The Current's 10th Anniversary Spanned Generations of MN Music

Categories: Last Night
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Photo by Mike Madison
Atmosphere at Saturday's Anniversary show.

The Current's 10th Anniversary, Night Two
Featuring Atmosphere, J. Roddy Walston & the Business, the Trashmen, and PaviElle
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 24, 2015

Over the past 10 years, the little public radio spinoff that could has become so integral to Minnesota music that it's now a nice feather in MPR's cap. Chalk 89.3 the Current's success up to strong fundamentals, a deliberate "do no harm" approach, a staff full of genuinely knowledgeable and passionate people, as well as great timing. When the Current powered on back in 2005, few could have predicted just how rapidly the local music community would've grown. It's been a hell of a time to have a big spotlight to shine, but the good folks over at 89.3 have kept on shinin', and bless 'em for it.

See also:
Slideshow: Rocking Out at the Current's 10th Birthday: Night Two


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Billy Idol's Acoustic Foray at Turf Club Was a Quick One

Categories: Last Night
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Photo by Mike Madison
Billy. Billy Idol.

Billy Idol with Steve Stevens
With Little Man and Tropical Depression
Turf Club, St. Paul
January 19, 2015

One show on the Current's 10-day long 10th anniversary celebration garnered more attention and scrutiny than any other: Billy Idol. Would the celebrated '80s MTV darling and one-time punk icon doing an acoustic set at the Turf Club work?

Other radio stations still play Idol's snarling anthems ad nauseum, but the Current has worked his new single ("Can't Break Me Down") into the rotation as of late, along with a few of his classic hits. Anticipation built for the 59-year-old U.K. arena-rock stalwart's smallest Twin Cities show in his illustrious history, which sold out in a flash.

See also:
Slideshow: Billy Idol Rocks the Turf Club


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The 12 Rods Reunion Show: It's Complicated

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Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

12 Rods
With Rupert Angeleyes
First Avenue, Minneapolis
January 16, 2015

After signing to a major label, 12 Rods never quite had the breakout national success that they seemed destined for. They eventually broke up, and have been inactive, but influential, for years. On Friday night, the sprawling band (with nine various members joining in throughout the two-hour set) reunited for their first show in 10 years, celebrating the re-release of their 2002 album, Lost Time, on Justin Vernon's Chigliak Records imprint.

Vacillating between anthems laced with dissatisfaction and meandering electro-tinged pop, the enjoyable but uneven performance was a snapshot of 12 Rods' entire career. Local music fans still hold tightly to these songs, as evidenced by the large turnout. For one night, at least, 12 Rods clearly got their due.

See also:
Slideshow: 12 Rods Reunite at First Avenue

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Dem Atlas Proved His Star Is Rising Rapidly at 7th St. Entry

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Photo by Mike Madison
Dem Atlas's attire had some MJ flair.
Dem Atlas 
with Radio Ahlee, Breakaway, Bloomer, DJ Adatrak and DJ Bob Marino
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 17, 2015

Even after spending a large chunk of 2014 on the road with his Rhymesayers labelmates, Dem Atlas hasn't lost his humility.

Charismatic onstage and off, the young St. Paul rapper made the most of his first local headlining show in front of a sold out crowd at 7th St. Entry Saturday. In addition to performing a set filled with melodic tongue-twister raps, Atlas stood outside the venue to thank his fans for coming and rocked in the front row to his opening acts.

See also:
Slideshow: Dem Atlas Packs the 7th St Entry


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Rap Prodigy Chester Watson Turned Down to Stir Up His Audience

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Publicity Photo
Chester Watson
Chester Watson
with K.Raydio & O.D., Art Vandelay, and prime.cut
Kitty Cat Klub, Minneapolis
Thursday, January 15, 2015

Florida rapper Chester Watson unassumingly dropped one of last year's strongest underground rap albums last March. The epic 28-song mixtape, entitled Tin Wooki, is divided into five acts and featuring production from himself and a rotating cast of like-minded beatmakers.

The album's collaborations with Minnesotan artists Psymun, Art Vandelay, and K. Raydio helped introduce the 17-year old talent to a local audience, who hung to his every word Thursday at Kitty Cat Klub. A night centered on the young rapper's signature chilled sound helped solidify Chester Watson's place as an impactful up-and-comer and put his work squarely in context of a new sound bubbling up in hip-hop.

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Girl Germs Tribute Proves Contagious at Turf Club

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Photo by Mark N. Kartarik
Kitten Forever reinvented Beyoncé in their own image on Saturday.

Girl Germs: A Tribute to Women in Music
With Aby Wolf, Alpha Consumer (feat. Debbie Duncan), Kitten Forever, K. Raydio, and Yoni Yum
Turf Club, St. Paul
Saturday, January 10, 2015

The test of a good tribute show comes down to how deep the connection the artists can forge with the material they're playing. When it's good, it's unspeakably good. When it's bad, you're better off hanging out at Vegas Lounge karaoke. 

Like the last Girl Germs event held this past May at First Ave, organizers Dana Raidt and Sally Hedberg built a night with enough variety to pull fans of divergent genres spanning different eras. On paper, the allure of hearing Kate Bush, Erykah Badu, Marianne Faithfull, Aretha Franklin, and Beyoncé songs mashed up on a bill was unquestionable. Bringing the drama, soul, and potent commentary would prove to be an even greater challenge for the musicians themselves -- like riding above the wave of a male-dominated music industry on a surfbort. Yes, a surfbort. 

See also:
Slideshow: Girl Germs Women in Rock Tribute Takes Over the Turf Club

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Jhené Aiko Burned a Fan's Ex on the Phone at Skyway Theatre

Categories: Last Night
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Photo by Tony Nelson
Jhené Aiko at her sultry best.
Jhené Aiko 
with SZA and The Internet 
Skyway Theatre, Minneapolis
Sunday, December 21, 2014

Jhené Aiko teamed up with like-minded R&B performers SZA and the Internet for her Enter the Void Tour, which completed its run Sunday at the Skyway Theatre. Each artist shared a general vibe, comprised of a female lead and a live backing band. Each of them brought distinct approaches.
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Birdman, Young Thug, and Rich Homie Quan Brought Rich Gang to Life at Myth

Categories: Last Night
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Photos by Sho Shots/45th Street Management Group
Rich Gang lighting up the Myth masses.
Rich Gang Tour: Birdman, Young Thug, and Rich Homie Quan
Myth Nightclub, St. Paul
Friday, December 12, 2014

The recent team-up of oddball hitmakers Birdman, Young Thug, and Rich Homie Quan makes total bizarre sense, and their Rich Gang: The Tour Part 1 mixtape proved to be one of the best rap projects in a year largely devoid of full-lengths that truly came together. Their appearance at Myth proved a success after a long set of that provided solo spots and a group performance.

See also:
Slideshow: Rich Gang Turn it Up at Myth


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Two Teens Helped Me Review Jingle Ball 2014

Categories: Last Night
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Photo by Tony Nelson
Ariana Grande got 'em screaming at Jingle Ball 2014.

101.3 KDWB Jingle Ball 2014
With Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Jessie J, Meghan Trainor, Rita Ora, OneRepublic, Demi Lovato Becky G, Shawn Mendes, Kiesza
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Monday, December 8, 2014

It's easy to forget as you go about your daily adult life, but there is a huge population of teenagers and tweens living in your city whose lifestyles and interests differ drastically from your own. Never is this more apparent than at KDWB's annual Top 40 holiday spectacular Jingle Ball. For one night downtown St. Paul is overrun with young people who love boys, Snapchat, and music. They tend to text a lot, scream a lot, and wear a lot of makeup, and they congregated at the Xcel Energy Center last night to do all of these things in the presence of some of the greatest pop talents of their generation.

As an adult, I was entirely under-equipped to assess last night's show. The sisters seated behind me ("Teen #1," age 17; "Teen #2," age 13) assisted in measuring each artist's performance.

See also:
Slideshow: Festive Folks at KDWB's Jingle Ball 2014

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Doomtree Tore Up the Turf Club to Launch Blowout X

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Photo by Tony Nelson
The entire Doomtree crew hard at work.

Doomtree Blowout X: Night One
Turf Club, St. Paul
Saturday, December 6, 2014

For the beginning of the end of a long-standing local tradition, Doomtree opted for the intimate confines of the Turf Club to begin laying their annual Blowout to rest. The first of what will be a week's worth of grand finales set the St. Paul institution ablaze with a solid two-hour performance that rivaled some of their best of the past decade.

Every night of the final Blowout's week of performances sold out nearly immediately, and there's a sense the group has the power to do whatever they want to do when it comes to booking local gigs. Thankfully, the prospect of playing at smaller venues remains of importance to the powerhouse seven-person rap outfit, and the Turf kickoff perfectly melded their current-day legend status with the fiery energy of their hardscrabble beginnings.

See also:
Slideshow: Doomtree Blowout X: Night One at the Turf Club


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