Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer Music Highlights

Seeing as I began the summer by being out of the country, I ended up being fairly impressed by the number of good shows I saw here in the twin cities.

Here is a brief overview of some of the best shows I was able to see.

On July 9, there was an event to kick off the Bike Film Festival called, “Bikes Rock” at the 7th Street Entry. While most of the performances were not particularly memorable, one artist stood out. Ice Rod, a former Minneapolitan who can now be found in Los Angeles, has a stage presence like no other performer I have ever seen. As a member of the audience I was simultaneously struck by feelings of repulsion at the vulgar content and an unshakable desire to be Ice Rod’s friend. He, also known as Michael Gaughan, is so charismatic and laid back that you can’t help but get past the fact he’s talking about squeezing zits. Throw in some back up dancers and his obviously home-made, played-on-what-looks-like-a-tape-player beats, and you have a happy, dancing and laughing crowd.

Just a week or so later on July 17, local duo Roma di Luna graced the stage at the Mill City Museum in the riverfront district. Due to “questionable weather” the concert was moved indoors to the collective dismay of the elegantly dressed hoard that came out for the performance. Though the room was warm and crowded, Channy Moon Casselle’s cool vocals kept everyone complacent and quiet. The sound quality was hit and miss throughout the show, but when Channy and husband Alexei got to their harmonies, it didn’t matter whether their mics were working or not. As someone who has seen the group perform at a number of venues, I have yet to be disappointed.

August 6 marked the return of Malian Habib Koite back to the Cedar Cultural Center for what has become a fairly regular occurrence and an assured good time. Despite the heat, fans filled the hall and kept the dance floor occupied. As one of the few concerts taking place at the Cedar this summer, Habib’s performance seemed a welcomed release for staff and patrons alike.

Of all of the concerts I attended this summer, one stands above the rest. On August 14 Nomo headlined the 7th Street Entry. Nomo is a nine-piece jazz, funk and afrobeat group from Ann Arbor Michigan, whose talent is only outweighed by their energy. The group took the stage late and kept the music coming, making sure that those who slipped in did not miss out on anything. While not all nine members were in attendance, those who made it seemed to be giving us their all. And while much of the attitude seemed to be coming from the sassy bass player’s moves, one could tell from the funky feel and the smirks and grins from the band that this was clearly a group effort.

Opening the show were local groups Beatrix Jar and Solid Gold, neither of which felt like an opener. Conjuring images of kittens, puppies and other cute things, Beatrix Jar danced and circuit-bended their way into my heart. Cuteness of this magnitude should be regulated as it may induce dancing from those not meant to dance. Along these lines, Solid Gold took a hugely popular format (synth-heavy, psychedelic rock) and made it fresh, fun and danceable. While their performance was engaging, it was almost too much so. The recording, which has been made available through iTunes, does not do any of the tracks justice.

There were many other great shows this summer that I could rave about, but I have already missed my deadline.

What were some of your favorite shows this summer?

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