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Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst (looking like Tobey Maguire, in his new bowl cut) and his band Desaparecidos were loud and political at First Avenue on Wednesday. They opened a blistering hour-long concert with two newish singles -- “Left is Right,” an Occupy movement anthem, and “Underground.” Other loud fast (and short) tunes touched on immigration (“Marikkkopa”), the jaded music industry (“Backsell”) and the plight of the minimum-wage worker (“Anonymous”).
News of local interest: Oberst said the band had spent the past 10 days near Battle Lake, Minnesota, working on four new songs.
“I’ve never spent this much time in Minnesota; it’s beautiful here,” he said. The crowd didn’t get to hear any of the new songs, as they weren’t ready yet, Oberst said. He praised the Battle Lake restaurant Stella’s, and the restaurant owners were at the concert, reportedly showing photos of them with Oberst and talking about several nights they all spent in a local karaoke bar.
They tore through 15 songs, seven from their only full-length, 2002’s “Read Music/Speak English,” including “Mall of America” and “Greater Omaha.” The 5-piece band -- Landon Hedges (bass and vocals), Matt Baum (big-ass drums), Denver Dalley (hair-flippin’ and guitar) and Ian McElroy (keyboards) -- sounded well-rehearsed and cracklin’, especially for a group that has spent so much time apart as Oberst has pursued his various side-projects.
In just over an hour onstage, Oberst name-checked Julian Assange and the Minnesota State Fair, decried the Obama administration’s zealous pursuit of national-security leakers, and said “there’s not much music in the music business, it’s mostly business.”
Here’s what Desaparecidos played:
Left Is Right, Underground Man, Happiest Place on Earth, Manana, Financial Planning, Mall of America, Backsell, Damaged Goods, Camila, Survival, $$$, Greater Omaha, MariKKKopa, Anonymous, Hole in One.
For Leslie Plesser's show photos, go here.
Stream "Anonymous" and other songs here.
It’s not exactly on par with “Purple Rain,” but First Avenue nightclub is featured prominently in a new Dawes music video that premiered today.
The clip for “Most People” shows footage from before, after and during the Los Angeles rockers’ sold-out two-night stand in Minneapolis earlier this month. Among the highlights is a scene of the band members posing with fans under the star outside the venue. There’s also a short blast of the club staff cleaning up the cups and beer cans off the dance floor after the show (always an impressive feat if you’ve never hung around to see it).
While there’s a little footage from other venues, too -- including the Cat's Cradle in Carborro, N.C., and Grimey's in Nashville (not that we care!) -- most of the video centers around First Ave. Dawes has repeatedly stated its love for the club and the Twin Cities on the whole, which still ranks as its No. 1 market. This should only add to the mutual love.
Downtown Minneapolis’s mainstay rock club the Fine Line Music Café has been sold to the owners of velvet-rope dance and drink bars Aqua and Elixir. The deal has been in the works for months and was finally confirmed in a short notice tacked onto the club’s website. It reads:
The Fine Line Music Café will be under new ownership and management efffective August 6th. The new business will be part of Minneapolis Event Centers operated by Entourage Events Group.
Talking about the pending deal a few weeks ago, Fine Line owner Dario Anselmo listed several reasons why he wanted to unload the club. They included the fact that he recently turned 50 (“I’m too old to run a club,” he quipped) to the loss of the club’s longtime talent booker Kim King last summer (who switched to the Cabooze and tour managing).
He also detailed his love/hate relationship with the Warehouse District, where many bars and restaurants have come and gone in recent years despite the construction of Target Field. Anselmo still owns the building that houses the Fine Line and will thus be involved in a landlord capacity.
“I’ve tried for a long time not to be pessimistic about the Warehouse District, but it’s hard to be optimistic anymore,” said Anselmo, a former president of the Warehouse District Business Association.
Calls to the club’s new owners, brothers Jado and Steve Hark, have not been returned. Anselmo said the Harks hope to continue the Fine Line’s live music tradition, but they also plan to ramp up the private-party business there. Corporate events and private shindigs are a cornerstone of the Harks’ Entourage Events Group and a staple at their other clubs.
“Those guys have more experience on [the private party] front than I did, and that’s essential,” Anselmo said, noting that the nearby Epic nightclub and the Varsity Theater largely owe their longevity to private events and not their live music calendar. Said Anselmo, “The live music business has gotten to be pretty expensive one to be in.”
One key element to the Fine Line remaining a vital live music venue is its relationship with First Avenue, which has booked many of the noteworthy gigs there in recent years and is behind such upcoming dates as Jake Bugg, Murder by Death and Deerhunter. First Ave general manager Nate Kranz said he met with the Harks informally on Thursday and is planning a sit-down meeting Wednesday.
“My first impression is they’re excited to continue working with us, and we’re looking at it as business-as-usual,” said Kranz, who added, “I think they have good ideas, and some new energy there could reinvent the place.” Kranz also praised Anselmo’s tenure at the club: “It’s not easy running a club day-to-day, but he did it for a long time.”
Nineteen years, in fact. Anselmo took over the club in 1993 from Ruth Whitney Bowe (wife of guitarist Kevin Bowe), who opened it in 1987. Under Anselmo’s watch, the Fine Line hosted everyone from George Clinton to President Bill Clinton, and from Sheryl Crow and Maroon 5 to the Pixies, who played their first-ever reunion gig there in 2004. In recent years, it has welcomed more and more hip-hop gigs by the likes of Prof, Sims, the Geto Boys and (just two weekends ago) El-P and Killer Mike. The club even survived a fire in 2003, the same week of the tragic inferno at a Great White concert in Rhode Island. Thankfully, no one at the Fine Line was hurt.
“It’s a tough business, and getting tougher,” Anselmo said, “but regardless of that, this is really mostly about changing things up for me personally.”
Mickey Hart/ Yonas Media
Some places call it 2-for-1, others call it BOGO (buy one, get one free). Mill City Nights is calling it “Christmas in July.”
***UPDATE: Station 4 co-owner Steve Ledin filled us in a little more on the situation for the story that appeared in Tuesday's newspaper. Click here to read that version.
With an undercurrent of anger befitting any club that books so many metal bands, Station 4 in downtown St. Paul abruptly closed over the weekend and will remain shuttered all summer, reportedly so a new ventilation system can be installed.
The owners of the building -- which includes warehouse spaces above the club -- have been in negotiations with the city to upgrade its ventilation for more than a year. The city apparently gave them two extensions to get the work done, but they were finally cut off as of Friday. Word of the closure did not come until hours before a “last-minute metal party” was thrown Thursday night featuring Deretla Thrash, Plagued Insanity, What's Left of Legends and other bands that could have trouble finding gigs elsewhere until if and when the mainstay metal and punk venue reopens.
Ticket refunds are being given for the club’s national touring shows. Tonight’s show with Lions Lions and tomorrow night's Intronaut gig have both been moved to the Garage in Burnsville (an all-ages, alcohol-less venue). No word on other upcoming tour gigs, which were also to include the Summer Slaughter Tour with Dillinger Escape Plan and Norma Jean, plus Green Jelly, the Mixtapes and Amaranthe.
We have so far been unable to reach co-owner Steve Ledin, who has steadfastly helmed the club with his wife, Dawn, through thick and thin for the past decade. Crowds at the club certainly thinned out over the past couple years as construction of the light-rail line to the nearby Union Depot forced many street closures. A posting on Station 4’s Facebook page written by the club’s social-media guy explained the situation and apologized:
“I have been dreading writing this as we were hoping to get an extension from the city so that the shows already scheduled this summer could happen. The good news is that when we re-open in September, we will have a new HVAC system. In other words, no more ungodly heat! It just sucks that we have to shut down to get it.
That’s all I can tell you for now. For anyone who has any shows scheduled, we are sorry. This is now out of our control. We will work to try to reschedule for the fall. As far as National shows, refunds are available at point of purchase.
I will keep things updated on this page when I know what’s going on. I am just a guy who runs the Facebook page. I do not have much power. Thank you to all of our patrons. While this is a really crappy way to do it, we all know a remodel is needed.”
Fans and musicians from the club were obviously not happy thrashers upon hearing the news. Station’s 4 space has been a haven for metal bands going back to the ‘80s with its previous incarnations as Ryan’s and the Lab. Some people fear the upgraded ventilation system will ultimately out-price Station 4 from the space, as could the incoming light-rail line. One of the Facebook comments read, “I've had a nagging fear that one LRT in St. Paul gets finished Station 4 would be kaput.”
Another commenter, however, saw it as a positive: “While this sucks in the immediate future, the ultimate outcome is good. I am very reluctant to go to the venue because it gets so [expletive] hot in there regardless of the season.”