Most of you know the sad tale of the kid from "Into the Wild," who graduated from college and chose a world of self-discovery over the real world. If that story had a happy ending -- and involved more hallucinogenics -- it might look something like the biography of Jojo Lash and Mark Murphy.
Co-founders of WookieFoot, the absolute freakiest, flashiest and probably biggest band in town (ranging from seven to 40 members), Lash and Murphy have stuck with their wild postcollege ideas for 10 years now. Where "Into the Wild" ended in a school bus, their journey began in one.
"We were just a bunch of hippies driving a bus around the country, looking for a new home," Murphy recalled of WookieFoot's formative year, 1998, which started in Bend, Ore. "Minneapolis called out to us more than anywhere."
That calling brought WookieFoot to a bizarre mansion in Uptown, the so-called Playhouse, where the members -- fire twirlers, painters, dancers, clowns, you name it -- lived for about eight years before an iguana allegedly burned it down. (Seriously; they think the lizard knocked over a lamp.)
The Playhouse played host to a series of theme parties, wherein different rooms presented different costume- and lighting-enhanced "happenings." Those events became so popular that WookieFoot took its act to the biggest club in town, the Quest. Its shows there were such a hit that the group soon became a mainstay at Midwest jam-band festivals such as the 10,000 Lakes Fest and their own Harvest Fest, where they have a tendency to turn entire campgrounds into their stage.
"We'll arrive early and stay through the end of a festival, trying to keep people entertained the entire time," Murphy proudly stated.
Tonight, WookieFoot finally returns to the former home of the Quest, where its Halloween gigs were an annual staple for both the band and the club. The fact that the Quest has been highly refurbished and renamed Epic presented one of several wowee-zowee moments in an interview with Murphy and Lash, both 37, at the latter's new place in Uptown on Monday.
"It was called Quest when we were still a band on a quest," Murphy said, "and now it's called Epic, which is what our band's story feels like."
Thanks to statements like that -- and the band's awkward mish-mash of reggae/rap/rock-derived music, which generally pales beside its visual theatrics -- WookieFoot has been dismissed by critics and other hype generators in the music scene. Yours truly panned them for having "more overt sales pitches to drug users than a San Francisco head shop" at 10K Lakes in 2004.
But now, I have to hand it to the WookieFoot ringleaders and their ever-expanding band of merry men and women (Lash called them all "bliss junkies," which seemed quite apt). Not only have they stuck with their dreams -- pretty dang wild dreams, especially for a couple guys nearing 40 -- but they have actually turned WookieFoot into quite a positive force.
They say they've raised about $120,000 over the past three years in charitable donations, much of it off their not-for-profit Project Earth festival held the past three Junes at Harmony Park near Albert Lea. Much of that money goes to truly grass-roots efforts, such as "a guy in Cambodia we met who dismantles old land mines." (Cambodia is one of many far-off locales where they travel every winter; they've also hit India, Central America and are looking at Vietnam this year.)
Money aside, their music oozes messages of peace and tolerance and just plain ol' good spiritual health. Tonight's gig will find them performing their first album and their latest one (based on Tibetan philosophy) in their entirety. They've used their mantra-filled songs and their "organized chaos experiences" as agents of peace during such tempestuous affairs as the recent Republican National Convention (they played the Ripple Effect concert with their longtime pal Matisyahu), the Power to the Peaceful festival in Brazil last month (they were invited by another longtime pal, Spearhead's Michael Franti) and even a Ku Klux Klan rally in St. Paul a few years ago (they invited themselves).
"Our efforts there really helped deflect all the hatred going back and forth, and I think we kept it a peaceful event -- which is what the KKK guys didn't want," Murphy recalled.
"I think we're really starting to get past the reputation of being this sort of drug band, and people are really seeing we're about much more important things," he added, although I have to admit I wasn't really listening. I was too busy smirking internally over the thought of those KKK guys freaking out under their hoods when they saw these hippies coming toward them.This isn't CNN
Whether they're real parties or drown-your-sorrow affairs, a few Twin Cities clubs will seize on the Election Night hubbub with special events Tuesday. The Turf Club will have the Von Bondies and First Communion Afterparty playing upstairs and songwriter Gabe Barnett hosting a viewing party downstairs. First Ave is having its Too Much Love DJ Soviet Panda spin in the main room. The Varsity Theater will have cable-access star the Shakey Shaman shaking down the results with Future Lisa. Also, the Current (89.3 FM) will host one of its "Policy & a Pint" shows at its studios, 480 Cedar Av., St. Paul, with tickets available at CitizensLeague.org (6:30 p.m.-final poll close, $5-$10).Take this job & Dush it
Here's some possible inspiration for any of you who've lost jobs in these tough economic times: St. Paul singer/songwriter Charley Dush got bounced out of his day job recently and immediately went to work on a new album. The results are a boozy and contemplative but far from down-and-out CD called "September's Sun." Dush's fourth record, it meshes his Beatles-y melodic style with more of a rollicking alt-country vibe, provided by such MVP backers as Marc Perlman, Dave Boquist and Noah Levy. Standouts include the warm sing-along "Come in From the Cold" and the hilarious, no-explanation-needed vintage rocker "Drug Test Blues." He'll promote the disc Saturday at Lee's with the Belfast Cowboys (9 p.m., $6).Random mix
Update on a couple of expatriates: Former Black Blondie and Traditional Methods co-leader Sarah White, who moved to New York last year for a solo career, has made good on her goal with a jazzy debut solo EP, "Hiding Blind." The disc (available on iTunes and eMusic) pairs her with DJ Don Cuco and includes vocals by M.anifest on one track, "Walk Away." White promoted the EP at New York's CMJ Music Festlast week. ... After touring with the Foo Fighters for a year and a half, violinist Jessy Greene will at last be featured on one of their releases. Their mammoth Wembley Stadium shows in June have been made into a live DVD, coming Nov. 18. ...
Another expensive benefit show, but for another very worthy cause, takes place at the Depot in Minneapolis on Saturday night: The Minnesota Rocks concert, an all-star fundraiser for the Children's Cancer Research Fund, will feature Mick Sterling, Martin Zellar, Tina Schlieske, Adam Levy, G.B. Leighton and more mixing it up on stage. Tickets are $250 and available at ChildrensCancer.org. ...
Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles are the resident band for the Minneseries at the Nomad Pub every Thursday in November, kicking off next week (10 p.m., free). ... The Turf Club is changing up its midweek operations. Patrons can now come in Tuesdays through Thursdays and head downstairs to the Clown Lounge without paying a cover charge. You'll still have to pay to watch the bands upstairs. ...
Veteran rock scribe and Dylanologist Greil Marcus will be in town Saturday to host a screening/discussion of Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan semibiopic "I'm Not There" at the Walker Art Center (7 p.m., $6-$8). Marcus is a sharp guy, but I'd nominate him for a Nobel Prize if he can convince me that film was not a pretentious piece of drivel.
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