Tag Archives: First Avenue & 7th Street Entry

April Snow And A Missed Cheap Trick Concert

“Just when we thought it was safe to put the shovels away…”

Said just about everyone living in the Upper Midwest during the last day and a half. The weather reports started warning us last Sunday evening. They told us it was early yet, things could change, but, despite temperatures in the 60s Sunday and Monday, it was looking as though winter would return on Wednesday afternoon right through Friday. They predicted low temperatures, high winds, and lots of wet and heavy snow.

They were right. The jerkfaces.

Oh, I know. Don’t blame the meteorologists. They don’t make the weather. But just look at this. Grrrrrr.

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Western Minnesota, which got hit even harder than the Twin Cities, where I live. Photo credit: KARE11.com

This is the second April in a row in which Minnesota got dumped on. It’s quite a gut punch after seeing the grass and the trees starting to bud after a long winter. It was almost 70º on Monday. 70 degrees!!

So, as I sit here, resting my once again snow shoveling sore muscles, a snow-related story came to me. No, not last year’s April gut punch. Not the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, which I experienced. Oh, boy. That was something!

I want to take you back to November 23, 1983. I was going to art school. I had been there for only three months and I still hadn’t quite jumped on the punk rock bandwagon. I was being introduced to it, but I hadn’t got the feel for it yet. However, I would before that first school year was out.

One of my favorite bands in those days (and I still like them a lot) was coming to Minneapolis – Cheap Trick. It would be a one night engagement to promote their new album Next Position Please. An album I liked, but it hadn’t charted very well. Despite the excellent production by Todd Rundgren, there wasn’t any truly standout song in the collection. Although the opening track I Can’t Take It is pretty good.

Well, no matter. My friend John and I were going to see them. We got our tickets for a mere $9.92 each. $9.92! Boy, those were the days, eh? That wouldn’t even pay for parking now.

I must have been awfully excited about it, because my classmates were well aware that I was going to the show. I got a little bit of teasing by the punk rockers in class. “That’s kids’ stuff,” they’d say. I held my ground. “Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander? The charisma of Rick Nielsen? How ’bout the tunes…”

Sorry. I seem to have drifted into an 80s teen comedy.

Anyway, it was late November. We were in Minnesota. And we know what can happen. Earlier in the week the weather forecasters began to predict snow. Lots of it. And right on the night of the big show. I was getting nervous. Please, let the weather person be wrong. Please, don’t snow.

I kept looking out the windows at school throughout that day. No snow yet. No snow yet. No sno… Was that a snowflake? Oh, no. Are those more? Don’t look. It’s not really happening. If I don’t look it won’t be snowing. Everything will be fine…

“Hey, Jim. Did you see outside? It doesn’t look good. Looks like you won’t be seeing Cheap Trick after all.”

The school day ended. Somehow the city bus got me home. When at home, I stood at the window looking at all that snow coming down. Realizing that not looking at it wouldn’t make it stop, I tried to will the weather to cease its impinging on my concert-going life.

The phone rang. It was John.

“Sorry, man. There’s no way I’m driving in this. We’re not going.”

“But, John! We paid $9.92! Each! It took me three hours of work to earn that!”

“It ain’t happening. And, geez, you earn crap.”

“I know. It’s minimum wage. What can I do? You know, one day this country will realize that people new to the workforce, such as myself, working entry level positions at unskilled jobs, such as working at Wendy’s, as I do, deserve a living wage…”

Sorry. I seem to have drifted into some 99% protest.

We didn’t go. The show went on without us. And, I suspect, without several other fans.

On July 11, 1997, I finally got to see Cheap Trick play live. It was at the legendary Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue & 7th Street Entry. It took more than 13 years, but it was worth the wait. They were great! I would go on to see them another four times.

One of those times was an outdoor show as part of the Minneapolis Rib Fest. It was free, but I could say I paid for it years in advance.

I got my $9.92 worth.

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The actual unused ticket.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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Remembering Pete Shelley (1955-2018)

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In the fall of 1983 I started my first year attending art school in St. Paul, MN. I had graduated high school the previous spring and I still carried much of my high school baggage with me, including a more mainstream taste in music. By the end of that first year, I had almost completely cast off my liking of what I then considered the trivial, trite, treacle of Top 40 radio. I had embraced the music that would come to be known as alternative.

I had a friend from high school who joined me in the exploration of punk, post-punk, industrial, and goth. We were completely open to hearing this underground music.

Sometime in the summer of 1984, the two of us were at a record store rummaging through a bin of discount priced albums on cassette. My friend grabbed a copy of Gary Numan’s Pleasure Principle (1979) and I scarfed up the album A Different Kind Of Tension (1979) by a band called Buzzcocks. I liked the name of the band and thought the cover art was intriguing and it was cheap, so I bought it.

We put our new music into my friend’s car stereo and went for a cruise around town. There are few things more enjoyable than hitting the road, windows down, and the stereo cranking good tunes. And, on that day, we both agreed that my purchase was pretty kick ass.

The Buzzcocks were one of the first of the UK punk bands to form in the 1970s. They infused punk sensibilities into infectious, danceable, driving pop songs. Their influence was far-reaching. In fact, the BBC said that the Buzzcocks’ influence can be heard in the music of such bands as Husker Du and Nirvana. To that I would add Naked Raygun and Green Day.

I was so excited by this band. But, they had broken up in 1981. Darn it! My timing was off.

However, Pete Shelley, the principle songwriter and singer of the band, had embarked on a solo career, continuing to produce danceable pop with a punk attitude and synthesizers. In 1986, he came to Minneapolis to perform at the legendary nightclub First Avenue & 7th Street Entry.  My friend and I jumped at the chance to see him.

As I recall, there wasn’t a large crowd, but those who were there got a damn good show. At the front of the stage was about a dozen or so guys, myself included, just completely going bonkers for the music. Slam dancing, pogoing, skanking, and sweating to the point of exhaustion. Shelley started the show with his solo track Telephone Operator and then played a set mixing in plenty of Buzzcocks tunes with his solo work. It was glorious!

He finished the set then he and his band came back on stage to give us an encore of two or three great songs. He left the stage again, but we wouldn’t have it. The crowd was so jacked up we demanded he return to give us more. He did.

He launched into a reprise of Telephone Operator and we loved it!

In 1989, the Buzzcocks reformed. They toured extensively and produced several new albums. They came through Minneapolis many times and you bet I was there. Slam dancing, pogoing, skanking, and sweating to the point of exhaustion.

Pete Shelley died last Thursday (12/6) of an apparent heart attack. He was 63. Too young.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

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Grant Hart (1961-2017)

The mid80s were my time. I’m stuck there. I was in art school. I was young. And I found the music that became so very important to me. There was The Who, of course. They pretty much opened my eyes to what I considered more important music than what Top 40 radio had to offer.

The mid80s were also the Twin Cities’ (sure, mostly Minneapolis) time when it came to that important music. There were so many great local bands then. And there was the greatest concert venue First Avenue & the 7th Street Entry. First Avenue was the stage for those great local acts as well as national and international artists producing that important music.

3574812918_996a569d07_bHusker Du (from St. Paul) was one head of the three-headed Minneapolis Sound monster. The other two were The Replacements and Prince. I was a mild fan of Prince, a big fan of The Replacements, but Husker Du was my favorite. I used to say I liked The ‘Mats’ albums (slightly) better than Husker Du’s, but I liked Husker Du more when seeing them play live. Their shows were consistently more intense and fun. Husker Du still feels more like my band than The Replacements. I like them both, but somehow I always felt more connected to the Huskers.

Sometime in 1985, they played an in-store show at the record store just a couple blocks away from where I lived. I went to that store every week. One weekend, I walked in just as they were finishing putting away their equipment. Marty, one of the fellows working at the store, said, “Oh, Jim! You just missed it! You should have gotten here earlier.”

Up to that point, I had only heard of Husker Du. I didn’t know any of their music, but I didn’t want to look uncool, so I feigned disappointment.

It was about a week later when a friend bought Zen Arcade. We listened to it and loved it. That’s when I felt the disappointment.

Grant Hart, co-lead singer, co-songwriter, and drummer of Husker Du, died earlier today at age 56.

Hart was the one local musician I would see regularly hanging out at First Avenue. I remember the first time I spotted him there.  He was wearing a gold lame shirt and was in the area back by the pool tables, playing pinball. I nudged my friend and pointed out that a local musical giant was in our presence. I think my friend told me to settle down and be cool.

I spoke to Grant Hart only once. It was just before their final LP, Warehouse: Songs And Stories, was to be released. Word was that the album was going to be two disks. I was drying my hands in the restroom, when Hart walked by. I stopped him and said, “I hear the new record is going to be a double album.”

“That’s what they tell me,” was his answer and he walked on.

I’m sorry I don’t have anything more exciting to say of my experience with Grant Hart. I wasn’t an insider of the scene.

I was just a fan.

Packing Peanuts!

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Mars Ain’t The Kind Of Place For St. Paul Kids

The legendary Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue & 7th Street Entry might just be the best nightclub in the world. Well, I can’t say that for sure, because I haven’t been to many other nightclubs and I haven’t been to First Avenue for a couple years now. And I’m not certain about how the club was before I started frequenting it in the mid-80s, but from what I’ve learned from my elders, it was a pretty damn cool place when it opened in 1970 as The Depot right on through its name changes (Uncle Sam’s then Sam’s finally First Avenue) and to today.

I do know its better than at least one nightclub in New York City. Actually, maybe I don’t. I’ll try to make that clear in a moment.

It was the early 90s when two friends of mine (John and David) and I went on a road trip out East. A week-long, whirlwind trip driving through several states and in and out of Canada. We didn’t stay very long in any one place. We were on the move. We had plenty to see.

The main plan was to go to a record store in Lowell, MA. It was called RRRecords and it was David’s choice of destination. But, along the way there and back, we figured we might as well check out a couple other places of interest. Toronto, Niagara Falls, Boston, the Atlantic coast, and New York City made the secondary list of destinations. We ended up scratching Boston off the list to extend our time in NYC.

Our visit to NYC was the longest stay in any of our points of interest. We spent a day and a half in the Big Apple. The first evening, we shuttled in from Newark, NJ, where we had our motel room, to catch a few sites and reconnoiter for our planned full day assault the following day. That evening we had a couple beers at a bar called Downtown Beruit, had a slice or two of authentic NY-style pizza, and went up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

The plan for the next day was to go into town in the morning and spend the entire day seeing as many of the sites as we could. We rode the subway, walked through Central Park, laid on benches at the base of the World Trade Center, visited the Guggenheim gift store (the museum was closed), and valiantly searched for public restrooms. You’d think a city that size would have more public restrooms. 800 million people and only one restroom for public use. (That’s professional hyperbole, folks.)

The plan for the evening was to find a nightclub and stay until closing (5am) and then find some other place to hang out until the first shuttle brought us back to Newark.

John was the main planner of the trip, so he busied himself scouring the free weekly papers for an interesting club at which to spend the night. He found one that touted itself as consisting of five or six stories of dance floors, each offering different genres of danceable tunes. Sounded cool to us.

We worked our way over to the part of town where this club was situated and along the way we stopped in several of the excellent specialty shops New York had to offer. And in these shops were stacks and stacks of cards and flyers for nightclubs, all offering some special deal if you brought that card with you: Free cover or a free drink, something like that. The clubs were just begging for our business. The club John had found was right in there begging along with the rest of them.

So, we got to this multi-floored haven of entertainment, but it wasn’t quite opening time yet. Just along side the club was an empty lot, so the three of us sat there, our backs leaning against the building. In the corner of the lot, about 30 feet from where we sat was a sizable pile of rubble. It was a pile of bricks, busted up cinder blocks, broken bottles, cans, twisted rebar, and a few tires. There was something else about that rubble pile: It was crawling with rats. Quite a few.

Occasionally, a rat would skitter its way along the base of the wall in our direction. We’d toss a few rocks or broken bottles or bricks, whatever was handy, in its direction and that would send it scurrying back to the pile. It was kinda fun. I don’t think we actually hit any of the critters, but we did get one to jump pretty high.

The three of us had made it a point to do our best to not look like tourists on this trip. We didn’t even bring cameras. We wanted to blend in. However, John and I each had a shopping bag containing items we had purchased that day. We figured we’d just check them in at the coat check once we got in this magical club.

But the wheels in John’s head were turning and he hit upon an idea that would keep us not looking like tourists and save us a couple bucks.

“Jim,” he said.

“Yeah, John,” I replied.

“No one in their right mind would think of approaching that rubble pile covered in rats, right?”

“Right.”

“Well, wouldn’t that make it the perfect place to hide these bags. There’s no food in them, so the rats wouldn’t be interested and we wouldn’t have to pay the coat check.”

“John, I think you have something there.”

And that’s what we did. We threw rocks at the pile and scared off the rats. We then dropped our bags into the center of an old tire and quickly retreated, letting the rats guard our goods. We then went around to the front door as opening time was upon us.

Several bouncers came out and set up barricades to keep an open area at the front and help direct the customers into the club. The doors opened. No one was allowed in. The three of us weren’t the only ones waiting and more people began to gather. No one was allowed in.

Two “club kids” sauntered up to the doors and in they went. The crowd continued to gather and wait as a few more “club kids” arrived and were ushered right in.

The bouncers just stood and acted as though we weren’t even there.

And still we waited.

There were far more people waiting outside than had been allowed into the club. There were plenty of paying customers waiting to get in and spend their money, but still we waited. It was getting ridiculous.

Remember, this was the early 90s. The Disco hey days of Studio 54 were long gone, but the bouncers picking the “right” people to go in attitude was still in play. “Hey! You guys are begging for business! We have your free cover offers! Let us in!”

I’m not sure how long we put up with this, but eventually John and David turned to me and said, “Screw these guys! If we leave now we can catch the last shuttle back to Newark. Should we go?”

“Yep. Screw these guys.”

John and I retrieved our stuff from the rats’ nest. John made me grab my own bag, even though he got to the pile first and could easily have grabbed it himself. Thanks, John.

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Under the eyeballs is where we sat with the rats.

I haven’t mentioned the name of the club, because over the years my certainty of the name has faded. I had thought it was called Mars, but I wasn’t sure. However, it turns out my memory is correct.

Last month, a friend of mine spotted a short video biography of musician/DJ Moby. In it Moby takes viewers on a tour on NYC and shows what had become of some of his favorite places. One of those places was a nightclub which, in 1989, was where he got his first job as a DJ. It was called… Mars! In the video, you can see the wall we sat by waiting for the club to open. You can’t see the rats, though.

I was able to find a Facebook group page populated by people who either worked or hung out at Mars. The picture I’ve posted of the club from those days comes from that page and seeing it confirmed that that was the club. I recognize the “medallions” on the doors.

Before I sign off, I do have a question for those Mars bouncers.

Do you know what the bouncers at First Avenue & 7th Street Entry do with the gathered crowd waiting to get in when the club opens its doors?

They let the people in.

Packing Peanuts!

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I feel older today…

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I’m not going to pretend I was a massive Prince fan. I liked most of his 80s output, but I don’t own all of his albums. I don’t have loads of his songs on my iTunes. In fact, there’s just one song of his in there: Money Don’t Matter 2 Night. Of course, I’m listening to it now. I really don’t know much of his material post Lovesexy (1988). But, with his death, confirmed a short time ago, I’m remembering the ways Prince affected my life.

I remember that road trip with my friend John. The night when we ended up in Flagstaff, Arizona. We sat in a local bar, enjoying some fine, cheap tap beer, when John put the aforementioned Prince tune on the jukebox. He said he thought it was one of Prince’s best songs. I agree.

I remember my art school pal Eric. He was a massive Prince fan. He dressed like Prince. Did his hair like Prince. He did drawings and paintings of eyes like the ones in the When Doves Cry poster. He even made a little clown puppet like the one in the movie Purple Rain (1984). I’ve long since lost touch with Eric, but I’m thinking of him today.

I remember snickering at the rubes in the St. Paul nightclubs (the cool kids hung out at the Minneapolis clubs) attempting to dance to Erotic City.

I remember not snickering while watching strippers dance to the same song.

I remember my friends John and Dave attempting to figure out what those lines were in the song Kiss. Prince would shriek, “Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with.” John and Dave would sing, “Ain’t no particular sign I’m mo compact taboh weem.”

I remember hearing the album Around the World in a Day for the first time at one of the many art school parties I attended. I remember liking it.

I remember the time I was in charge of putting the music together for the official Halloween party at art school my second year. I painstakingly compiled students’ song requests into a massive reel-to-reel mix tape. I had a rule: One song per artist and I stuck to that rule; much to the disappointment of the crowd dancing to I Would Die 4 U when it didn’t continue onto Baby I’m a Star. I can still hear the groans.

I remember thinking, “This isn’t going to end soon,” when Prince’s protege band The Family played a full concert at the legendary Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue & the 7th Street Entry on a Tuesday night. A Club Degenerate night! It was said Prince was there that night, but I didn’t see him.

I remember fellow art school student Duane always seemingly in the loop whenever Prince would play an impromptu show at First Avenue. I also remember Duane never letting me know about it until the next day.

I remember one group of us doing impressions of the cooing baby at the end of the song Delirious. And a different group of us doing impressions of Prince throwing up. “Owoowaaaaaaalllhhh!” We had a weird sense of humor.

I remember seeing Prince on the Midnight Special. He was introduced by members of Dr. Hook. One of them said that Prince played every instrument on his songs. I don’t remember what song he played.

I remember scoffing at the people showing up at First Avenue to audition to be extras in Purple Rain. I remember thinking they looked like such poseurs. I hadn’t even been to First Avenue yet and I was already a snob.

And I remember the first time I ever saw or heard of Prince. It was a music video show. I was watching it with my high school buddy, Greg. Greg and I sat dumbfounded as we watched this Prince guy performing…I forget which song it was…in the outfit he wears on the cover of Dirty Mind: A trench coat, black bikini briefs, thigh-high stockings, boots, and nothing else. It was an eye-opener to say the least.

I’m sure there are plenty of moments I’ve forgotten. These are the memories that occur to me now. I may not have been the biggest fan. I may only have one of his songs on my iTunes. But I respected Prince as an artist.

With him gone, far too soon, a little part of that connection to my youth has been severed. And I’m feeling older today.

Correction notice: I had the song order of I Would Die 4 U and Baby I’m A Star wrong. I have made that correction (4/25/16).

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If it was Tuesday, I must have been at Club Degenerate. Part two.

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It would be Tuesday night, just after 9:00, I would be waiting in the front room of my parents’ house, watching for John to pull up. Almost like clockwork (he didn’t always arrive at the exact same time) there he was and out the door I went. No honk. No call beforehand. It was just that routine. If one of us couldn’t make it, then there would be a phone call. But we didn’t miss more than a couple Tuesday nights at the legendary Minneapolis nightclub: First Avenue & the 7th Street Entry.

That’s how it was for John and me every Tuesday night beginning in the mid 80s. It was something we felt we were required to do. We just had to get to Club Degenerate.

As I explained last week, Club Degenerate was a night of alternative music, cool videos, and some unusual performance art pieces. But mainly John and I were there to dance to music we liked, not that crap the rubes in the St. Paul “nightclubs” shuffled around to in those days. (Paradise By The Dashboard Light?! Seriously! They would attempt to dance to that dreck.) Besides, the reception of two dudes dancing without chicks in those clubs would not have been very good. But at First Avenue we had that freedom. And, as I said, the music way more betterer. Meatloaf was never played at Club Degenerate!

DJ Kevin Cole would spin tunes from The Smiths, New Order, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Jam, Love & Rockets, Bauhaus, Tones On Tail, Peter Murphy, Buzzcocks, Wire, Sex Pistols, Joy Division, The Pale Fountains, Au Pairs, Killing Joke. As well as local favorites Husker Du, Rifle Sport, The Suburbs, The Replacements. I could go on (goon?) but you get the idea.

When Cole wasn’t playing music videos on the big screens in front and beside the stage, he would have visuals from cult films such as Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and the very bizarre Forbidden Zone featuring a very young Danny Elfman. There would also be obscure old black and white cartoons. It all combined for some pretty entertaining alternative entertainment.

But there was more!

Each Tuesday night, in the 7th Street Entry, there would be half a dozen bands participating in Battle of the Bands. That was a showcase for local bands that were playing First Avenue for their first time. There was no crossover charge, so if things felt as though they were waning in the main room, we’d head into the Entry to see if anyone good was giving it a go.

Two bands stand out in my memory from that free showcase. One was Breaking Circus a tough, angry, post punk Minneapolis band via Chicago. Founded and lead by Steve Bjorklund, Breaking Circus put on a great show, even if they did scare us a little bit. The other band never scared us. They were Trip Shakespeare. I can still picture the three piece band (they would later expand to four members when band leader Matt Wilson’s brother Dan joined) each wearing grey suits and looking like they were having a great time. The tunes they played were damned catchy.

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And Club Degenerate consistently had some of the coolest flyers I’ve ever seen. A fellow named Ron Clark appears to have been the designer of them. I wish I had saved all of them. Not just for the art, but on the back would be the monthly schedule of the musical acts that were flowing through First Avenue’s main room and the Entry. Those would have been important historical documents, but did we save them? Noooo. We made paper airplanes out of them to sail across the dance floor. Oh, well. We just weren’t thinking, I guess.

There is a website that features a few of them. Click here to take a look.

It didn’t take long for John and me to feel like we owned the place. We had our spot at the stage end of the dance floor (stage left). And we’d look disapprovingly at the “tourists” dancing so normally together. “Hey! There’s places in St. Paul for you guys!”

I took to skanking around the dance floor, full or not, when the mood hit. And it hit often. I could get moving pretty impressively around that floor, if I say so myself. I would purposefully dash between a dancing couple, just because.

I’ve been told that a photograph exists of John and me skanking and appearing to converge on some “normal” people. I’m told it’s a great picture, but I’ve never seen it. If only I could find it, but I’ve no idea where to look.

There was one occasion, early in the evening, the dancing mood had not hit most the people in the club yet, so the floor was virtually unoccupied. Well, there were two people on it.  I was skanking gracefully along, but I was getting annoyed at the other person on the floor: A “tourist” who dared to be walking on his hands across my dance floor!

Well, this could not be tolerated. I kept on skanking and made my way over to the inverted fellow and just subtly leaned into him as I swept by, knocking him to the floor. He was immediately on his feet and moving along the floor with me. Just inches from my face. I never broke stride as I put on my most innocent face and gave him a look that said, “What?!”

He took no further action. Whew.

Time moved on and Club Degenerate morphed into Club 2 4 1 and eventually First Avenue gave up DJ nights in the main room altogether.

Boy! How I do miss those days!

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Packing Peanuts!

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It was my Tuesday night requirement. Part one.

Starting in 1984 or ’85 and running through the late 80s, it was something I almost never missed on Tuesday nights. It was Club Degenerate held at the legendary Minneapolis nightclub: First Avenue & the 7th Street Entry.

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1983 to 1986 were my art school years. It was a time of intense study and effort to improve my artistic skills, but it was also a time to shed some of that high school conformity and unleash my inner weirdo. (Truth be told, I was pretty weird throughout my entire schooling and even since then.) It was also a time of my learning about all that alternative music that couldn’t be found on the radio. At least, not in our market. Not every metro area of the country was fortunate enough to have a KROQ.

Minneapolis was alive with a thriving, vibrant local music scene. Sure, there was Prince and his spin off bands and proteges, but there were dozens of punk, post-punk, alt rock, Goth, new wave, no wave, neo-psychedelic, avant garde, garage and what have you bands playing the clubs of Minneapolis. It was an exciting time.

Incidentally, I hear every now and then the host of a hugely popular podcast remark about how excellent the music scene in Minneapolis is today. He’ll compare it to Austin of today and Seattle of the ’90s. I grind my teeth just a little as he is apparently ignorant of the music scene of Minneapolis of the late ’70s and through the ’80s. Hey, man! Minneapolis was Seattle before Seattle was Seattle!

He’s a West Coast guy and he hates Prince. Oh, well.

So, it was ’84 or ’85, I was in lettering class, I think, when my friend and fellow art student, Troy, excitedly talked to the group he and I hung with about going to First Avenue for something called Club Degenerate that coming Sunday (Club Degenerate was held on Sundays for a month or so, before moving to Tuesdays). Troy said it would be a night of DJ spun music filled with the bands we liked!

So, I got my friend John interested in going. John was a friend from high school with whom I had seen The Who for the first time. He and I had become huge Who fans and that interest partially lead us to discovering the joys of punk rock. My attending art school also helped in that discovery. He liked that music too, so he joined the group heading to First Avenue.

John and I had been to First Avenue a couple times for concerts by then, but we didn’t feel like owned the place. Yet.

Club Degenerate was the brainchild of First Avenue DJ Kevin Cole. He had (probably still does) a deep knowledge of music. And he had a strong feel for what was hip and interesting. He’d play loads of the new, alternative stuff, but he’d also play the roots of that music. T Rex, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop were all liberally folded into the mix. As were songs by ABBA, Nancy Sinatra, The Jackson 5. Whatever struck Cole’s fancy. And he made it all work. Most of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

The night might also feature a cameo appearance by a local artist or two. I can recall seeing The Magnolias play a three of four song set once. There was even a cameo by a very early version of Babes In Toyland with their original lead singer, Cindy Russell, who was also a regular of the Tuesday night tradition and became a friend to John and me. (Steve Albini, record producer and, in those days, member of the band Big Black recommended Russell be ousted, because her vocals didn’t quite fit.)

There might be some kind of performance art piece or dance routine. There would even be nights when the normal programming would be preempted and a guest artist would perform a full concert. Skinny Puppy was one such act. As was The Cramps with their opening act: The super-awesome, criminally over-looked, Screaming Blue Messiahs.

f s biscuits

Taking in the glorious, sloppy noise of The F—in’ S— Biscuits. The fellow in the circle could very well be my friend John.

But, by far, our favorite act to make frequent welcome intrusions into our Club D was The F—in’ S— Biscuits. The Biscuits were a bunch of dudes who we were never sure could even play their instruments. Their music was loud and brash and sloppy. Their stage shows had their share of nudity and vulgarity and were also sloppy, because, there was free beer!

As the screen at the front of the stage came up to reveal The Biscuits, lined up along the front of the stage were several plastic cups of tap beer. The lead singer (or should I say lead howler?) would let us know there was free beer, so come and get it. That led to the throwing of said beers. At the band. They would be absolutely soaked with beer by the end of their twenty minute set, which would also mess up the floor for dancing. Normally, that would piss John and me off, but after the fun of The Biscuits we just didn’t care.

Oh, there’s more to tell. Tune in next week for part two of my tales of Club Degenerate.

Packing Peanuts!

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