Aesop Rock “Daylight”

I can recall but a few truly positive memories from last summer; one that floats to the top of the muck is seeing Aesop Rock at Soundset 2008. Strictly as a performance, it might not top his set at First Avenue that I’d seen the previous year, but it had a feeling that was a bit unexplainable. With clouds looming and tornado sirens going off in the distance (throughout the entire afternoon), Aes’ set was the line I had set where the day would end, if only to avoid the rain its cousins. Going through a set heavy with songs from None Shall Pass, it eventually came time to deliver a set-standard that seemed oh-so-fitting at the time: “Daylight.”

With or without the memory of the Soundset performance, the song itself is one of my all-time favorites. “Daylight” has not only one of my absolute favorite verses, “Life’s not a bitch, life is a beautiful woman, you only call her a bitch ’cause she won’t let you get that pussy. Maybe she didn’t feel y’all shares any similar interests, or maybe you’re just an asshole who couldn’t sweet-talk a princess,” but one of my favorite choruses as well, “All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day, put the pieces back together my way.” There are few songs that I’ve heard—when I truly zone in and find myself in the moment—that take me on such an emotional roller coaster ride as this; and when given the environment—such as that of one with potentially devastating weather lurking—the song has a way of creating its only space in time for a person. That’s was the time, and my brain remains the space.

The Chemical Brothers “Star Guitar” Video

At this point in time I’m not even sure that a rehashing of Exit Planet Dust could make up for the atrocity that was 2007’s We Are the Night. But earlier in the decade, before the duo had done “The Salmon Dance” with Fat Lip, the Chemical Brothers were still riding a wave of success stemming from their hugely triumphant albums from the 1990s. Although it wasn’t the first single from 2002’s Come With Us, “Star Guitar” was the highest charting single from the album and found a balance between surging electronics and melodic funk. Also taking into consideration that the song features a sample from David Bowie’s “Spaceman” and the video was directed by the brilliant Michel Gondry and you’ve got one of the better electronic memories from the first half of the decade. [Equally (actually, maybe more) enjoyable is the video for Shinichi Osawa's cover of the song; it's a must-see.]

Bran Van 3000 feat. Curtis Mayfield “Astounded”

Largely remembered for the band’s 1997 single “Drinking in L.A.” (the single being from the album Gleewhich would yield the collective a 1998 Juno award for Best Alternative Album) Montreal’s Bran Van 3000 reinvented itself somewhat with the first single from its 2001 album Discosis. Blending electronics with a bit of disco flavor, the song features a vocal sample from Curtis Mayfield’s final recording ever. Mayfield’s enthralling voice largely makes the song, but the synthetic strings and backing vocals go a long way in ensuring that the song sounds as fresh today as it did then. “Astounded” would later become the group’s most successful Canadian single.

Hank Williams III “Six Pack of Beer”

Hank Williams III has been my favorite country musician for years; Johnny Cash included. I’ve seen him play Minneapolis’ First Avenue a few times, and as time went on, more and more people began showing up to the shows alongside me. The last Hank Williams III concert I attended was last August, and that will likely be the last time that I ever find myself mixed up in a physical pit. Just by the sheer number of people who were there that night I should have known better, but even by the time that Williams’ traditional country set was over I had to step away, sweat soaked and blurry-eyed.

The most amazing part of that night wasn’t even the music, it was just seeing how many people were coming out in support of the musician. The previous show I had seen had a good turn out, but as Williams moved on from his traditional set to his rockabilly set to his hardcore set with Assjack, the floor emptied out, leaving but a few dozen people remaining at most. I guess more people are “getting it,” and why wouldn’t they?

Here in Minneapolis we’re given a broad selection of radio stations compared to many cities. That being said, the genres that are represented are limited. Pop-rap and surface-level indie rock are there, just as there are a few oldies stations, but for fans of harder music or country the selection is very limited. In all honesty I don’t know how many country stations there are around here, but between the few the city has you’re not likely to find a single straying away from the pop-country rigmarole. Same goes for hard rock; if you’re not feeling whatever’s on the modern rock charts, you’re out of luck.

The United States of Clear Channel has left a variety of openings in between its mainstream cracks; many niches that are, in their generalized view, too small to bother paying attention to. One such niche is filled by Hank Williams III, and that niche market is apparently a little larger than once believed.

In its debut week, Hank Williams III’s last album Damn Right, Rebel Proud came in at #18 on the Billboard 200. More importantly, in selling around 20,000 units the album represents Williams’ highest chart position ever on the Country chart as well; ranking the album just below Kenny Chesney at number two and above Carrie Underwood, above Sugarland, and above Faith Hill.

Damn Right, Rebel Proud is one of those releases that just makes you want to smile. There’s been no comparison to it on the country chart since its release and there may not be for quite some time. Songs like “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand),” “Candidate For Suicide” and the 10 minute long ode to GG Allin, “P.F.F.,” have no conventional place on that chart but they were represented near the top of the mountain all the same.

In “The Grand Ole Opry” Williams rips into the industry, condemning and shirking some of its most famous legends. And now you can add Hank Williams III to the list of outlaw rebels who have corrupted the system by infiltrating its all-too-clean walls… and there are at least 20,000 people who are with me in expressing that sentiment. And while that song may hold the most weight on the album, “Six Pack of Beer” does its best to express the enthusiasm and rowdy lifestyle the the musician and his band have come to be known for.

The Tragically Hip “My Music at Work”

When the Seattle Weekly asked “Can anyone explain the Tragically Hip to me?” this past March, the first thought I had was: no. The comment that fell in line with my thoughts on the subject read “As for explaining The Hip… well, there is no explaining. You either get it, or you don’t. And when you do, it’s bliss of the most frenetic, rocking, lyrical, ranting, sarcastic, insightful, lost-in-the-music kind.” That’s about right.

In Minnesota there is an unabashed love for a select few bands that are hoisted onto a level of their own; bands like the Replacements, the Jayhawks and Hüsker Dü. I still don’t “get” the Jayhawks and I don’t enjoy the other two bands on a level remotely close to that of many of my neighbors, but I understand why there is such a love for the bands: their music retains a local focus and an element of familiarity regardless of where and when you listen to it. This is further amplified if you’re born here and grew up with the music. And that is essentially the best way that I can describe why Canadians love the band as much as they (we) do—that, and they’re just fucking awesome.

2000’s Music @ Work doesn’t come close to being one of the band’s better albums, and its songs aren’t entirely representative of the genius of singer Gord Downie’s writing. A few months back Downie was interviewed on Q TV, and that interview comes close to help identify why it’s easy to love him, the band, and even Music @ Work. There’s a sense of charm that Downie carries with him, and it’s that unwavering intangible that makes it so easy to become engrossed by his words when he talks or sings. “My Music at Work” was the band’s first single of the new millennium, and one that ushered in a feeling of rebirth following 1998’s brilliant Phantom Power. It is my favorite song that the band has recorded during these past 10 years, and one that lends me the comforts of home time after time. Hope that helps explain the Hip, if only just a little.

Clipse at First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)

Video of Clipse’s August 14, 2009 Sneaker Pimps show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN featuring performances of “Til the Casket Drops,” “Momma I’m So Sorry,” “We Got it For Cheap,” “Hot Damn,” “Riding Around Shining,” “Wamp Wamp (What it Do),” “Mr. Me Too,” and “Kinda Like a Big Deal.”

Jemsite Interview

What does it take to make it in the thriving jazz scene in New York or the indie hard rock scene of Seattle?

Jemsite wants to find out! In a new series, we've set out to find the best reps across the country to will tell us just what it means to make it in the big city music scene.

Music blogger Chris DeLine calls Minneapolis a dysfunctional community, but one with a thriving music scene—whether it's rock, hip-hop, or electro. He writes all about it on his hit music blog, Culture Bully, which was created nearly four and a half years when music blogs had yet to be as common as a JEM guitar for an Ibanez fan.

Culture Bully has a plethora of album reviews, concert reviews, music videos, band profiles, and music videos and is currently considered one of the most trafficked blogs in all of the "Twin Cities."

We had the chance to ask DeLine to wax poetic on the music scene of Minneapolis. Here's what he had to say.

How did you start writing music reviews? Is it a hobby or a lifelong career?

Culture Bully started as a Blogspot site when I was in college where it was loosely styled after the larger music blogs of the day. That's not to say that I didn't dump random thoughts, pictures, and videos on the site—but that was my main inspiration behind starting it up. At there time there wasn't the glut of music blogs that there is today so I was given the opportunity to review albums and conduct interviews right away without even realizing that doing so was an option. That was about four and a half years ago. Right now, blogging and freelancing is what keeps me going.

Chris Rock has this bit about jobs vs. careers; some people have jobs and some people have careers. The basis for the joke is how people with careers are essentially doing what they want and there aren't enough hours in the day, while people who have jobs are counting the minutes until they get to go home. I've had a lot of jobs and I wouldn't say that this is a career in the general sense of the term, but as far as Chris Rock is concerned—this is a career for me.

What performers, types of music do you like? Anything guitar-related?

Growing up, my musical tastes were as scattered as they are now, but they revolved far more heavily around guitar-based music. I could be listening to bands like Sepultura one minute and Stevie-Ray the next—if it was good, I liked it. In 1998 (when I was 14 or 15) I got to see BB King live and for years that remained the greatest concert-going experience I had.

Since then my tastes have changed slightly. When I'm meeting someone new and they ask me what I like to listen to, my stock answer is gangsta rap and death metal... seems to cover the spread pretty well. Just because so much music is pushed my way on a day to day basis I don't even know where to begin to start in terms of what bands I'm really into today, but some of my favorite concerts I've seen recently include those by Sonic Youth, Mayhem and the Jesus Lizard. Guitar music, right?

Have you ever dabbled in guitar? If so, do you use your own experiences when mentioning a guitarist in a review? If not, how do you describe the sound?

Each time I've tried to pick up an instrument, it's been a terrible failure. In high school I gave the bass a try, but even after taking lessons and giving it a go, I eventually lost interest in it. In college I had an acoustic guitar and learned a few songs, but I found myself gravitating toward other pastimes. My heart was never in it.

What is How Was The Show?

How Was The Show is one of, if not thee, longest running music-based sites (I'd get an ear-full if I called it a blog) in the Twin Cities. I attended college in Iowa, and after I returned to the Twin Cities I found that I really had no idea what was going on, musically, in the city. I found myself hooked up with the crew that was working on HWTS stuff at the time, and eventually took two or three stabs at reviews for the site myself. At one point in time it was the go-to place to find local concert reviews online, but now things have essentially dried up in that regard and it's shifted more towards an emphasis on theater reviews.

Culture Bully: What is it about and how did it start?

As mentioned, I started the site in college with no real direction. The first real moment that directed me to believing that it had any potential was when I had taken a trip to NY in the winter of 2005. That year I had started to take an interest in mashups and for kicks I created a list of my favorites of the year. Before I left on my trip I submitted it to a few sites including BoingBoing, and while I was away they decided to post it. So out of nowhere the site, which had been getting (at most) a couple hundred hits a day, got 25,000 hits. I figured it might be something worth paying attention to it after that.

Right now I've gotten together with a few friends and have reached out to a few other people to help contribute to the site and it's become one of the most trafficked blogs in the Twin Cities. We focus on solely on music right now: album reviews, concert reviews, music videos, band profiles, music videos, etc... Whether or not anyone actually reads the what we write is another story altogether, but we were recently named the best local blog by two separate alt-weeklies so I've got to think we don't suck too hard.

What’s the music scene like in Minneapolis?

Consider Minneapolis a city that has too many (good) bands to even name. Where last year there was a solid focus on neo-folksier-type bands, the hard and experimental rock scenes are what are really booming right now. But that balance still exists amongst an array of solid punk, metal, and Americana. For every Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles (one such neo-folksier-type band), there's a Gay Witch Abortion (a heavy two-piece stoner rock group). Just naming a few other great bands that are currently going strong here: Vampire Hands (who toured nationally with Wavves earlier this year), A Night in the Box (electric busker-inspired band), the Evening Rig (Replacements meet Bryan Adams), and the list goes on and on. Another standout in terms of last year's crowd is Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps; like Lucy Michelle she has expresses herself magnificently through her unique vocals and is backed by a tremendous band. But to use the old adage, that's simply the tip of the iceberg.

Also, that's not to say that Minneapolis is all rock and no play—the city's hip hop and electronic scenes are oozing with brilliance. If any interested parties are looking to find a good balance of everything, this year's release by P.O.S' entitled Never Better is it. A local MC who is also in a punk band, Building Better Bombs, has created the local it album of the year and national outlets have definitely taken note.

In your opinion, what are some of the best bands to come out of Minneapolis and/or Minnesota?

The stock response would be artists like Bob Dylan (Duluth), or Prince, the Replacements, or Hüsker Dü (all from Minneapolis). While I'd say the best ever is Dylan, I'm not from around here originally and don't have the same attachment to many of the states patriarchs. Honestly, I still can't recall hearing a song by the Jayhawks, and I'm not all that fond of the last three I just mentioned.

I just think of Minneapolis as a community. Possibly a dysfunctional community where neighbors are just as prone to fight and talk a lot of shit about one another behind their backs as they are to drink a few beers together. But a community all the same.

Where are the best places to go to hear these artists?

Right now there's a strange trend going on in Minneapolis. As some clubs are slumping due to the economy the city is attempting to push a vote forward that would see a ban on 18+ shows; making venues shift to either all ages or 21+ events. If this goes through, multiple venues are prone to die right there on the spot (and many others will have their legs cut off), and that potentially includes some of the best spots to see music. But at the same time, a few new venues have popped up. The bitch of the whole thing is that, for my money, the club with the one of the best soundsystem which also gets some of the cooler bands lies 30 minutes out in the suburbs and won't be affected by any of this. Either way, for my money, amongst over 20 solid venues around here I really dig the Cedar Cultural Center and St. Paul's Turf Club.

How does the guitar factor into the Minneapolis music scene?

Even in other genres the guitar plays a key role in the recording and performing process. The very same instrument drives a hundred different niches and at times is just as important to music as the songwriters themselves. Without it, I'd wager that a scene wouldn't exist at all.

[This article was first published by Jemsite.]