take them a couple days to do all that.
Other veterans of the road I've since talked to agree that the company was in the wrong, especially since the money from the missed gig alone probably would have covered the $6,000 bill that CJ Star Buses of Nashville claims it was owed. However, the concert biz isn't known for letting bands -- especially one together only a short time -- operate on credit.
Even though everything that came after it was a total mess, Gayngs' one and only Austin show can and should go down as a triumphant last stand for one of the more fascinating groups to come out of Minnesota (and Wisconsin) of late. Solid Gold singer Zach Coulter took the stage first, strategically placing more tall-boys around the stage in a true show of camaraderie. They played their album, "Relayted," in order, peaking early on with the hauntingly lush cover "Cry" and the just plain lustful "No Sweat," and then finishing off big with the outro "Faded High."
The band went a long way in a short amount of time, musically and physically. Among its tour stops along the way was a thoroughly charming performance on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," which Olson described as "kind of like doing an access-TV show, because everyone involved with the show was so laid-back and cool."
Fallon coolly Tweeted afterward, "We were melting over mega-awesome band @gayngs debut TV performance last night." The band earned another sweet Tweet off its Chicago show from Pitchfork.com founder Ryan Schreiber, who wrote, "It was seriously one of the best times I've had at a show all year."
The members themselves were clearly having a blast until the ugly side of touring hit them. Olson doubted all along, though, that they would do any more shows after Austin. "This is probably it," he said.
Saxophonist Mike Lewis was more hopeful about Gayngs' future: "Logistically it will be hard, since there are essentially 10 leaders in the band. But I think we all hope we can do it again."
Rapper-turned-soul-singer P.O.S. only made a few of the shows (including Austin), but even after the tumultuous finish, he said, "All of us look forward to what's next." And no matter what, he added, "all of our future projects are likely to be influenced by this one."
In the end (if it is the end), there were more good lessons than bad in Olson's experiment.Lords leap
Fans had to listen close for the dark tinges underneath the bubbly synth-pop veneer of Grant Cutler's previous group, Lookbook. They will have to listen even more carefully for the uplifting elements of Grant Cutler & the Gorgeous Lords, which releases their debut EP with a party Wednesday at the Turf Club (10 p.m., $5, with Zoo Animal's Holly Newsom).
In the works long before Lookbook called it quits last month, the four-song collection comes off like a bleak, haunting sonic dirge with Cutler's deep, mumbly voice -- part Leonard Cohen and part Peter Murphy -- and the music's echoey, minimalistic arrangements à la the XX. The lyrics aren't light stuff, either. ("The hand of God is overwhelming," Cutler sings in "Hold on to Me.") He sprinkles in are some beautiful moments, though, especially when the closing track "Our Love Is a Mighty Fortress" almost turns into a spiritual gospel rave-up. Almost.Random mix
Grant Cutler crafted a new song with Jeremy Messersmith for an upcoming stage show at the Red Eye Theater, "Unspeakable Things: The Wandrei Brothers Project" (Nov. 5-20), which will also use new tracks by Ben Weaver, Ten Centuries, the Poor Nobodys and more. The Wandrei brothers are local sci-fi writers whose work inspired the songs. ... Messersmith recently got his geek on and recorded a song based on "Star Wars," titled "Tatooine," which is now (not surprisingly) a YouTube hit thanks in part to artist Eric Power's accompanying paper-cutout remake of jawas and whatnot. You can see the clip at JeremyMessersmith.com. ...
After recently making it onto a RollingStone.com ranking of the 25 best U.S. record stores, Hymie's Vintage Records will enjoy another first next week: an in-store gig. Ben Weaver will promote his new album there Tuesday at 6 p.m. (3820 E. Lake St., Mpls.). ... Taking a cue from the DIY coffeehouse folk crowd, Halloween, Alaska is raising money for the recording of its next album by asking fans to pre-order it now. Fair enough. Details at www.HalloweenAlaska.com. ...
Tina & the B-Side Movement will play a one-off reunion gig on New Year's Eve at the Fine Line. Tickets ($71) go on sale Oct. 23. ... After quickly outgrowing smaller clubs, Doomtree's annual year-end Blowout concert is now too big for First Avenue. The crew expanded the show to two nights this year, Dec. 10-11; the latter night is all-ages. ...
Radio K has been nominated for best overall station and best student-run station in the College Radio Awards, happening next week in conjunction with the CMJ Festival in New York. Awards don't pay bills, though: The fall pledge drive is on at RadioK.org, 770 AM, 104.5 FM, 100.7 FM, etc.
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