Forty years of Minneapolis music in a Weekend: Soul Asylum, Low Rats, Scarlet Goodbye, Matt Wilson, Jayhawks, Immaculate Beings and Space Monkey Mafia

It was a good weekend for Minneapolis music. If I could be in two places at once I would have seen twice as much, there are just so many choices. I grew up with the music of the 1980s. I loved it and I loved hearing it again but I’m here to say that the amazing music of the 1980s has given birth to a few generations of awesome music – our golden age is not over.

Friday night at First Avenue with Soul Asylum, Low Rats and Mood Swings. (Sadly I missed Mood Swings as I was reviewing a non-Minnesota band early in the night but I heard they were amazing.) Low Rats is a newer band if we’re looking at 40 years. I was already a fan of this band that is reminiscent of the Dead Boys with a little rockabilly for spice. The question of the night was – could they bring the theatrics to the big stage of First Ave? They short answer is yes. The energy was high, mood was punk. Acrobatics on stage and some serious Elvis vibes. She’s My Witch is an endearing song!

Soul Asylum sounded great. I’ve seen them dozens of times. It’s always fun but they were particularly good Friday night; Dave Pirner was on, Ryan Smith was full on energy, Michael Bland was an anchor on the drums. But familiarity made me forget the great storytelling in their songs. Runaway Train is the easiest to call out. Their songs reach beyond the world of introspection and teen angst and they always have. I was struck at the glimpse they give to worlds that many would not otherwise see. I value that more now than I did in 1987.

Saturday night at The Palace, in St Paul, was another full on night of Minnesota legends. The Scarlet Goodbye opened, featuring Dan Murphy (formerly of Soul Asylum and other bands) and Jeff Arundel. Their songs are mature with topics ranging from an earlier take on the pandemic to Dan’s relationship with his mom. While I don’t always love the crowd flow of the Palace, they sound is really good and the violin and their voices were gorgeous that night. Next up was Matt Wilson and his Orchestra. Matt’s voice and the harp were also highlights with the acoustics of the room. Hearing Matt sing Snow Days, hailing from his days in Trip Shakespeare at a theatre where my mom used to see movies as a kid was like a personal Minnesota moment. But you just know that everyone had a Minnesota memory at the show.

The night ended with The Jayhawks. You could see all of the members waving to folks in the crowd and they were joined by members through the years on stage it felt like old home week in the best way. The crowd was singing along. You almost forget how many “favorite” songs they have until the bring them all out for a night. They played a generous set and I could see that a lot of folks stayed up beyond bedtime and yet there were plenty of “kids” too who were raring for more.

Sunday at the Uptown VFW, I headed out specifically to see Immaculate Beings because I’m a big fan and I happened to run into them earlier in the week at the gas station. They are a tonic; the set started from lead singer Trevor DeVine calling the crowd to center and think about self-care and what their intentions were for the night. My intention was to dance and I did. Their songs, even when the lyrics are not happy are healing. The vocal power is amzing. They are as fun to watch as to hear.

My weekend ended with Space Monkey Mafia; I’m going to call them global ska that isn’t afraid to let a guitar riff go. The dancing was mighty. The lyrics were political – but more than that the commentary updates folks with what’s happening today and needs to be changed. It called me back to some of my favorite (not necessarily Minnesota) bands I loved. The horns are amazing. I danced all night.

Part of what I think makes Minneapolis (and St Paul) an amazing scene is the support that musicians give to each other. At each show I saw a host of other local musicians cheering each other on. It felt like old times. Yes, we show our vaccination cards at the door. Yes, there’s a little more room on the dancefloor but people are coming out and the music sounds amazing!

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