Minneapolis/St. Paul is a great area for music. There are a lot of great national acts that swing through town in addition to the local bands that we are fortunate to see and hear on a regular basis. In 2018, I had the opportunity to photograph a lot of great bands – bands that I have followed and musically lusted after for years. Shooting Metallica, Journey, Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, Robert Plant, The Pretenders, The Eagles, Z Z Top, Pitbull, Rod Stewart, Pink, etc. were a dream come true and I had to pinch myself at times to actually believe it was happening. So being the end of the year and counting blessings, I have to thank Twin Cities Media, specifically Markus Akre and Dave Rubene for allowing me to live out my dreams and shooting all these legends. You guys are the best and thanks for all you do! And a big thanks to all the writers! I’m a photographer and not a writer, which will soon become evident. I like concentrating on the shots and not have to worry about writing a review and Twin Cities Media has some incredible writers.
It was great seeing both old and new artists up close and live. Seeing Dare Force playing again after following them in the 80s was unreal. Watching Hall and Oates after playing their songs over and over years ago was surreal. And seeing Kansas again 30 years after my first Kansas concert was indescribable. I just sat in awe listening to Kansas and they still sounded so great. So many memories and great shows it was hard to narrow it down to 5. The most memorable shows for me are the “hold my beer”, or “did I just see that” sort of moments that you talk about for years afterwards. The Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow probably provided the most WTF moments, but they didn’t play any instruments or sing, so I had to eliminate them. In no particular order, my top 5 for 2018:
1) Impaler. Impaler is what you get when you cross WWE with Heavy Metal. Any band that incorporates folding chairs in their act is a band that I love. The disemboweling, shrunken head beer bongs, fire breathing and clothes line hits on each other are just icing on the cake. And they have been doing it for years! Choking a band member with his own intestines is something most other bands wouldn’t touch. But you expect it from Impaler. And they keep adding new things every time I see them. Impaler is a Minnesota treasure with a little blood on the side. Or maybe a LOT of blood. And some internal organs.
2) Peelander-Z. Peelander-Z didn’t use folding chairs or have any intentional disembowelments, but one could have happened several times throughout the show by accident. Peelander-Z is a Japanese punk band based in Austin, Texas. The band members are Peelander-Yellow, Peelander-Red, and Peelander-Blue. They bill themselves as a “Japanese Action Comic Punk band hailing from the Z area of Planet Peelander”. The lead singer Peelander-Yellow spent much of the night in the crowd. Body surfing at one point, organizing a large circle that ran/walked, then collapsed on the floor. But his biggest accomplishment was going to the back of the Turf Club, getting on a table and having 10 members of the audience carry him, running from the back of the Turf Club to the stage. Then throwing him onto the stage, into a set of bowling pins. He looked dazed and I thought he may pass out, but then recovered quickly. It was an odd night and hard to explain, but I laughed more than I have in a long time. Peelander-Z is an event to behold.
3) Metalachi. Metalachi is “The World’s First and Only Heavy Metal Mariachi Band”. They are rude, crude, sexist and a blast. They involved the crowd throughout their set, bringing people on stage and had an ongoing banter with them. My only regret is not seeing Kyla Vera play Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir on the violin, apparently due to time. It’s not every day that you hear songs by Metallica, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Queen, Led Zeppelin and dozens of others played by a Mariachi band. Metalachi pulled it off and the crowd loved it, which was a pretty even mix of men and women. Their mic stands were adorned with women’s bras, which they said were from previous shows. This was proved to be true by a number of women in the crowd who threw their undergarments at them and asked to be brought on stage. Metalachi is a great time and definitely unique.
4) Mac Sabbath. Mac Sabbath is what fast food should be. Demented looking fast food characters squirt fluids from ketchup and mustard containers into the crowd, drinking beer poured down a 10-foot straw, all while standing behind a grill and playing Black Sabbath songs with the lyrics rewritten to contain fast food references. The band members are Ronald Osbourne, Slayer MacCheeze, Grimalice and Catburglar. The lead singer is a demented looking clown with red hair and the other band members resemble characters from a fast food restaurant with yellow arches. Their songs include “Frying Pan” (sounded a lot like Iron Man), “Pair a Buns” (Paranoid), “Sweet Beef” (Sweet Leaf), “Never Say Diet” (Never Say Die) and “Zipping Up the Uniform” (Symptom of the Universe). And they sounded pretty good considering the bulky suits worn by the band. Another really great band if you like a little entertainment with your music. Or food.
5) Dropkick Murphys. I’m a huge fan of Dropkick Murphys. They may not have the theatrics of the other bands, but they are very entertaining and I love their music. And to further cement them as one of my top 5 favorites, they toured with Flogging Molly. Seeing the 2 together was a Celtic Punk dream come true. Dropkick Murphys is a beer guzzling, fightin’, screaming at the top of their lungs, in your face experience. Lead singers Ken Casey and Al Barr spent a great deal of time in the crowd shaking hands and high fiving the crowd. The rest of the band jumped and posed, rarely standing still. The band incorporates bagpipes, an accordion and a mandolin, along with guitars and bass. They had a strong set with no letup during the entire show. At the end, the crowd looked drunk and exhausted and ready to do it all over again.