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With influential ‘60s legends the Sonics and local heroes Suicide Commandos and Curtiss A & the Jerks of Fate, Saturday’s First Avenue lineup looks like a cooler-than-cool garage-rock bill that a fanatical record-store clerk might dream up. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what it is. Treehouse Records owner Mark Trehus -- who rarely dabbles in the music-booking business (running a record store is painful enough) -- put the show together after seeing the Sonics three times last year and being blown away each time.
“I couldn’t believe these guys in their 60s were as powerful as they were,” said Trehus, who first caught the Seattle area vets at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans last fall and then booked a trip to the Bay Area just to see them again in San Francisco and Oakland. “I got back to Minneapolis and just started thinking, ‘I really want people here to experience them. There’s gotta be a way to get them up here.’”
Trehus then teamed with First Ave general manager Nate Kranz on working to fly the Sonics in for the show (8 p.m. Sat., $25, click here for tickets). Suicide Commandos came into the fold because the Sonics’ manager is a big fan of theirs, Trehus said, while Curtiss A “is too often taken for granted and is about as true as rock ‘n’ roll gets.” The odd man out is third opener Charlie Pickett, another cult-loved obscure legend from Miami who is the subject of a recent anthology on Chicago’s Bloodshot Records. Pickett used to record for Twin/Tone Records in the mid-‘80s and still has local ties here, which led to him wanting to return to town “just for the chance to see and play with the Sonics,” Trehus said.
So what’s the deal with the Sonics? They were a sax- and organ-laced rock quintet that landed a regional hit in 1964 with “The Witch,” but they never garnered much national attention until decades later when bands such as the Fall, White Stripes, Flaming Lips, Hives, Japandroids and, of course, homeboys Nirvana cited their influence and/or covered their songs. Land Rover used another of their minor hits, “Have Love, Will Travel,” in a 2007 commercial. FIn the interim, frontman Gerry Roslie more or less gave up the rock ‘n’ roll life for another career but dove back in upon retirement, resulting in 2008 reunion at Seattle’s Paramount Theater and then a buzzed-about show at South by Southwest in 2009. Like the similarly big-to-a-small-contingent First Ave gig by fellow '60s cult legend Roky Erickson a few weeks ago, this will be the Sonics' first time performing in Minnesota.
“In New Orleans, they absolutely destroyed the place, and everybody was talking about them afterwards,” Trehus said. “The guys in the band will tell you they think they’re playing better now than they ever have.”
Confirming what was already obvious, Trehus gushed, “For me, it really is a dream bill.”
Maybe it was the so-called dress code scandal, when they politely asked (not demanded) that fans wear semi-formal attire to the shows. Maybe it was the sprawling, disco-flavored new double-album, which didn’t really have one would-be radio hit among its 13 mostly lengthy songs. Or maybe Twin Cities indie-rock fans really just don’t want to see concerts at Target Center.
Whatever the reason, Canadian indie-rock darlings Arcade Fire have surprised a lot of fans but not a lot of concert-biz professionals and turned to Groupon to sell tickets to their March 8 concert at Minneapolis’ basketball arena. The online coupon deal offers $64.51 tickets for $32 (seats in the lower-level farthest from stage, or upper-level nearer the stage), or $40.74 tickets for $22 (in upper-level rear of arena). Those prices even include fees.
While it’s a relatively common practice for arenas and even some mid-level venues such as Myth to offer wholesale/half-price ticket deals nowadays, it’s usually for less-than-sizzling-hot pop acts such as Britney Spears or classic-rockers like Bret Michaels – not bands with mountain-sized heaps of indie cred and critical acclaim.
Arcade Fire has yet to gain much traction in mainstream circles, though, despite its win for best album at the Grammys in 2011 and a wide array of TV appearances of late, including “Saturday Night Live” and (just last week) “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” Unlike Kings of Leon -- who perform at Target Center two nights before them next week and came up through similar channels – the Canadian rockers have yet to land a high-charting radio hit like “Use Somebody.”
To be fair, though, Target Center is three times the size of Roy Wilkins Auditorium, which Arcade Fire easily sold out for its two previous trips to town in 2010 and 2007. Also, the band opted to make the floor general admission instead of reserved seats, which makes for even more room in the arena. Those g.a. tickets ($70.50) seem to be the preferred choice for fans, and they are not being offered in the Groupon deal. Because who wants to sit when you’re wearing a tux to a rock concert?
Proof they're not your average arena-rock act anyway, the band took the time (and expense) to travel to co-leader Regine Chassagne's native Haiti this past weekend to play a concert in the coastal town of Jecmal as part of the earthquake-ravaged country's reviving Kanaval celebrations. Minnesota's own Dan Huiting accompanied the band to film the event. A videographer for TPT's "MN Original" series and such acts as Bon Iver and Polica, Huiting also has done film work chronicling relief efforts in Haiti.
Crews took several days to set up for the last major concert at TCF Bank Stadium, U2's 360 Tour in 2011. / Star Tribune file
Hopefully, we can count on Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins to once again make it to the MLB All-Star Game this season and represent the home team at Target Field, where baseball's big mid-season throwdown is scheduled July 15. But can we also expect another homegrown talent to represent Minnesota across the river at TCF Bank Stadium that weekend?
The Gophers football palace (and temporary Vikings home) will finally host another big music event in the days surrounding the July 15 competition. A press release from Drum Corps International, which usually hosts its annual competition there that weekend, confirmed that its July 12 event has been bumped for “a major concert.”
It would be too difficult for Target Field to juggle the logistics of a concert along with its other hosting duties that week (also including the Home Run Derby on July 14), and the Bank makes the obvious backup choice. The Gophers crew is also overdue for hosting another big concert. The only other major show in the stadium’s four years was U2’s unforgettable 360 Tour stop in 2011, which drew 58,000 fans and couldn’t even be spoiled by a mid-concert rain soaking.
Let the game begin then – the guessing game for which big-name music act might be on the roster. Here are some semi-educated guesses:
PRINCE: He’d make for a great trifecta of local talent with Mauer and Perkins, and he’s overdue for a big show here following last year’s string of smaller dates. He doesn’t seem to be much of a baseball fan (basketball and football are more his things), but Lord knows he’s a fan of a good paycheck. This event would certainly offer that. Is he a little too frou-frou and out-there for baseball lovers’ tastes, though?
GARTH BROOKS: The Stetson hat king is a little more like it in the MLB taste department, and this is supposedly going to be the year he finally returns to touring. His “Comeback Special” is booked later in July in Ireland, and the all-star date might make for a good warm-up (and build-up, publicity-wise).
PEARL JAM: They’re baseball lovers. They're Middle American in flavor. And they are very overdue to play the Twin Cities (2006 was their last time here). However, they’re booked on a U.K. tour until July 11, which might make it impossible to get back to Middle America in time for the gig.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: The Boss and E Street are rolling on strong in 2014 following the recent release of his “High Hopes” album, and they’re certainly a stadium-ready act organizers could take to the bank.
PAUL MCCARTNEY: Like Springsteen, the Twins have reportedly tried to get the Big Mac to play Target Field in prior summers. His 2014 tour plans are still in flux, with talk of international dates, but the all-star game might be a big enough anchor for him to swing our way.
KENNY CHESNEY: What, again?! He's already proven to be an all-star at filling stadiums two summers in a row at Target Field, so it's definitely a possibility.
A roundup of otherwise disparate concert news from today and yesterday (some of you Avenged Sevenfold fans may want to alert your mom to the Nickel Creek news):
*Familial bluegrass/folk darlings Nickel Creek are finally getting back together and will play their first local show in seven years May 11 at the State Theatre. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for $49.50 through Ticketmaster or the theater box office. The group is returning from hiatus to mark its 25th anniversary – remember: the members started playing together when they were ages 8-11! – and will have a new album to boot, “A Dotted Line,” dropping April 1. In the interim, they have certainly not been strangers to Twin Cities music lovers, with Sara Watkins becoming a regular guest and even a fill-in host on “A Prairie Home Companion,” while Chris Thile and Sean Watkins played the Cedar with their respective groups, Punch Brothers and Works Progress Administration.
* Baltimore area electronic dance ringleader Dan Deacon, who gave an unforgettable impromptu performance in the Walker Art Center’s parking garage during last year’s Rock the Garden temporary rain-out, will be playing the similarly cavernous Target Center opening for Arcade Fire on March 8. He and Montreal-based experimental DJ Kid Koala were finally announced as the openers for that leg of the Canadian rockers’ tour.
*Southern Cali metal kingpins Avenged Sevenfold will once again take over Target Center on April 21 (a Sunday), part of a seven-week spring tour with Texas thrashers Hellyeah as the opener. Tickets go on sale Friday at noon for $27-$51.50 via AXS.com or the arena box office.
*South Carolinan rockers Needtobreathe of “Something Beautiful” fame are pretty well guaranteed a sell-out when they play the Skyway Theatre on June 12, part of the roll-out for their fifth album, “Rivers in the Wasteland.” Tickets are on sale Friday at 10 a.m. They will have Irishman Foy Vance for an opener, who seems poised for a breakout year.
*Minnesota Public Radio announced three more installments of “Wits” at the Fitzgerald Theater, starting April 4 with Portland ensemble Typhoon and “Flight of the Conchords” groupie Kristen Schaal. April 18 will feature Cities 97 favorite Matt Nathanson and Bobcat Goldthwait, and April 25 welcomes New York hip-hop vet Jean Grae and “Daily Show” regular John Hodgman. Tickets go on sale next Tuesday, Feb. 25 to “Wits” club members, and Feb. 28 to the public.
*Hey, “Aqualung” fans: Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson also announced a State Theatre show, one that’s not happening until Oct. 21. Tickets go on sale Friday at noon for $39-$79. The long wait will give fans time to soak in his new solo album, “Homo Erraticus.” Yeah, right! (Anderson is also promising to play plenty of the Tull’s hits on the tour.)
Osmo Vänskä, who resigned as music director of Minnesota Orchestra in October of last year, showed up Friday morning at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This photo (above) from the musicians' Facebook page shows Vanska, right, talking with Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who is conducting the orchestra this weekend in two homecoming concerts at the renovated hall. Principal cellist Tony Ross is at left.
Since the long labor dispute was settled last month, speculation has been rampant about whether Vanska would be asked to return to the orchestra. He resigned Oct. 1, 2013, when management and musicians failed to reach agreement on a new contract in time to permit the orchestra to keep two concert dates at Carnegie Hall last fall.
While Vanska gave a hint via Facebook a couple of weeks ago that he would consider coming back if invited, orchestra management has said only that it is considering its music-director options.
Vanska reportedly still has his residence in Minneapolis, but he has been guest-conducting all over, with recent stops in Lyon, France and at the San Francisco Symphony. He won rave reviews for his concerts in San Francisco, and Bay Area radio station KDFC-FM will rebroadcast (and stream) one of those shows (with music of Sibelius, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff) on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. Pacific time.
Here in the Twin Cities, Friday night's concert, including music of Beethoven (Symphony No. 3), Bach (Toccata and Fugue in D minor, orch. Skrowaczewski) and Richard Strauss (Don Juan) will be simulcast
Some musicians will play twice on Saturday (Feb. 8), once at the memorial service for Joan Mondale, and again at the evening homecoming concert at Orchestra Hall.
Watch for full coverage of Friday's concert online at startribune.com and in print on Saturday. A concert review by Larry Fuchsberg will appear in the print edition on Sunday, and online Saturday afternoon.
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