All on a Saturday Night: Paul Michell, Nina Luna, Al Church, Elour, Ian Valor & the Vendettas and Little Man

This is as much a love letter to the Twin Cities music scene as it is a retrospective on the music you can see if one night . In order of appearance (and not knowing I was going to write this, including some odd footage)…

My night started at Bryant Lake Bowl (BLB), a restaurant, bowling alley and theater and home away from home to Paul Michell. Paul is from NY but has spent time in Minneapolis. Last time I saw him was three years ago, at BLB. Paul is a piano man and songwriter. Listening to him you feel like you’re in a NY bar listening to the old guy with the powerful voice telling stories at the keyboard. Paul is only 30, but he has that old soul of a storyteller.

There is a polish and theatricality to the performance. Not over the top, just enough to draw you in. He talked about how the songs  come to life once he plays them and how they can take on a life of their own. And that’s what is awesome, each song has a personality and Paul seems to facilitate them. In his songs he mentions a bad mistake and latest mistake but it doesn’t feel like regret is feels like learning and maybe a little yearning.

Joining Paul was Nina Luna. I only saw a few songs but I enjoyed her ethereal look and sound. Very sweet voice and great stage presence.

Next stop, the Urban Growler tucked into an industrial part of St Paul, which means easy place for outdoor music at night and great place for a Minnesota Roller Derby and on the power of living your 100 percent. The event was like a mini carnival with speakers (such as Jana Shortal) and various games and music. I got there just in time for Al Church. Al started as much of the rest of the event was closing up. That’s a tough gig. I’m always impressed by the fortitude of a band that can start and rock with seven people in the audience but the reward is an audience and grows and grows and dances.

Al has a lightness about him. A fun-loving, carefree personality that is contagious. You feel like you can be a little goofy because it feels like he might be goofy too. Something about that transfers to his singing. He isn’t a afraid to take risks to improvise to surprise an audience. He’s a delight. Listening to the music, there are serious and sad themes that belie the cheerful persona. It’s disarming in a good way. (And note for myself – I will go to Al’s Cinematic Orchestra on Nov 3 at the Parkway. We got a sneak preview of what it might be like when he was on the Mostly MN Music radio show. Compelling!)

Last call for the night was the 331 Club, never a cover and always (maybe usually) a lineup of a few bands. If you wanted to become a Minnesota music expert, you could do worse than go to the 331 every night for a month. My only wish is that they’d move to St. Paul.

I walked in while Elour (Elizabeth Ghandour) was playing. Whoa, nothing more powerful than a strong, primal female voice. No disrespect to the men, but there’s an inner-core depth than Elour hit with her high note that borders on keening.

Then I was excited to see Ian Valor and the Vendettas for their album release. Ian was on the Mostly MN Music radio show earlier in the day. We got a preview of Ian’s voice live and listened to a few songs of the new album. First and overwhelmingly, this band is cool AF. They would be cool in any era in any town on any night. It’s song after rocking song with limited commentary. They reminded me of the cool punk band featured in an 1980’s teen movie. Very clean cut (maybe one Teddy boy) but just straight up cool hard core rock or punk.

Ian’s voice is a gift. It’s reminiscent of Billy Idol or Iggy Pop, a voice that comes from two floors deeper than hell. The “yeow” rebel yell is definitely Billy Idol. An interesting juxtaposition to Elour’s voice, flattering both in the comparison. The band is tight. And the second band of the night with a female drummer, Sara Horishnyk. (Al Church also has a girl drummer.) All Right, All Riot, the song that gives the album name, has a great punk pop sensibility and Dancing with a Ghost brings everyone out to the dance floor. It’s a super fun band to see.

Under the cool and the fun and the dance-ability are some somber lyrics of love and loss and life. It’s an album that will grown on you with each listen.


The last hurrah for the night was Little Man, led by Chris Perricelli. Doesn’t matter that they started after 1 am – they can bring energy to the end of a marathon. So much fun to dance hard until the end of the night. The showmanship of Perricelli leans to Prince or Har Mar Superstar, hyper-sensual and fun interaction between members.

Little Man also has a recent CD release, In Between the Lions and they played a lot off that new album. It’s a lot of rocking, the lines are clever. It’s a great night seen in the bar or listened to at home. It really is the making of a solo disco in that it will make you dance even if you’re home alone.

Little Man takes their music seriously but they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a great mix for a fun night and it feels like a night when you’re in on the joke, in with the in crowd. A great way to end the night!

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