Self-Evident Reflects Back On 25 Years At The Hook & Ladder


Late night concerts can be dreadful as I’ve become accustomed to rising earlier these days. However, this is one I was glad to see had a late start. After shooting the Loons game, which wrapped up at 9:00pm, I darted off to my vehicle that was parked on Marshall Ave. An easy 9 minute drive on Marshall which then turns into Lake St as the bridge crosses the river from Saint Paul to Minneapolis. This quick jaunt left me with plenty of time to get acquainted with The Hook & Ladder. Old historic buildings that have been repurposed is something I’m always intrigued with. This old Minneapolis firehouse has been converted into three indoor performance spaces as well as an outdoor one. 

This was the location where Self-Evident was celebrating 25 years as a band and it’s amazing to reflect on all the wonderful music they’ve created over the years. An evening of memories came flooding back for myself and it appeared to be the case for a number of others in the crowd as well.

Minneapolis based Dead History started off the night and quickly got things rolling. These veteran musicians featured in a number of bands from over the years are still doing what they love. It was a nostalgic feeling hearing this music as they were setting the stage for Self-Evident. Certainly this is a band to explore further as they have well crafted songs that are worthy of a follow up.

Vocalist Brad Senne made a comment before they played “Back to Center” that it was a favorite of his. A favorite indeed as I share that sentiment, a very enjoyable one to listen to as were a number of their songs from the night. 

Up next was Traindodge, a familiar group from their past performances with Self-Evident. A night like tonight ought to have such a band sharing the stage for the Self-Evident anniversary show. The Oklahoma City four piece put on a great show, just as I recalled from the past.

There were wide grins across many faces as the audience showed their appreciation in between songs. Seeing the other bands on the bill showing their admiration and respect as the other bands play is pleasant to see. Self-Evident’s vocalist/guitarist was really getting into the songs, no doubt because of being a fan as well as friends with Traindodge after so many years of sharing the stage. After vocalist/guitarist Jason Smith mentioned they had one more song, he followed up by exclaiming “long live Self-Evident!”

While I haven’t been there for the full 25 years, the 19 that I’ve been listening to Self-Evident certainly has been a musical journey. I am so very grateful that Self-Evident are continuing to produce such quality albums. It’s been great to watch them grow in their craft and hear them create new amazing music over the years. Their repertoire has been a staple in my music collection while also yielding some of my absolute favorite tracks overall. 

A good amount of folks came out to indulge themselves on a late Saturday night for some live music. The Minneapolis band developed a setlist that went back over the span of five albums and as far back as 2005’s Epistemology. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the selection of songs presented to them. Bopping their heads and tapping their feet were often noticed while they sang along.  The audience began to clap to the beat during the outro section of “We Built a Fortress on Short Notice” which got an enthusiastic smile out of Conrad Mach as he played the calm and contemplative closing riff. Once again, the crowd was heavily engaged with grins as they took in the music. It was also delightful to see the adoration for bassist Tom Berg’s other creative outlet, Falling Knife Brewing Company. Cans of Verbel Tip and Hidden Temple often adorned the stage from all three bands over the course of the night. They were also clutched in the hands of people in the crowd and raised them high in approval after each song if they had no free hands to clap with. Joy and laughter permeated the confines of the performance space and soothing swaying during the calmer sections. It was a wonderful evening full of live renditions of a so many classic Self-Evident songs and newer ones as well.

It’s difficult for me to precisely find the words to describe what Self-Evident’s music does in my head, it’s a rare experience for me to find out there in the world of music but I know it when I hear it. Specifically to Self-Evident it’s the combination of guitars dancing around the bass and drums on their own while syncing up now and then, a rhythmic counterpoint of sorts which creates for an interesting flow through the songs. It’s also the timbre, the overall sonic quality the instruments generate in the hands of these talented folks. Most importantly the melodies also have to have that emotive element to fully lure me in. These are qualities that many songs in Self-Evident’s catalogue possess. All this is more prevalent in a live setting when you can see the magic happen in a tangible space and wonder how they pull it off. 

The riffs that Conrad Mach comes up with is something that I’m absolutely blown away by. Watching the way his fingers sprawl out across the fretboard to create such rich chords. His vocals have become richer and fuller over the years yet still provides a more intense raspy shout when needed.

Tom Berg’s bass lines are full of imagination and fills out the sound of this three piece so well. His bass compositions are integral to the melodies and guitar riffs as much as it is to the rhythm of the band. 

Ben Johnston’s intricate style on the kit makes for a great sounding band backed by a highly skilled drummer. He has a very enjoyable technique that is also fascinating to watch live. Such as the long drawn out arm movements that strike suddenly. It dawned on me while watching his performance that I find it’s reminiscent of a circular motion, it’s smooth and precise. Seconds later Conrad sang “when you’re caught in a circle”. While out of context of the song’s lyrics, it was an intriguing coincidence as I was caught up watching Ben’s performance. With all these elements combined I often find myself getting swept away with their music. 

These are all things I came to know and love from the first album I purchased in 2003, Angular. Through the years they have mastered this vibe and by 2018 I was completely blown away by their latest album, Lost Inside The Machinery. I sincerely hope they have more in them to create and record another album or more. The direction they’ve been headed in has me very eager to get the next installment. If not, it’s been a blessing to have them cover the walls of my existence with such beautifully crafted musical tapestries for such an unrivaled length of time. 

On a night full of nostalgia, I recalled catching their shows at various local venues over the years such as Big V’s, Station 4, The Triple Rock Social Club and The Uptown Bar. In another nod to the past, Johnston wore a Clair de Lune shirt. A band he was part of years ago who I also caught at the Uptown Bar on occasion. All those old stomping grounds have closed up shop but this trio is still churning out great tunes and amazing live renditions of them. As one of the locally based bands that has drawn me in so much, I’m thrilled to see them with such a long productive run and have the opportunity to catch them live with relative ease. It’s inevitable, so whenever that day finally comes that they close up shop too, at least I can still enjoy their tunes while I drink Tom Berg’s beer from Falling Knife Brewing Company to keep that nostalgia trip going.