Five years ago, I wrote a grumbly blurb following a particularly boring Memorial Day weekend decrying the fact that there was no good music in town for that three-day holiday. So it's entirely to my credit that this weekend is loaded up with more terrific live music offerings than Des Moines sees in a month. As a pat on the back for myself, I hit two of the biggest events Saturday night: the Memory Lanes Block Party, followed by the Heliotrope Festival.
In its second year, the Memory Lanes bash is like all the other block parties in town, in good and bad ways. The good parts are that it's free and outside, with a hip, eclectic lineup of local bands and a local beer on tap (Surly Bender, plus PBR). It's bad if you hate port-a-pots and mediocre sound systems and long lines to get that local beer on tap (I've said it 100 times: if beer is where you're generating all your money, why make people wait 20 minutes to generate it for you?). This particular block party benefits from a particularly spacious area/parking lot, with plenty of street parking nearby and club-hopping value with the Hexagon a block over. Chooglin' finished off the outdoor portion of the party with a manly, rowdy, bawdy set. Drummer Shawn Walker should've been near-comatose after also pounding through a Gay Witch Abortion set an hour earlier, but he was rock-steady. Co-leader Brian Vanderwerf got all lewd and mean-drunk on the crowd, which added to the entertainment value. Red Pens were setting up inside in the middle of the bowling alley, and I wish I could've stayed. Love the band and the venue.
A sharp contrast to the block party's beer-bash atmosphere, the seventh annual Heliotrope Fest at the cool Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis has a sit-down, turned-on, zoned-out kind of vibe. When I walked in on electronics/drums duo Tender Meat, I found them a bit jarring at first, but by the end I was hypnotized by their kinetic trance/prog-rock sound. Daughters of the Sun were mesmerizing from start to finish with their dueling drums and sonicwave guitaring. Moonstone Continuum offered up some especially fervent sermons from Rev. Micah, but -- helped by playing on a theater stage vs. a club stage -- their truly wowee-zowee, space-jammy musical abilities were on full display. Last night was the finale for Heliotrope, but as always the enthusiasm is locked and loaded for next year.
Here are the set times for today's Memory Lanes Block Party: 3 pm: DJ TREVROC; 4 pm: TOTAL BABE; 4:45pm: BETHANY LARSON & THE BEE'S KNEES; 5:30 pm: BLACK AUDIENCE; 6:15 pm: THE EVENING RIG; 7 pm: LUCY MICHELLE & THE VELVET LAPELLES; 8 pm: BLACK BLONDIE; 9:00 pm: HALLOWEEN ALASKA Indoors after-party:
DJ Shannon Blowtorch and Le Cirque Rouge Cabaret and Burlesque
On tap for me today is a big hip-hop festival out at a horsetrack in Shakopee with 15,000-some kids turning out to see local rappers. Funny how that seems like a normal thing now.