The Pistol Whippin Party Penguins’ Yuletide Sweater Ball takes over the Icehouse


A band’s name can be an important marketing tool. Last night’s show at the Icehouse showcased that in spades. Thursday morning I was updating TCM’s assignment sheet where we keep track of upcoming shows. I had a rather busy week and no intention to venture out to a show tonight. After adding shows of at the “big” venues I scrolled through the Icehouse’s calendar for hidden gems and local favorites when a band’s name jumped from my screen at me. The Pistol Whippin Party Penguins? I almost had to wipe coffee off my monitor and of course I had to find out more. Bluegrass? Local? Lively? Scratch my lack of plans, I have to see those guys live……

So I found myself at the Icehouse in a crowd sporting a mix of flanel and ugly Christmas sweaters. Opening the night was Duluth’s Feeding Leroy. Their set started with a couple of slower, smooth numbers that reminded me of summer nights at the North Shore. Is there such a thing as Northwoods Bluegrass? Well, there is now if my opinion matters.  Their music got more lively as the set progressed and one dancer on the floor became several, with frequent hoots and hollers from the crowd showing fans had a great time.

The change in pace when The Pistol Whippin Party Penguins took the stage had 2 clear indicators. The first song had something to do with waking up a little chicken, and there was a guy doing a backflip on the dance floor. The summer night brought on by the opener changed into a good old fashioned Hoedown complete with signature jerky leg movement bluegrass dancing.

Turns out this was far from the first Yuletide ball held by the band and a couple of fans had been at all of them. There was a best Christmas Outfit contest. The Penguins celebrated the release of their new album “Ragged Old Road” and the setlist was heavy on new songs. The quips from the stage between songs were quite entertaining. Rides back to Duluth in Feeding Leroy’’s van were offered and kudos to The Icehouse (Fanciest Place we’ve ever been) and the first time you can get a good cocktail at a Penguins show was given. While Bluegrass may appear to be “simple” music weaving 8 performers, their instruments and their voices into one coherent sound it a huge challenge and the Penguins were quite up to the task. The crowds boisterous mood matched the vibe from the stage.

All in all everyone (including myself) had a great time. So to sum up: No Pistols were seen, nor was flightless waterfowl. Any whippin was done consensually and with a safe word, but boy, there sure was a party………