EMP, Churchill, & Lions: Oh My!

Excuse Me Princess, Toby Churchill, Lions & Creators, and Lee Peterson rock Beaner’s

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Excuse Me Princess released their first CD on Saturday night at Beaner’s Central with Toby Churchill, Lions & Creators, and Lee Peterson all performing in support.

Not many kids in high school have released a CD under a label and headlined Beaner’s Central on a Saturday night. EMP (Excuse Me Princess) put together a show that had a great line up and a nice array of musical stylings.

“Originally Loup-Garou was going to perform,” Jack Campbell of EMP said. “But I booked it too late, so they were already broken up. Lee Peterson of Loup-Garou did a set and of course we're all in love with Toby Churchill's music and humor and everything. Lions & Creators are our really good friends from the moment we started EMP and we even used to share a violin player.”

At one point in the show EMP talked about the number of teachers they had in their audience. Because they are still in high school that is going to be something that they will contend with, but as a former teacher of Jack’s, it was nice to see all the encouragement.

“There were quite a few teachers,” Campbell said. “There was you, our English teacher Greg Jones, Kallie's piano teacher Scott Junkert, and my guitar teacher Tom. I always love having our teachers in the audience, especially because the ones we see at shows are always the ones we really like.”

Sometimes Beaner’s can be less than full, but on Saturday there wasn’t a chair available with even standing room feeling tight. The front row looked like a photo out of an Abercrombie catalog, but the stoic trendsetters only stayed through Lions & Creators and then dipped out. That gave all the EMP fans the perfect opportunity to grab front row seats for the headlining act.

This reminded me of when Trampled By Turtles opened for Cloud Cult at their CD release back in 2004 and their crowd left before Cloud Cult played. Leaving early can be regrettable if you miss out on the best part of the evening.

“The show went pretty well on Saturday,” Campbell said. “I thought there was going to be no one there, but we had a crowd of about 75 and sold like 10 CDs, which was more than we thought we would sell. The best part was getting decorations; putting up balloons, streamers, paper lanterns and stuff to celebrate and then being able to hang with the other bands.”

One seasoned journeyman of the local music scene that was impressed with EMP was Toby Thomas Churchill. The frontman for The Alrights is currently playing solo and promoting his new CD.

“Jack Campbell approached me saying he was a fan and wondered if I'd do a show with his band sometime,” Churchill said. “I was happy to oblige. We've played a couple on the same bill now. I started playing live at 18, and I think Jack and his band mates are right around there somewhere, maybe a little younger. Looking back, all I can say is, to be 17 or 18 and in a band that is out playing shows is a beautiful feeling. I thought the show was great, it had that youthful vibe I remember from my days playing at Le Petit in Superior. Remember Le Petit? No? Grandma, is that you?”

At one point Campbell acknowledged how grateful he was for Churchill and the other bands taking part in the show. Churchill even joked that he was now the old guy performing.

Churchill also has a great new album that I am going to review next week in full, but for this article I would rather talk about the show on Saturday night. I arrived too late to see Lee Peterson, but hearing Churchill’s songs live after gestating his album the last few months was a treat. The songs he performs on the CD cover many genres and styles, and it was even better seeing them played live. It isn’t often that you can listen to a performer on CD for several months and then see them perform the songs live locally.

The crowd really seemed to like Churchill’s music… Not that people got up and danced, as Beaner’s is not the place for that, but you could see that he was putting smiles on people’s faces.

Lions and Creators have a very hip sound and this was my first time seeing them in some time. I had seen them in the past, but they have a much more polished feel now that they are living in the Twin Cities. The lead singer, Tanner Groehler, talked of having bronchitis and how this his first show in several weeks, but it didn’t show in his performance.

The trendy crowd up front listened intently, but motionless, to Lions’ music. A few knew all of the words to their songs and seemed dedicated to the band. They had their feet on the stage showing that they knew the band well enough to be comfortable in their surroundings.

Lions & Creators play softly through the beginning of many of their songs and end with a jamming, harder tone. At times this left me wanting a few more brash songs to be played that way the entire way through. I could picture them playing aroundMinneapolis in the same type of intimate environment.

EMP has a fun, upbeat sound that continually evolves. They were missing their fiddle player, but had Kallie Gunsolus on the synth creating a great addition. Gunsolus complimented Campbell’s singing in the sounds she created and it gave a rich sound to the band.

“We added Kallie on synth last February with a show at Teatro Zuccone,” Campbellsaid. “But we had already made the record so she hasn't been in a lot of press for the band. We're making another record soon, so she'll start getting some recognition. She's already a huge part of the band, even though we're still working on mixing volumes. Usually it's perfect, but two weeks ago we tried putting her through a Big Muff distortion pedal and we're still working out the kinks with that.”

In EMP Jack Campbell plays guitar and on bass he is accompanied by Sam Wattrus. At one point in the show an audience member asked if the two were brothers due to their identical blond hair. Campbell lied and said they were in fact brothers.

“People do ask us if we're brothers a lot,” Campbell said. “I'm terrible at lying though, so whenever we lie about it, it always turns into an awkward laughing situation, sadly.”

The band is rounded out on drums by Ben Ouellette, but was missing Greta Konkler on violin. Go to www.bandcamp.com to purchase EMP’s CD or in downloadable form. Check back next week for Toby Churchill’s solo CD review and a full review of EMP’s CD to follow. Go to www.thefountainheads.com for video and more pictures from the show.