They played to a crowded room in New York. They opened for one of their favorite bands, Wavves, in Chicago. They met (read: stalked) skateboarding stunt star Bam Margera in West Chester, Pa. And they had all their money stolen in Nashville.
All told, the members of Last Import are very happy with how they spent their days off this summer, which included their first-ever long-haul tour after three years of doggedly gigging around the Twin Cities.
“We’d been wanting to [tour] for a long time, so just finally doing it was exciting,” singer/guitarist Emily Bjorke reported. “But it exceeded our expectations.”
On Friday, the young rock trio with the First Avenue and Palace Theatre gig posters and the City Pages best-new-band award on the wall of their rehearsal room in Plymouth — in the basement of drummer Jane Halldorson’s parents’ house — will wrap up their busy summer with the type of hometown gig they prefer: all ages.
They’re performing for free at the Music & Movies series at Lake Harriet Band Shell, whose video-games-in-cinema theme paired them with 1984’s “The Last Starfighter,” a film they haven’t seen themselves. But their dads loved it when it came out.
A local bandleader old enough to be their father, Robert Wilkinson of the Flamin’ Ohs, helped the trio feel better about the one gut-punching negative experience during their tour, when a lock box with about $1,000 in merch and gig money was stolen backstage.
“He told me, ‘Every band gets stolen from; that was your initiation,’ ” Halldorson recalled while offering thanks to those who contributed to a GoFundMe campaign to help them get home. “It’s like: ‘Oh, now we’re a real band.’ ”
Playing in a real rock ’n’ roll band is something all three members of Last Import have been working hard for since they were preteens, when they started honing their craft at the all-girls music camp She Rock She Rock.
“The best camp ever, one that literally made a dream reality,” raved bassist Grace Baldwin, who’s been around music her whole life as the daughter of longtime Electric Fetus buyer Kim Baldwin. Nowadays, Grace serves as a teacher/counselor at She Rock She Rock.
Baldwin wasn’t yet in the band when Bjorke and Halldorson began playing Last Import gigs at all-ages venues around town, including the Depot in Hopkins and the city-owned Garage in Burnsville, where the trio recorded a 2016 live EP. The Garage studio manager Rob Frost said “the songwriting immediately stood out” when he first heard the band.
“They always reminded me of a much happier version of Nirvana,” he said. “There was something angsty yet elegant and complex. And Jane hits so hard; she’s got that [Dave] Grohl spirit in her.”
The primary songwriter, Bjorke, also wears Brian Wilson on her sleeve. Literally: Lyrics from “God Only Knows” are tattooed on her arm.
Several songs on the group’s eponymous full-length debut — issued in February — offer sharp Beach Boys hooks and a surfy guitar chop. There’s a lot of California scenery in her lyrics, too, from the amusement-park whir of “(Fast Times at) Space Mountain” to the San Francisco-invoking rumble of “Stay Rad, Ponyboy.”
Some of the LP’s songs date back to their Garage days. Once Baldwin joined and the trio started performing in 18-and-older venues, they faced a lot of skepticism at first — as much for being an all-girl band, it seems, as for simply being teens.
“We’ve heard a lot of backhanded compliments over the years,” Bjorke said. “Things like: ‘Oh, you’re a lot better than I thought you’d be.’ ”
Those type of comments followed them on tour this summer, but not as pervasively and with one big difference: They all recently passed their 21st birthdays.
“My e-mails to the venues all said, ‘And we’re all freshly 21!’ ” Halldorson said with a laugh. Not that they were eager to party, she clarified, “just because there’s so much less hassle now that we’re not underage.”
They remain adamant about playing all-ages or underage venues when they can, though.
“It’s so important for girls and all kids that age to have a cool place to go where they feel like they belong, and can find their own identity,” Bjorke said. “It was certainly important to all of us.”
Before they get back to playing for school-age kids, though, Bjorke herself has to go back to college. She’s finishing up her music industry studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato, while Halldorson has been taking audio engineering classes.
Baldwin got her degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota in May and is awaiting word on an unspecified job offer. In fact, when the trio landed the can’t-miss opportunity to open for Wavves at Chicago’s Subterranean two weeks ago, the bassist had to drive home after the gig to make her job interview the next morning.
“What dedication!” Bjorke cheered of her bandmate.
It wasn’t clear, though, if she meant to applaud her for making the interview or the gig.
Music & Movies at Lake Harriet
With: Last Import, followed by “The Last Starfighter.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Fri.
Where: Lake Harriet Band Shell, 4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls.