Chris Riemenschneider: First Ave's 'Bootlegs' CD is a kick

For the same reason I didn't ask any questions from the guy who sent me a bootleg of a Ryan Adams show at First Ave a few years ago (the one before the meltdown gig), I knew it was going to be difficult digging up all the details on "The Bootlegs: Celebrating 35 Years at First Avenue."

There's sort of a don't-ask-don't-tell rule when it comes to serious music collectors and their bootlegs. Good thing a lot of the artists featured on the disc buy into that policy.

All of the songs on "The Bootlegs" -- a new 16-track CD that comes out Tuesday -- were recorded in the club's main room or 7th Street Entry. They range in age (and audio quality) from a 1981 version of the Replacements' "Love You Till Friday" to Atmosphere's "Woman With the Tattooed Hand" from earlier this year.

Not everything on the album was actually "bootlegged." For instance, the Jayhawks' "Better Days," which starts off the disc, is from the 2003 year-end gigs that the band recorded for a live album (reportedly still due next year). Tracks by the Suburbs and Mark Mallman are essentially the same story.

But a lot of the other cuts come from that gray area, where a friend of so-and-so somehow had a bootleg of a show drop from the sky into her lap.

"I thought the artists and their managers were all going to freak when I called them," said Karrie Vrabel of SRO Productions, who got the licensing rights for the songs. "But none of them did -- or at least none of the artists who made the CD did."

Even with SRO's past experience licensing tracks for the Cities 97 "Sampler" CDs, Vrabel was impressed with the enthusiastic response from the artists, a testament to the club.

Patti Smith even requested a specific song -- the one she played with Tony Glover a few years ago. (It couldn't be found, so "Redondo Beach" made it instead.) Meanwhile, Smith's pal Grant Hart pitched in to figure out the year of the Hüsker Dü cut, "Books About UFOs" (1985).

Details on many other tracks are sketchy, either inadvertently or intentionally.

What "The Bootlegs" CD offers over the "Sampler" discs -- besides a respectable amount of local talent -- is the memories of being there. Fans of the Old 97's probably remember the guys complaining about having to get off stage for "disco night," which is captured on tape with "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)."

While talking about the CD on his recent Current-sponsored Internet chat, First Ave. veteran and co-owner Steve McClellan said the Guided by Voices track, "Queen of Cans and Jars," makes him think of the coolers of beer the band brought onstage.

"I was always amazed how many cases of beer you could put on one [contract] rider," McClellan said.

Insert your own memories here.

McClellan's nonprofit baby, the Diverse Emerging Music Organization (DEMO), is the beneficiary of the CD's profits. The discs will be available at the club and most local independent record stores, as well as Best Buy and BestBuy.com.

Other acts on the disc include Trip Shakespeare ("Diane"), Joe Jackson ("Is She Really Going Out With Him?"), Ween ("The Mollusk"), Jay Farrar ("Windfall"), Richard Thompson (a meaty "Cooksferry Queen") and Kristin Hersh ("Your Ghost").

If the response is strong, there are enough recordings available for a Volume 2. Somehow, I'm guessing more will suddenly fall from the sky, too.

Soul'd for Christmas

The most obvious omission from the First Ave CD, Soul Asylum is instead giving the club a new show to bootleg: It just announced a Dec. 23 main-room date, like the old holiday gigs it used to play. Tickets are on sale now. Tommy Stinson once again signed on as bass player and, by all accounts, he seems to be the guy.

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