“Justify Your Shitty Scene” came to me one morning just as I was starting to drag my ass out of bed: a simple play on “Justify Your Shitty Taste.” A few minutes of consideration led me to email Andrew with a pitch based on the premise that hundreds of towns–Peoria, Kiev, Abu Dabi, wherever–have extreme music scenes that merit at least a few paragraphs. He said “yes,” and suggested that I do the first one. What you see below is the result. As always, apologies for any and all omissions. Believe me, they are legion.
“When Vern came in tonight, people were literally shooting right past his head,” host Tim Honebrink explains one-fifth of the way through Root of All Evil‘s Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. “You know, that’s what it takes to do a show like this.” Given the weekly radio metal survey’s length (five-hours), time slot (1 to 6 a.m., Sunday mornings), and pay rate ($00.00, split among Honebrink and revolving regulars Vernon Defoe, Brian Hueller, John Allen and Elena Erofeeva), it also clearly takes dedication.
Honebrink and company aren’t alone: Labors of love play a huge role in keeping the Twin Cities’ extreme music scene alive and well. And while Root’s 25-year run is extraordinary by any metro’s standards, it’s hardly our only long-lived entity. The punks behind Profane Existence have never been squeamish about flux: they started out publishing a locally free tabloid (and, with MRR, Book Your Own Fucking Life) before evolving into the label/distro/online information hub they are today. But over their 23 years, they’ve remained true to the values that have helped Minneapolis and Saint Paul maintain one of the planet’s most vibrant crust scenes. At 18, Extreme Noise Records is no spring chicken, either. While pretty much every independent record store in these parts offers at least a little space to metal and its affinities, the volunteer-run co-op trafficks exclusively in punk and metal.
Profane Existence’s 21st Birthday Party…
Even our most renowned musical entity does its part and then some. Given that it’s been operating continuously since 1970 (apart from one tumultuous two-week interval in 2005 that found the club reopening with a GWAR show), First Avenue’s age in human years puts it on par with, like, Dracula—as in way beyond the point where any ordinary venue would have embraced safe music and high prices. Instead, general manager and chief talent buyer Nate Kranz insists on bringing in everybody from Atlas Moth to Meshuggah while keeping everything from tickets to food (which they’re actually a bit cutthroat about) affordable. From frequent Extreme Noise collaborator the Triple Rock Social Club (co-owned by Dillinger 4 members Gretchen and Erik Funk) to Saint Paul’s Turf Club by way of the Varsity Theater, the Kitty Cat Klub (by way of monthly celebration of insufficient light: Perish), and Grumpy’s Downtown—part of a nanochain run by Amphetamine Reptile founder Tom Hazelmyer and host to free shows every Saturday night—our venues strive to keep their offerings within reach of the people who’ll appreciate them most.
A Typical Minneapolis Afternoon…
And all that shit in the paragraph above doesn’t even factor in Station 4, where advance tickets for the Decibel Magazine Tour—featuring Behemoth, Watain, the Devil’s Blood, and In Solitude—are currently on sale for a paltry 20 bucks. Not only is the club our most enduringly metal-friendly venue—it’s one of very few signs of life in downtown Saint Paul after dark.
Still, while all the aboveground options could hardly be better, it’s house shows that form much of the scene’s backbone—for touring bands (Fuck the Facts and Human Quena Orchestra, to name but two) and locals alike. Of the latter, we have several (not counting hardcore, crust, noise, power electronics and noise-rock assets—like local labels, all too numerous to address without turning this post into a book) ranging from Sumeriancore pacesetters After the Burial to instrumental doom metal stalwarts Zebulon Pike by way of heavy psych evangelists Thunderbolt Pagoda—not to mention extremist trans-genre solo acts per Cordell Klier (ex-Azrael) and S/M (ex-Treachery).
Do Your Town’s Foodfests Sound Like This?
It’s the last’s affinity for black metal that points to our greatest strength: As home to False, Celestiial, Azrael, Maledicere, Battlefields, Crusader No Remorse, Heatdeath, Burning Bethlehem, Ex-Cop, Book of Sand, Teratism, Blood Folke, Clump, Lore and a few dozen other bands—not to mention mysterious northern Minnesotan entity K.R. Grauwacke—we have enough in the way of black and blackened assets to compete with fucking Oslo (which kinda makes sense, given the metro’s ethnic makeup).
Some of the above tour regularly. Some never play out at all. Some play bars, some only house shows. Some wear corpsepaint. Others don’t. Some are anarcho/vegan/feminist, while at least a couple others may or may not skew a little NS, depending on who’s talking and what day of the week it is. What matters is that we have more black metal bands per capita than any other city in the North America, along with places for them to perform in and people to see/hear them. Style and sound vary wildly, too—from tr00est, recorded-in-a-Folgers-can to stuff produced by the likes of Sanford Parker, from second-wave trad (Crusader No Remorse) to blackened noise (Ex-Cop).
If This Doesn’t Bug You, You Might Belong Here
Thanks to HeatdeatH’s Andrew Broder, who’s been folding a little into main squeeze Fog for some time now, blackness is even trickling down (manifesto-free, BTW) to our indie rock world. In local metal, it’s becoming ubiquitous—as tonight’s Root of All Evil demonstrates magnificently. Before relocating to Valhalla, show founder (and all around pillar of metal in Minnesota) Earl Root provided for succession and did a damn good job of it. But unlike their mentor, who rarely played any BM before the show’s second or third hour, Honebrink and accomplices lead off with Secrets of the Moon’s “Seven Bells” and never back off the black for long. They even manage to work it into their Saint Patrick Day theme in a manner that exemplifies everything good about the Twin Cities. Is there anyplace else on the planet where you could just randomly turn on the radio shortly before dawn on a Sunday and get a triple shot of fucking Primordial?
Gone, But Neither Far Nor Forgotten…
Note: While by no means metal-exclusive, Minneapolis-based graphic powerhouse Burlesque of North America merits a hearty shout-out—for its work for the likes of Isis, the Melvins and Boris, as well as collaborations with John Baizley, Seldon Hunt, and Jacob Bannon.