Today Heather Baker and I started our radio show – Mostly Minnesota Music on WMCN at Macalester College. As the name implies, we plan to play music from Minnesota. Each week we will have a theme and play songs related to that theme. We think that will open us up to playing a wide range of genres. Today the theme was first, new or one – a nod to this being our firs show. (You can see the playlist or hear the music on Spotify.)
WMCN doesn’t archive the shows but I can archive them. Hopefully I will be able to get this week’s show next week. And if I am able, I will post it here. In fact, the plan is to post all of the shows here.
As we drove to the studio, we wondered what in the heck we were doing. We were nervous about the mechanics of being DJs and the on air banter and everything. We had our playlist prepared but there’s a three-step process to shift from music to talking. I’m sure I’ll get smoother with that. I’m sure we’ll get smoother at all of it!
But it was super fun and I think you should do something that scares you every now and again. And I had to get Heather back for talking me into the Triathlon!
Next week the them is places – have a request or recommendation – let me know!
I am a sucker for a strong voice belting out a twangy-angry anthem, especially on women’s rights. So hearing Kari Arnett sing Only a Woman at the Cedar on Thursday was a highlight. She wrote the song in reaction to how some men talk to women in the music industry – and get away with it. It’s unfortunately both a timely and timeless theme. I loved the music as well – especially toward the end of the song, there was a melee of tunes and sounds coming from each corner of the stage, filled with seven musicians. It was like listening to an interesting conversation – disassociated but complimentary and compelling.
Arnett’s music is country but there’s a range of country in it. She opened with Dark Water, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac – in the best way. It has the same slow beat of The Chain. (Funny enough, the only cover Arnett played was another Fleetwood Mac song.) You can hear the influence of the band and the era when there was a cross over between country and rock, especially the rock ballad. Then The Americana Life has a very Western feel. Starting with sounds of languor from the steel pedal, the horse’s gallop in the drums, the plaintive violin and then the voice. The big, bold voice that carries the song from a hot summer day to some musical victory. There’s a sense of accomplishment just listening. Tired of This Town has a completely different sound; remorse and reverence turns to church choral with the harmony of vocals. It’s a twist to have a lovelorn song have such a sweet sound.
It will be fun to watch Arnett’s move forward. The new CD, When the Dust Settles is a terrific start. Unfortunately we’ll be watching it from a distance as she is soon moving to Nashville. Before she left she gave a gracious nod to the Minnesota Music Coalition for helping her get connected when she first moved to the Cities a few years ago.
Bonus of the night was having three women take center stage. Mary Bue started off the night. She played a new song, All the Things Broken. The power of the keyboard, her honest lyrics of heartbreak and the seemingly easy comfort of her voice can bring tears every time. Next was Becky Kapell with Paul Bergen, playing country music like I’ve heard on road trips with my dad my whole life. She can hit and hold a high note and bend it into any shape she wants.
The silver lining of the current state of affairs in American politics is the wave of women raising their voices (to use the vernacular of the Women’s Mach) to effect change. We just don’t all sound as good as Tina Schlieske and Genital Panic doing it.
Genital Panic is taking punk back to politics in the spirit of Dead Kennedy’s using sardonic and simple observation to point out the obvious – something’s broken. Locker Room Talk isn’t just Locker Room Talk – if it takes hard core passion and a bubble gum chorus to make the point, so be it.
The sound is fun. Watching with a friend we warred about whether it was like X, the Go-Go’s, the Bangles or Patti Smith. Schlieske’s voice is strong and powerful, awesome yell when you need it and not afraid to go high when it’s appropriate. The band was also awesome. Some members were drafted in late when originally scheduled guests couldn’t be there but they nailed it with the cow bell on Donnie Talks to Russia along with the keyboard suspense rift, the tight bass on Menopause or the dark string interlude on Action Pants.
As much as I loved the music, what I really loved was the message. Schlieske told the story behind the new project. She had seen the work of Valerie Export, a feminist artist who, in 1968, wore crotchless pants into an art house cinema. She walked around with her genitals exposed at face-level to make a statement about the historical portrayal of women in cinema. (Action Pants: Genital Panic is the name of a poster series created to commemorate that famous viewing.)
For better or for worse, it’s time for women to take back our power by raising our voices, by reclaiming terms, by calling out what’s happening around us – through the #MeToo movement or a song such as Pussygrabber. It’s happening with more women running for office, with more people voting (even in midterm primaries!) and daily protests. And it’s great to see a local hometown music hero joining the soundtrack for change with a bold change in her sound. It’s time for us to be heard!
Also every punk show should start out with a song about menopause.
It can be concerning when the lead singer hits the stage with a vintage, brown polyester suit on. It sets a high bar. You better have the chops to back it up – and I am pleased to report that Doug Collins looked awesome in the brown suit and had the chops. There’s something retro, yet timeless in his music. It dates back to the early days when country and rock really did blur. I enjoyed seeing Doug Collins & the Receptionists at the Turf Club for the release of Good, Sad News.
My favorite song of the night was Conversation with my Heart. It opens his CD. It’s one of those super happy, snappy sounding songs with words that don’t necessarily match. It’s maybe just a little bit of what we need given the world today. A vacation from the gloom, without forgetting. It was great to have Katy Vernon take to the stage to sing it with him at the Turf Club. It just does a heart good to see so much joy in playing.
Halfway Through is another toe tapper. It has a more Americana sound but still upbeat. Ironically I had spent my day driving home from Winnipeg with my dad, listening to Willie’s Roadhouse the whole way. Hearing Collins sing Halfway Through fit the soundtrack of my day. But even after 8 hours (long time at the border) it’s music I enjoy, especially when it’s done well.
A bonus was Collin’s cover of Babba O’Reilly. I’m a sucker for The Who at the best and worst of times. It’s was a different rendition and I liked it.
Another super bonus was catching Katy Vernon before Doug Collins. Another musician with happier beat and sound than lyrics but it’s really hard not to enjoy a thoughtful ukulele!
You can see how Collins looks and sounds in his brown suit on his new record. We appears to be sporting it on the cover.