“Come see us next week. You never know what you might get.”
So muttered Alan Sparhawk last week at the end of Retribution Gospel Choir’s first of four Tuesday night gigs in a row at the Turf Club, a series that continues tonight with fellow June residency band Dead Man Winter. RGC’s opening set was unlike any other that the Duluth band has delivered in town. The trio only played one song I’d heard before (and I still didn’t know it well enough to name). Drummer Eric Pollard told me afterward that a lot of the stuff they played had only just been written last week. That included the centerpiece “Can’t Walk Out,” a wall-of-distortion workout jam reminiscent of Neil Young’s Arc” album, which droned on and on for 20 minutes – long enough to where it dragged at first. About 10 minutes in, though, it became hypnotic and even visceral watching to see how far the guys could take it. The band has already posted the track on its Soundcloud page.
A lot of the other new material was also longer, darker and freakier than the three-minute blasting gems on the trio’s new EP and 2010 album. Basically, the guys are using these gigs as a chance to stretch out, but Pollard also told me, “Who knows? We might play something people know one of these nights.” The Tuesday show was only the start of a busy week in the Cities for all of RGC’s members, as Sparhawk and bassist Steve Garrington played a gorgeous and genuinely spiritual sunset set with Low at the Pioneer & Soldiers Cemetery on Saturday, same night Pollard was at the Aster Café with his new band, Actual Wolf. RGC and Actual Wolf then played the DFL BBQ in Painter Park on Sunday afternoon. Geez, and usually it’s the Twin Citians who head to Duluth in summer.
Many of Dead Man Winter’s members had an even busier week: They played their set last Tuesday, then three of them hit the road toward Tennessee with Trampled by Turtles to play two much-ballyhooed sets at Bonnaroo. They’ll be back home for tonight’s Turf Club set then head up to Bayfield, Wis., to play the way-cool Big Top Chautauqua with TBT on Friday, then back to the Cities for Rock the Garden on Saturday. Amid all the Trampled mayhem, Dave Simonett somehow still found time to write new songs, three of which he debuted at the start of Dead Man Winter's set last Tuesday. Each offered traces of the wear and tear from being on the road so much (in different, good ways). On the other hand, Simonett seemed especially happy to be home cutting loose with his other band in songs such as “Nicotine,” “House of Glory” and guitarist Erik Koskinen’s honky-tonking gem “Detroit, Detroit.”
Because of TBT’s schedule, Dead Man Winter is only playing two more weeks with RGC, and then Crimes will fill in for them the last week (June 26). The set times for tonight’s show are pushed up an hour from last week, with RGC scheduled to go on at 9 p.m. ($12 cover).