A Strange Night @ RT’s

A Strange Night @ RT’s

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Last Saturday at RT Quinlan’s a guitarist was dressed as a school-girl with a very short dress on. It was frightening because HE was well over 6 feet tall, cordless, and on the move.

This wasn’t Alice Cooper in a dress, or even David Bowie - this wasn’t even Adam Lambert... This was a Minneapolis band called Fuzzy Machete, whose music was even stranger than the stand-out guitarist..

At that point one would just look away, but then the guitarist proceeded to hop off the stage and walk through the bar playing his (her?) cordless guitar.

So what made me attend this show?

For several years I’ve know Kris Cabak, the bass player in the middle act of the evening, JNH Band. He had previously played in a cover-band for the last few years in the Twin Cities, but this was one of his first shows with this new group. JNH Band had two acoustic guitar players that mixed their originals with their covers smoothly. You could see them going over very well at the Rex Bar filled with a college-aged crowd. This was winter break, however, so there were not many students in attendance.

JNH Band have a sound that is appealing to any audience. They are just moving to their new format and hopefully will return to the area soon.

The opening band for the show was a duo of guitar and drums with some didgeridoo mixed in. Yes, one of those Australian, long, wooden things from Crocodile Dundee (I just aged myself horribly) even appeared. That band was interesting, and drew a slight crowd as the opener.

In the end Cabak and the other performers didn’t make much for the show as they drew a modest crowd at best. Luckily he didn’t have to pay for a hotel, but is band mates weren’t as lucky.

I suppose playing on a stage for a handful of people in our beautiful city of Duluth is payment enough though, right?

Playing in a band isn’t an easy gig, and this is a tough town to make a buck. Sure the big bands like Trampled By Turtles or Cloud Cult make a decent payday, but most other groups rarely make a dime. With all the broken or stolen gear, among other expenses, being in a band is one expensive hobby. What band can take off work from their job, travel in van, get a hotel, and tour these days?

This has nothing to do with RT’s, which I think is one of the coolest venues in town, but more about the state of music and art today. Who advertises and gets people out to shows when an out of town band visits? What makes a bar packed on one weekend and empty the next?

Too many variables I suppose.


Billy Southern @ Thirsty Pagan Brewery

On Friday night at TPB Billy Southern was playing for the dinner crowd. He’s planning on recording soon, using the money that a few people drop in his pitcher. There was a new fender amp that he was breaking in, and it sounded very smooth with his acoustic songs.

Another Billy sang it best, “And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar.. And say, man, what are you doin’ here? Oh, la la la, de de da...La la, de de da da da…”

“I grew up in Duluth,” Southern said. “Though I spent a lot of time over seas while in the service. I lived in Norway for about 5 years, Shanghai, China for a year andTokyo for 4 months. I started playing guitar while in the Marine Corps because I was bored and poor. I bought a car and couldn’t afford the insurance, so I worked a side job. I don’t know how things are now, but back then the military didn’t pay enlisted men very much.”

A lot of musicians begin playing the guitar and earn their calluses on a few well known songs, Southern’s story is similar.

“I’ve been playing since I was 20. I came home on leave and found an old acoustic guitar my dad had. He showed me how to play “Day Tripper”, and I was hooked. I brought that guitar back to base in California and found a guy in my unit who could really play. He started showing me all kinds of tunes.”

From a man dressed as a scary Britney Spears to Billy Southern and a well-worn baseball cap, this area sure has some diverse music. www.thefountainheads.com