Amphetamine Reptile Records 25th Anniversary Bash at Grumpy's, 08/28/10

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Photos by Sean Smuda
Amphetamine Reptile Records 25th Anniversary Bash
August 28, 2010
Grumpy's Downtown


On what was a perfect day to celebrate anyone's anniversary, a sold-out crowd gathered at Grumpy's in downtown Minneapolis to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the legendary local label Amphetamine Reptile Records. It was an all-day event that honored and saluted an influential and groundbreaking scene, as well a bunch of bands that perhaps never got their due back in the day.

All the groups played to a large, receptive crowd that was, if not trying to turn back time a bit to see a bunch of bands that they never had a chance to, than maybe just feel younger for one day at least. Everywhere you looked there were old friends running into each other for the first time in years, and there were broad smiles plastered on everyone's faces (due in no small part to the $5 Surly's). It was a glorious commemoration of a label that still packs quite a punch and knows how to throw one hell of a party.

The day started promptly at one o'clock, with the Melvins kicking things off punctually, despite the fact that people were still waiting in the long line out front, or trying to find a cheap place to park amidst the growing Vikings chaos. So, many people (this writer included), missed out on their brief but surely powerful set of sludgy rock goodness, which is a shame, especially since some of the tickets said that music started at 2 p.m.

While trying to get over the disappointment of missing the Melvins, both Vaz and White Drugs delivered sturdy and energetic sets that went over well with the growing crowd, but when Gay Witch Abortion took the stage, the early afternoon received the explosive jump-start that the sun-drenched crowd desperately needed. The local two-piece delivered a quick, blistering 20+ minute set that was among the best of the day, with the duo delivering their taut, incendiary songs without a break or any unnecessary stage banter between numbers. It was a riveting set, and clearly energized the crowd.

The entire day was filled with a chance to see rare, one-off performances from bands who might never play here again, and at the top of that list was Seattle's Thrown Ups, featuring Mudhoney's Mark Arm and Steve Turner on drums and guitar, respectively. The entire band came out in garbage-bag pants and tiny half-shirts, with frontman Ed Fotheringham garnering most of the attention due to the shaving cream that he ejaculated over the crowd and himself throughout the performance. It was quite a spectacle, causing Fotheringham to exclaim self-deprecatingly during a pause in the madness, "We've only played live in Seattle. I don't know why?" It was a loose, spirited set that really rocked despite the bands obvious rustiness, and was unfortunately over in a flash.

Due to the brevity of both Gay Witch Abortion and Thrown Ups performances, Nashville's Today Is the Day was given a bit of a longer set, and while their brand of noisy metal clearly found an audience amongst the heavily-inked crowd, it didn't resonate much with me, and I sought out a bit of shade from the searing early-evening sun.

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Cows vocalist Shannon Selberg played a 'unique' version of the national anthem leading into God Bullies stirring set, and stuck around to sing lead on an untamed cover of "Shakin' All Over" (which also featured AmRep founder Tom Hazelmyer joining in on guitar) that kicked off the rousing set from the Kalamazoo legends. It was a lively, passionate performance, with vocalist Mike Hard slowly shedding his suit as the set grew more intense. He wound his microphone cord so tightly around his throat during "Let's Go To Hell" that you thought he might actually be trying to send himself there. Their performance was a real revelation for me, and was one of the many highlights of a stellar day of music.

Hammerhead were next, and despite being jokingly introduced as 'Hammerland' by the day's fitting emcee, Dr. Sphincter, the trio delivered a thunderous, tightly wound set reminiscent of AmRep label mates Helmet (who were conspicuously absent on this day, especially considering they played a bash at Grumpy's a few years back). Hammerhead led off their set with an intense version of "Victoria," and never really looked back during their relentless, insistent set that kept the overall energy level of the day on high.

After Dr. Sphincter presented Hazelmyer with an "outstanding achievement in the field of excellence" award, Boss Hog came out to close out the festivities properly. They were ultimately the perfect headliners to finish the evening, as the stylish quintet delivered a rousing, sultry set filled with the raucous guitar of Jon Spencer and the seductive vocals of Cristina Martinez. It was a lively, inspired performance from a band I never thought I'd get the chance to see live again. Their hour-long set kicked off with a tempestuous version of "What The Fuck" and never slowed down once, with Martinez exclaiming "You've been waiting all night for the ladies," caustically pointing out that between her and drummer Hollis Queens, they were the only females on the entire bill. But Boss Hog weren't here to preach, they were here to rock, and the band just slayed on combustible versions of "Strawberry," "Trouble," "Ski Bunny" and "Duchess" which all sounded feisty and incredible. "Sick," which Spencer introduced by cheekily saying "I want to thank everybody at Sub Pop" closed out the main set, and after a two-song encore that featured an energetic version of "Monkey," the band, and the festival, was done.

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Photos by Sean Smuda
The party, which had actually started with a performance by Unsane on Friday night, continued long into the night on Saturday (and with an afternoon BBQ at Grumpy's NE on Sunday), as no one really wanted to see the revelry come to an end. The 25th Anniversary Bash for Amphetamine Reptile Records was a completely joyous celebration of a label, and a set of bands, that did things their own way and always played by their own rules. That is why everyone involved with the label is so revered in this city, and that is why people turned up from all over the country on Saturday to celebrate the venerable label and the great bands that they helped foster. Cheers to you AmRep, and may we all be around for your 50th Anniversary. 

Critic's Bias: I spent plenty of money at Northern Lights back in the day on AmRep merchandise, but I wasn't quick enough on the draw for the extremely limited vinyl pressings done specifically for the 25th anniversary.
The Crowd: A nice mix of aging, noise-rock veterans and younger kids there to honor a scene and a label they revere.
Overheard (Many Times) In The Crowd: "Damn ___, I haven't seen you in ___ years!"
Random Notebook Dump: It was great to see the members of all the other bands mingling with the crowd, waiting in the beer lines, watching the other bands-it made it feel more like a party with that natural camaraderie and relaxed vibe.

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