In June of 2003, the Triple Rock Social Club became a music venue. Owned and operated by Erik Funk from the punk band Dillinger Four and his wife, Gretchen, the space was small but nevertheless ambitious.
It needed a proper catapult into the scene, and that came in the form of its first musical act: Lifter Puller, a fixture on the Minneapolis music scene in the 1990s and one of my all-time favorites — but a band that had broken up a few years earlier — agreed to a three-show reunion. I was out of town for the first two, but I made it back just in time for the last of the three. The energy was amazing. Lead singer Craig Finn, his voice fraying but still strong, was particularly berserk that night.
I assumed that was the last time I would ever see Lifter Puller. Finn’s next band, The Hold Steady, became increasingly popular and eclipsed Lifter Puller in many ways. I went to plenty of Hold Steady shows, but I secretly always hoped for one more Lifter Puller reunion. Magically, it happened two years ago — a “secret” show, again at Triple Rock, on the Fourth of July as part of a festival. There it was, I thought: closure.
Six years after Lifter Puller opened the Triple Rock in 2003, the Timberwolves in June of 2009 drafted a teenage point guard from Spain named Ricky Rubio. He arrived two years later to a rock star welcome and played with a focused freedom that electrified Wolves fans.
Rubio refined his game over the years, but except for a few notable stretches he could never consistently make enough jump shots to stop fans (and coaches) from worrying about his viability. This past summer, Rubio’s fourth coach had seen enough. Tom Thibodeau, who also has personnel control over the team, traded him to Utah and used the money saved to sign Jeff Teague. There it was, I thought: closure.
Rubio and Lifter Puller have nothing in common, and yet they converged in a way Friday that made them have so much in common.
On that night, Rubio returned to Target Center — remodeled, just like the team and the uniform — with his new team, the Jazz. His look has changed, like someone who has gone through a breakup, but his game remains the same: relentless and wonderful, flawed and questionable. Rubio made free throw after free throw as Utah made an improbable comeback, only to have Jamal Crawford sink the eventual game-winning three pointer for the Wolves — the kind of shot that hasn’t fallen regularly for the Wolves in the last decade or so, from the kind of veteran bench player they often lacked when Rubio was here.
About 40 minutes after that game ended – maybe right around the time new Wolves leader Jimmy Butler was reportedly telling those in power not to let Rubio into “my locker room” postgame, I was back at the Triple Rock.
Finn was there, playing with his new backing band The Uptown Controllers. In a sad bit of serendipity, with the show already scheduled it was announced recently that the Triple Rock is going to close next month.
Finn mentioned that several times during the set, paying homage to the club in his classic style that’s more often like free-form poetry than stage banter. He talked about how sometimes memories are more about a time than a place. I’m not sure if it was supposed to make people feel happy or sad, but at least it made us think.
I caught myself a few times trying to speed up the set, even in the midst of enjoying it, to the latter stages when there was a good chance Finn would play some of his old material. He did – of course – pulling off a fantastic solo acoustic version of the Lifter Puller song “Mission Viejo” toward the end of the show.
How silly it is: To wish for the future while straining to rekindle and remember the past. Maybe that’s all the present is, but I’d like to think otherwise.
Two nights later, the Timberwolves were in Oklahoma City. They were on the verge of blowing the same kind of double-digit lead they had given up so many times in recent years. Butler, the closest approximation to Kevin Garnett this franchise could have added in the offseason and the player who gives the Wolves the best chance to be good since KG was traded a decade ago, was on the court. So too were Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins — the future.
Towns set a screen on a final inbounds play that would make KG proud. It also made OKC fans howl in protest that it was illegal — the kind of call that seemed to go against the Wolves in the past. Wiggins used the space to dribble up the court and launch a long three-pointer that banked in as time expired for the improbable victory.
So Minnesota is 2-1 now, with both wins coming after large leads evaporated — only to be restored at the end with clutch three-pointers.
Maybe this it it? The weekend we will think about in the future, when it is the past, as the time the old Wolves ended and new Wolves started. Maybe there’s a poignancy to seeing the first and last of something at a place — a simulation of life and death, of sorts, only we keep on living.
This much is certain: We like starting points and particularly ending points because the human brain works in a way that is constantly constructing narratives.
But as long as there’s a past and a future, with memories distilled to filter out the bad and visions designed to imagine limitless possibilities, closure is just wishful thinking.
The story is life, and the present is living.