Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pictures of Then still getting covered!


By Ross Raihala

Updated: 09/10/2009 12:18:15 PM CDT

The way things are looking, the Uptown Bar and Cafe will be yet another memory.

But unlike Maplewood's beleaguered, and now lawsuit-embroiled, Myth nightclub, the potential shuttering of Minneapolis' Uptown comes with some understandable circumstances. Namely, its 88-year-old owner, Frank Toonen, wants to sell the property and leave the money to his wife and the widow of their son, who ran the bar for years before he died in 2008. As it stands, the bar is likely to be torn down, with a new, three-story retail space built in its place. Relocating the Uptown remains a possibility but seems unlikely.

In the meantime, the Uptown continues to offer live music, and Sunday, a familiar former local will stop by for a show that's sure to fill the house. Sean Tillmann will headline in his Har Mar Superstar persona on a tour stop to promote his upcoming new album, "Dark Touches." The disc hits stores Oct. 13, and Tillman will be back in town Nov. 5 for a Triple Rock gig with Kool Keith and Nov. 6 for a proper CD-release show at the Varsity.

The Uptown also hosts a pair of CD-release shows this weekend. Local post-punks the Van Gobots sound a bit like Interpol, minus the goth tendencies, and celebrate the arrival of their debut full-length, "Guantanamo Beach Party," tonight with the Guystorm, Camel of the Sea and Pictures of Then. (The latter, by

the way, put out their sophomore album, "And the Wicked Sea," earlier this summer. It's a delightful and promising collection of Beatles-esque pop songs that seems poised to break to a wider audience. The band's song placements on MTV's "The Real World" and "The Hills" won't hurt.)

On Saturday, Franz Diego introduces his self-titled new disc at the Uptown with Alicia Steele, Alissa Paris and Greg Grease (of the Usual Suspects). While it's Diego's first proper full-length, he's hardly a newcomer. He has performed with Illuminous 3, hosted Radio K's "The Beat Box" and co-organized the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop.


More new local hip-hop arrives Saturday at the Triple Rock when No Bird Sing issues its debut. The trio features members of Abzorbr and Hyder Ali creating a distinct new sound without the use of a bass. It's pretty dark, powerful stuff. Black Blondie and Kristoff Krane are also on the bill, with Halloween, Alaska's James Diers spinning records between sets. No Bird Sing also plays an all-ages show tonight at St. Paul's Eclipse Records with Big Trouble, El Guante and Big Cats.

One more local band with a new release plays the Varsity on Saturday. The appropriately named Spectaculars roll out their sophomore album, "You Can Look Up Now," with support from More Than Lights. While it freely jumps genres, the base sound borrows heavily from Prince's otherworldly funk swagger. In a move that's becoming increasingly common, the band will give a card good for a free download of the disc to the first 200 people through the doors.

Local moviemakers Rebel Filmworks have come up with a novel idea to find new music for their upcoming release, "Full Throttle." The Alarmists, the Melismatics, Bren, Douglas Acres and Hollywood Burnout play a battle of the bands Saturday at the Fine Line. The winners will have a song featured in the film along with a possible cameo appearance.

Billy McLaughlin, the local favorite who retaught himself to play the guitar after being diagnosed with the crippling neurological disease focal dystonia, will play a free show Saturday in the new amphitheater in White Bear Township's Polar Lakes Park. It caps the second annual Township Day festival, which also features numerous performances and family activities.

James Clark, vocalist for Minneapolis rockers Throw the Fight, underwent surgery earlier this summer for testicular cancer. He's expected to make a full recovery, and his band is throwing a fundraising party tonight at the Rock in Maplewood. The St. Paul Sac Attack show will feature Throw the Fight, Far From Falling, Attention, Redborn and All the Way Rider, with free pizza from 8 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door, with proceeds helping Clark pay some of his medical bills. The band will also make a donation to the Livestrong Foundation.

Duluth trio Low returns to town Saturday to headline a fall music and movies series at the Lake Harriet Band Shell in Minneapolis. Low will perform just after 7 p.m., followed by a screening of Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic, "Jaws." It's free, with audience members encouraged to bring blankets and picnic baskets.

The Cedar Cultural Center has two shows of note next week. Wednesday night, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Roger McGuinn brings his famous 12-string Rickenbacker to town for a show with Caroline Smith. For more than a decade, the Byrds man has been recording traditional folk songs for online listeners. Those songs, along with a few Byrds tracks, are likely to pop up at this gig. Thursday, much-admired country artist Guy Clark plays the Cedar with Elizabeth Cook. Clark broke his leg last year. He has not only recovered but also has recorded a new disc, "Somedays the Song Writes You," due out later this month on Dualtone.

Pop music critic Ross Raihala can be reached at rraihala@ pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5553. Read more about the local entertainment scene at blogs.twincities.com/playlist.

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