There was the stroll through the historic graveyard with Jeremy Messersmith. The hike through the woods in southwestern Wisconsin with Cloud Cult. The shortcut through the kitchen to the rehearsal space at the Box Car Diner with Communist Daughter. The quest for a Wi-Fi signal at Owatonna High School to cover Owl City. The visit to the Ax-Man Supply Store in search of a missile shell for Marathon 3 with Mark Mallman. And the 10 minutes on the phone to Austin, Texas, police in the quietest place I could find to give them the correct spelling of Gayngs: a portojohn.
Who says covering local music doesn't take you to interesting places?
The stories out of the Twin Cities music scene similarly were all over the place in 2010, running the gamut from the elated to the tragic, and the laughable to the legal. Here are the ones that stand tall at year's end. Kind of like I did in that Satellite toilet.
Biggest non-story of the year: The repainting of First Avenue's mural of stars. Even Menudo retained its place on the wall.
Runner-up: Lady Gaga hung out at the Turf Club following her second of two sold-out Xcel Center shows at the end of August. Instead of the promised influx of hot pants, fishnets and outerwear bras among patrons of the Turf, though, it's still mostly just ratty rock T's and flannel.
Worst reason for a Rhymesayers all-star show: The Minneapolis hip-hop crew flexed its organizational, scene-rallying muscle by putting together a stellar lineup on the fly to raise more than $25,000 for Haiti earthquake relief at First Ave in February, during which a winter-clad Slug earned the nickname MC Snowpants, and Brother Ali talked about how the calamity struck close to home.
Tie: Tragedy truly struck at home with Eyedea's death from opiate toxicity on Oct. 16, which was followed by a moving First Ave tribute on what would have been Mikey Larsen's 29th birthday, Nov. 9. Terrible circumstances, but commendable shows.
Best reason to get in the van: Not that they had much of a choice with 10 band members, but Ryan Olson and the Gayngs crew clearly should have found a different mode of transportation than the tour bus they rented from a Nashville company in September. The bus was repossessed by its owner over a contract dispute -- with all of the band's musical gear in tow -- hours before Gayngs was to play the biggest gig of its brief, bizarre life at the Austin City Limits Festival. The name of their replacement on the bill, Lance Herbstrong, did not help quell rumors that it was all a baked-up ruse. But court papers certainly did.
Worst name change: Forced to change its name when a certain pizza chain came to town (with a trademark), Sauce Spirits & Soundbar took the easy route in re-lettering its signage to Cause over the summer. Trying to get the new name to stick has been a fruitless cause.
Runner-up: Adam Young, aka Top 40 star Owl City, became aka Sky Sailing with an album in July, but fans didn't really buy it. He was back to being Adam Young of Owatonna, that kid the jocks made fun of, when Owl City performed in the high school gym at his alma mater on Halloween night. It was easily the Minnesota Nicest concert of the new millennium (and another $25,000 fundraiser).
Best name change: Sure, the UnBank was handy if you needed to cash a check from your bookie, but its June replacement, the Depot Tavern, proved to be a much better use of the space next door to 7th Street Entry and First Ave. It's easier to meet your friends there before a show than "that Irish place" or "whatever is still open at Block E." More important, it may be another revenue generator to keep ticket and bar prices down.
Most welcome comeback: Johnny Solomon missed the last gig by his previous band, Friends Like These, because he was in jail. After he holed up and healed up at his (now closed) Boxcar restaurant in quiet Prescott, Wis., his quieter but harder-stirring new band, Communist Daughter, released its redemptive debut album to raves in January.
Runners-up: Christy Hunt and Arzu Gokcen were on the verge of hanging up their rock 'n' roll heels, but then they hooked up via virtual friendship to create Pink Mink and give Facebook its fourth or fifth case of not being entirely useless.
Most welcome new festival: The Dakota Street Fest outside the Nicollet Mall jazz haven in July helped fill the gaping hole left by the demise of the Macy's Day of Music at nearby Peavey Plaza.
Least welcome new festival: Either the West Bank Music Fest or Nordeast Music Fest, which fell on the same weekend as the already popular Red Stag Block Party in mid-August. The cap on terrific block parties per weekend per city simply must be set at two.
Best anniversary: Local label Amphetamine Reptile's 25th bash/reunion outside Grumpy's Downtown in August harked back to the days when indie-rock bands were more often scary than cuddly.
Runner-up: The Current's fifth birthday bash with Solid Gold, P.O.S., Mason Jennings and more at First Ave in January offered an abundance of Prince-sighting tweets, cover songs ("I Wanna Be Adored," "Atlantic City," "Minnesoter") and general goodwill -- which lasted all the way up to that MGMT headlining set the station gave us at Rock the Garden in June.
Best river gig where no one drowned: The Stnnng's floating gig on the Mississippi in May wasn't the first time a band had performed on a "barge" (actually a small, rickety, old pontoon) for northeast Minneapolis' Art-A-Whirl, but it seemed the most dangerous. The guys teetered off the edge as they thundered through its generator-fueled amps. Singer Chris Besinger likened it to "playing Big V's when BJ is bartending: We can't see, and the stage is moving."
Best river gig where someone did drown: Too bad the poor turnout for the revamped Taste of Minnesota left its new owners in over their heads financially, because the lineup on opening day was rich in talent -- especially local talent, including Atmosphere, P.O.S., Retribution Gospel Choir, Haley Bonar and Communist Daughter.
Most popular album subject matter: Death. Jeremy Messersmith, Roma di Luna and Cloud Cult all covered it in eloquent, elegant and surprisingly nondepressing ways on discs this year.
Runner-up: Birth. Roma di Luna and Cloud Cult again. It was a good year to be reminded that life carries on in beautiful ways.
Pick up Variety to see the ninth annual Twin Cities Critics Tally, a poll to name the best Minnesota albums, songs and live acts of 2010.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-4658 • Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib