When Greg Norton read that his old bandmate Bob Mould would be back for two shows March 30-31 in St. Paul, he thought, “Certainly that can’t be a coincidence.”
The bassist knew for sure when Mould e-mailed asking if Norton’s current band, Porcupine, would open Saturday’s concert at the Palace Theatre.
It’s the first time the two surviving members of Hüsker Dü have shared a bill since 1988. And as only Norton and a few extra-nerdy fans realized, it happens to fall on the 40th anniversary of the Hüskers’ first gig, at St. Paul’s long-forgotten Randolph Inn.
“It’s a hair salon now, just like our old [rehearsal] space under Northern Lights record store,” mused Norton, for whom Saturday’s concert is good timing in more ways than one.
After largely putting aside his bass guitar over the past three decades to be a chef, restaurateur and wine salesman — the latter still his well-liked day job — Norton has immersed himself again in rock ’n’ roll.
He joined Porcupine in 2016, another stormy power trio led by art-punky frontman Casey Virock with reputable Twin Cities drummer Ian Prince (Story of the Sea, Kid Dakota). Formed more than a decade ago in La Crosse, Wis., Porcupine dropped a new EP in November, “What You’ve Heard Isn’t Real,” bringing the 60-year-old Norton back on the road for his first bouts of touring since Hüsker Dü’s arduous treks of the ’80s. Porcupine just finished a short tour with all-star Los Angeles band the Flesh Eaters, featuring members of X, the Blasters and Los Lobos.
“We just did nine dates and had a blast,” said Norton, who’s now a dad like his bandmates. “As long as we keep them relatively short like that, and my very supportive wife, Tobi, is OK with it, I’m all in for these types of runs.”
He’s all for reconnecting with Mould, too, with whom he has communicated sporadically in recent years over ongoing Hüsker Dü catalog matters (like the 2017 box set “Savage Young Dü”). After the September 2017 death of their other former bandmate Grant Hart, Norton said, “Things like this seem more meaningful.
“It seems like Bob is in a good place these days, and I’m happy he’s happy,” he said. “Bob doesn’t owe me anything, so I consider this a very nice gesture.”
While he still brandishes the same handlebar mustache he grew in the ’80s, Norton offered an anecdote from Porcupine’s recent tour to underline how far removed he is from his Hüsker Dü days. After a Boston show where his new trio covered his old trio’s “Standing by the Sea” — a tribute to Hart included on the new EP — a fan asked where Porcupine is from.
“The guy said, ‘Oh, Minneapolis? That explains the Hüsker Dü cover.’ Ian had to tell him, ‘Well, it’s actually a little deeper than that.’ ”