Night Moves + Black Eyed Snakes + Mike Munson

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Smoke Signals 2017

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Quick Q+A: Chris Besinger + STNNNG

It’s, well, stunning that local artful noise rock outfit STNNNG, favorites of many MPLS + STPL music makers, have been making music as original and powerful as they have, for as long as they have, and as they continue to do—STNNNG’s loud poetic journey continues this Spring with a brand new album, Veterans of Pleasure, which arrives on March 31st.

Before the record’s debut and their sure-to-be wild release show at the Entry on April 14th with Gay Witch Abortion, we checked in with frontman Chris Besinger on the current state of STNNNG, recording with audio legend Steve Albini, their songwriting, and the look of the new record.

Secrets of the City: It’s often impossible to schedule a coffee meeting with just one person, much less five dudes that have been together long enough to do five full length albums. How does STNNNG manage to get together? Project management software? The draw of alcohol?

Chris Besinger: And when you add in other band demands, families, kids, dogs, etc., it can be a struggle. Unless we give ourselves a firm deadline we’d never get anything done. In this case we made a decision write a bunch of songs for a record, booked the studio time and made sure we were basically ready when the dates rolled around. Booze helps.

Why go back to working with quasi-underground recording celebrity Steve Albini? Did you owe him money because he’s a card shark?

I can’t remember if he was playing online poker between all the takes this time or last time, I think that was last time. Steve is very easy to work with, he’s smart, he’s fast, when you say “I want this vocal to sound like this one Ken Nordine record” he not only knows what you are talking about he has the microphone. It seems like people have a lot invested needing him to be an asshole or a larger than life figure or something, he’s basically just about the most mellow person I know. Of course, if you ask for his opinion his going to give it to you, whether you like it or not.

The new album has that mix of classic-intense-energetic-STNNNG on tracks like “King Vulture” and classic-lost-in-the-swelling-ocean-of-sound STNNNG on tracks like “That Other Place”, which is awesome. Do you think STNNNG has a characteristic sound? Is it something the band goes for or avoids or neither?

The best songs just feel right when we are writing them. Sometimes when we are writing the songs an idea will bubble up and someone will say “Naw, that’s too obvious, too much like something we’d do” and other times we will be working on something and it’ll be, “this doesn’t sound like us”. We are just trying to please ourselves and I’m sure we have a signature sound, but I don’t know if I can really identify it, I’m too much in the center of the hurricane to notice. Everyone in the band has their own thing, their own ideas, what they want to add to a tune, so hopefully our sound as it were is all of our voices speaking in unison. Or a less bullshit answer might be, now we just try to write stuff that isn’t super hard to play live.

I remember seeing STNNNG play at MCAD several years ago and thinking “these guys should only play places like student lounges, beaches, prisons, etc., because they’re too good and original for just the same old bars”. Do you think your music is more suited for any types of venues or are you still happy to play shows at the Entry because the sound is really good and they have those big beers and you get a crossover wristband?

The Entry is awesome to play because it is the place to see a band as an audience member, best sound, best lines of sight, best vibe. I enjoy playing the weirder, not exactly-venues-venues as well, they can be a ton of fun and I like to be able to really connect with the audience, physically, psychically. No matter the location I do my best to get our point across. I don’t know if we could deal with a prison, I’d probably get killed. My wife is constantly annoyed, worried, rolling-her-eyes at my onstage behavior. “I hope I have our medical insurance card on me” is her oft repeated line when I try to balance on something high up or aggravate some teenage girls or some other similarly life-threatening act.

And the crossover wristband is not to underrated, I saw Erykah Badu in the Mainroom once!

Is this cover art, the painting “Bacchanalia” by Reynier Llanes, the best album art of the year of any band? It’s just magnificent.

It isn’t just the best album cover of the year, it is the best album cover ever. People should stop making album covers because we just perfected it.


Francis and the Lights

Red Bull Sound Select Presents: Francis And The Lights + Serpentwithfeet + Velvet Negroni

All MPLS + STPL music fans should need to know is that Francis Farewell Starlite, the brains and dance moves behind Francis and The Light, collabed with both Bon Iver and Kanye West on the same track! But he’s also toured with Drake (who quoted him on a track!), MGMT, Ke$ha, La Roux, and Mark Ronson, and more.

Red Bull Sound Select and Totally Gross National Product are bringing Francis and the Lights, along with the visually and sonically arresting serpentwithfeet and future funkster Velvet Negroni, to the very intimate setting at Icehouse for another installment of their #breakmusic series. The entire show is only $5 with an RSVP: win.gs/MarTwinCities

This is going to be one of the biggest shows so far of 2017, so get your RSVP in early and don’t wait until late on Saturday to get down to Icehouse!


Burger Hunter: The Bulldog Northeast

Week after week, Mike S. impresses us with the depth and breadth of his burger knowledge. Just wait til you see his logo, we cannot wait to debut it. Check out all The Burger Hunter’s meaty exploits at the #GreatAmericanBurgerHunter tag on Instagram.

Coping it sweet in Northeast, MPLS on a random weekday might find you pondering your lunch time happy place. Low and behold I found mine at The Bulldog Northeast. Now you should have at the very least heard of this place or hopefully had a drink or something here. It’s got cred. Menu is Burger-forward and we’re into it. So I went with the Peanut Butter and Bacon burger which should be called the Knife and Fork burger. We will get to that later . . . Let’s start with the beef. The grind is brisket, sirloin, and chuck. Golf clap. The pack is firm. Chef knows medium and flavor of the beef is dialed. It’s topped with a Surly spiced peanut butter that is now and forever part of my fam. Is anyone listening???!! Bottle that shit! STAT! Sorry I get carried away. Next up on the burger is an apple-wood bacon that works beautifully on this super concoction. This whole thing is kind of a breakfastie hangover super crave town munchies ensemble. When you need to flat-out crush, this is it folks. Now they put a fried egg on it with a little Wood’s maple syrup. The runny egg always adds nice flavor to meat. Instagram Stories were made for this. But with these specific ingredients the egg is really the Pope Francis. Brings it all together and almost can’t live without. A keystone if you won’t. That brings us to the bun. The croissant. A noble choice but it just can’t hold up. Sweet and buttery and perfy choice to pair with these ingredients, but if your looking to hold this burger you might have a messy ordeal on your hands. Hence the Knife and Fork burger. Love the flavor of this ride. Sweet, full bodied and bold. It’s not hiding nor covering up. Just satisfying the soul.

Scorecard:   Flavor: 8.7   Presentation: 7   Originality: 10

Bulldog Northeast, 401 E Hennepin Ave, MPLS; thebulldognortheast.com


Upcoming: Rain Taxi + Mia Present Susan Stewart + Ann Hamilton

Here’s something we’re pretty into, especially after that unbelievably huge turnout for George Saunders.

Rain Taxi proudly hosts its first event ever at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, join them as poet Susan Stewart and artist Ann Hamilton, both acclaimed figures in their respective fields, present their collaborative pieces Channel and Mirror along with other works at this special afternoon appearance on Saturday at 2 PM at the Mia.

Susan Stewart is the author of five books of poetry, including Columbarium, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her latest book, Cinder: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press), gathers poetry from across her thirty-five-year career, including many extraordinary new poems. Ann Hamilton is an internationally renowned visual artist known for her the sensory surrounds of her large-scale multimedia installations. Noted for a dense accumulation of materials, her ephemeral environments create immersive experiences, and her attention to the uttering of a sound or the shaping of a word with the hand places language and text at the tactile and metaphoric center of her installations.


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