Friday, March 31, 2017

Night Moves/The Black-Eyed Snakes/Mike Munson at Turf Club March 24

The Midwest Music Fest Showcase at Turf Club gave the audience a delectable taste of what to expect at the Fest in Winona, MN April 28 and 29. The showcase began with great old-time country and stomp blues of Winona's Mike Munson, singing classic, and classic sounding songs about traveling, trains, loss with emotive inflection over his highly skilled slide guitar and driving stomp rhythms.

Black-Eyed Snakes sinuous, sinewy music grabs you and shakes you to the core. Stirring up something primal in the soul, the near trance-inducing heavy repetitive rhythms makes you want to dance and grind. Percussion is at the forefront of The Black-Eyed Snakes music, with vocals and guitar by Alan Sparhawk, guitar by Bob Olson, a drum duo Brad Nelson and Bryan "Lefty" Johnson, replete with two kits, as well as shakers, tamborines and more. Alan Sparhawk (Low, Retribution Gospel Choir) repetitively and rebelliously sings, snarls and wretchedly howls into the dark night of the soul. Their swamp and boogie blues songs swirled with heavy psych, at other times funky '70s funk and soul, at others slow, heavy dirges such as "Don't Kick Me Out," were performed with punk propulsion and Sparhawk's distorted vocals and cathartic abandon.

Night Moves were fantastic to see again, performing new songs - releasing Pennied Days on Domino Records March 25. Their unique psych-country with a lush haunting sound, slow groove and primal pulse with achingly poignant lyrics and vocals pull the heartstrings. Their dreamy, shimmery psych pop with moving vocals transports you to another place and time. Night Moves sound Beatles-esque, with tinges of Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and 70s California dessert sounds. As they played earlier songs such as one of their first, "Headlights" the audience sang along, swaying, dreamily enrapt. Their newer songs sound classic already.

Be sure to catch these bands at the Midwest Music Fest Showcase at in Winona, MN April 28 and 29!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Revenge Wedding DEBUT & SXSW SENDOFF, North Of Grand and ELEGANZA! March 14, 2017

Eleganza! kicked off the Debut show of Revenge Wedding like a shotgun. Eleganza! tore up the stage, with their intensely tight instrumentation, and a fine balance between tautly timed, impassioned vocals and at times campy delivery, remniscent of the Rolling Stones. Having seen every show I could over their decade of delivering real rock 'n' roll, I can say, like the best whiskey they've gotten even better over time. Brian Vanderwerf's voice is stronger and more nuanced than ever, his guitarwork with fellow guitarists Jeff Johnson and Greg McAloon, intricately intertwining and raucously playing off each other. Tony Zaccardi is stellar on bass - versatile in punk, funk, rock and country rhythms and bass riffs, and fluidly holding it down whereever Eleganza! goes. Zaccardi's former Kruddler mate, Tim Baumgart, one of the best drummers in town, keeps everything rock steady and exciting. Altogether, Eleganza! are easily one of the most rocking bands in town, that deserve more recognition locally and internationally.

Songs from their forthcoming new album, such as "Man On The Move," sound like classic rock 'n' roll already, with the defiant lyrics of a band that's done their time and seen it all, and gonna keep on movin':  "I'm a man on the move, I've got nothin' to prove to you. Twisting up the road, no, no zip code. Standin' in the crowd, same shit show. I'm a man on the move, I've got nothin' to prove to you . . . but I still do. I still . . . do!"

Lead singer/guitarist Brian Vanderwerf said they were gonna slow things down a bit, and went into the  slow burner "Old News" an excellent nostalgic country song that will tear your heart out and would've made Merle proud. This has become a fast favorite of mine. More songs such as rebel-rousing "Big City Fill" is a prime example of how Eleganza! is real rock 'n' roll, strong, fast and tight, yet kicking ass, wild and loose at the same time, thrilling, making you feel stuff, and and wanna dance. It's always a bummer to see them end, as it goes way too fast. But they have another show March 30 at the Hook and Ladder, and a new, highly anticipated full-length record coming out this summer, so look out!

North of Grand, a trio from Des Moines, Iowa performed an excellent rock show, with tinges of metal and tight melodies. They sounded inspired by some of the best indie rock bands of the '90s and 00s such as Queens of the Stone Age.

Revenge Wedding, debuted in advance of their SXSW tour. Their name is both intriguing and funny - as the best names do, this one came from a joke between band members a few years back. Their cool T-shirt featuring an image of Lou Reed's Transformer album cover was a great enticer for what was to come from: Brent Hedtke, Reed Wilkerson, J Cole Blodgett, Brent Hanson (the members of Guns 'n' Roses tribute band Appetite for Zaccardi, except for Zaccardi). Self-described as: "four beautiful boys with more hooks than a god damn tackle box" was aptly accurate.

Lead singer Wilkerson has cut his long locks short, now sporting a blonde shag ala Iggy Pop circa '70s when he lived with Bowie in Berlin. Wilkerson seemed more in his element than ever, singing wildly and freely, while taking on some of the spirit of Iggy in his stage mannerisms, twisting and writhing dance and dramatic pose-striking, backed by one of the tightest, most solid rock bands in town.

They performed with a propulsive rocket-fueled energy. Guitarist Brent Hedtke (Metalagher, Vulgaari) was mesmerizing to hear and watch.

Revenge Wedding is a great full force rock band with great energy and a riveting stage show. They sounded exceptionally promising right out of the gate, with exciting, excellent rock songs with hooks that sounded somehow familiar already as good rock songs do. I look forward to seeing more from Revenge Wedding soon.

Photography by Mark Wojahn