Real-Phonic 8th Commandment Revival at First Avenue, 2/28/2011
Real-Phonic 8th Commandment Revival
Photos by Steve Cohen Erik Koskinen
February 8th, 2011
Erik Koskinen is deliciously under the radar as far as Twin Cities music is concerned. He is best known for his roles as a producer and engineer for Trampled By Turtles and guitarist for Molly Maher and Randy Weeks, but the depth of his talent is fully on display when he is front and center, unashamedly country and with a voice deep enough to melt away the snow banks outside.
Koskinen was recently robbed of his truck, which was carrying some precious instruments--a Marshall, a Les Paul, and more--and he assembled some of the Twin Cities' finest blues and country musicians to play a benefit last night at First Ave to help raise some money. You probably didn't hear about it, because it wasn't over-promoted or anything--and thank God for that, because with the line-up Koskinen managed, the show would have surely sold out in an obnoxious kind of way.
Four hours of soul-stirring, rousing country--not the Tim McGraw variety or the Taylor Swift attitude, mind you, but the real stuff, the rural kind of country they don't play on country radio stations--was planned with an all-star cast. It looked like this: Ashleigh Still starting the night out right, with her plaintive doe-eyes and voice like a fallen gospel child (a more diversified version of Norah Jones); Charlie Parr, whose rustic roots could have been plucked straight out of a cabin in the woods and dropped on stage; the Jahskinens (formerly Jah-hawks) with their all-star twang; Dead Man Winter, where frontman Dave Simonett's bluegrass-rich voice could get even the most resolute non-dancer to tap along; Koskinen's band; and a very, very special closing performance by Trampled By Turtles.
Charlie Parr Dave Simonett of Dead Man Winter and Trampled by Turtles Photos by Steve Cohen The Jahskinens
I mean, really.
First Ave was surprisingly full and buzzing for how hush-hush the show had been--which might be saying something about the depths of the talent pool on the bluegrass side of this town, and certainly speaks volumes about the good taste of Twin Cities' music fans. Everyone was having a good time--you couldn't not, since the venue was practically turned into a great big hoedown.
At the end of the night, it was really Koskinen's time to shine--after all, we was personally involved with nearly every band that played on stage, and his talents were obvious and wide. And as Koskinen strummed through songs from his recent solo album, Keep It To Yourself, it was impossible not to be struck by the authenticity of his performance and the profundity of his soul. Koskinen, though, seems like the type to shrug off such compliments; as he stood on stage with his eyes hidden under a baseball cap, the steady resiliency that he seems to exude would compel him to keep playing as always.
Erik Koskinen with Molly Maher Photos by Steve Cohen
Critic's Bias: Various friends accuse me of liking a "twee" version of country. They say I like sad, lonely songs about heartbreak with a little guitar and a violin now and then. Okay. Fine. They might be right.
The Crowd: Knew what they were there for. It was so refreshing to see nearly the entire audience at First Ave actually dancing--because I was starting to doubt the Minnesota populace could move to anything but Kanye West at 1a.m. after a half dozen whiskey sours.
Overheard in the Crowd: "FUCK THE WHITE SCREEN! MORE ERIK, NO WHITE SCREEN! DOWN WITH THE WHITE SCREEN!" screamed my friend Jim Walsh, who took it as his personal obligation to rouse every surrounding member of the audience into dancing if they weren't already. God bless Jim Walsh.
Random Notebook Dump: I might just be a country girl. I might be destined to wear fringe and denim skirts and cowboy boots and rhinestone-studded shirts. Don't tell me you can't see it.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen.