Photo Credit Tony Nelson
Minneapolis has a long and storied love affair with music, but her twin sister Saint Paul has long been overlooked in comparison as a home for music. Yet another rivalry between the Twin Cities it seems! However, the last several years have been witness to an explosion of new venues in Saint Paul, creating an arts culture that challenges that stereotype.
Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has declared 2016 to be “The Year of Music” in the capitol city, and on February 11th he got things rolling at the Turf Club with an official proclamation. The MN Music Coalition’s Ellen Stanley, radio personality/music supporter extroidinaire B.T. Turner, 96.3 the Current’s Brian Oake and Mayor Coleman all spoke warmly of Saint Paul’s vibrant relationship with music. Mayor Coleman stated, “Saint Paul need no longer be looked upon as the stepchild to Minneapolis’ music scene”. He went on to emphatically implore that the Palace Theater that is set to open in the fall, would rival anything that Minneapolis has to offer.
A tight knit crowd filled the Turf Club to witness not only the official launch of the year of music, but to celebrate the Rented Rooms album release by Farewell Milwaukee’s Ben Lubeck. The MN Music Coalition sponsored the evening and the proceeds raised went to support the non-profit which provides a myriad of services to musicians in MN; from dental care to technical support including gigs and networking. The three acts on the bill were all members of the MMC, and each gave the non-profit well earned praise.
Mary Bue energized the room with her brand of grungy synth rock including a trio of love songs set to inspire the Valentine spirit. Bue and her band are coming off a great year with the release of 2015’s stellar release Holy Bones, and have become one of my favorite bands to see live. Bue is a great vocalist and though she is a serious songwriter- she isn’t too precious about it. “Veal” is a song written from the POV of a veal calf and Bue’s impassioned delivery moved me beyond words. Speaking of moving, the Duluth native is soon to open her own Yoga studio in Minneapolis, so look to see her perform locally even more.
I love it when established artists take risks and work material into projects that wouldn’t otherwise be a good fit with their better-known endeavors. Silverback Colony is this and more. Gabriel Douglas of The 4onthefloor lends his vocal prowess to the alt country band that is a literal who’s who of the Twin Cities music scene. Douglas, who hardly needs a mic for his powerful lungs possesses an easy charm and fierce vocals that entrance and captivate. The band’s subdued rendition of “Junkie” was a tender surprise in lieu of its characteristic roar.
Of course, it was after all Ben Lubeck’s big night to showcase the release of his solo album Rented Rooms. There’s a lot of risk involved in the release of a solo album, and I’d questioned the Farewell Milwaukee frontman about it earlier in the week. Lubeck broke it down like this: “The short story is I have a lot of songs I want to release and this subject matter was much more personal. It’s about my relationship with my dad and how fatherhood has shaped the way I look at love.” Indeed, Rented Rooms is a personal ode to all of the challenges and gifts that loving someone with whom you have a difficult relationship with can entail. The album is in fact an offering towards the reconciliation between Lubeck and his father, and on it he’s found the key to unlocking that struggle and sharing it. The beautiful track “Right Time” perfectly captures that ethos with Lubeck’s aching and vulnerable vocals. Lubeck is hard at work in the studio wrapping up a new Farewell Milwaukee album.
So, 2016 looks good musically from where Saint Paul is standing. Mayor Coleman said it best: “You can build bricks and mortar, but music is your heart and soul, so continue to support our artists.” Cheers to that Mayor Coleman.