Hojas Rojas vs. Savage Grace

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

In one corner on Central we had indie-Flaming-Lipish/Minneapolis-dervish: Hojas Rojas and in the other corner we had the feathered hair, tank tops, and tapered jeans: Savage Grace… It was a battle of the ages.

Beaner’s Central is always the most calming place to watch live music in the area. You feel comfortable in that environment sipping a beer or glass of wine to indie music, and it always adds a breath of sophistication to any evening.

Arriving just before Hojas Rojas took the stage one could feel the energy and nerves from the band by the way they paced the moderately sized coffee shop up and down. There were rows of empty chairs up front, while a small audience was scattered in various places around the room.

There were a few musicians from local bands in the room too, but overall the audience was a hodge podge of random seekers.

The band opened well, with some electronic rockish tunes that swung along handsomely. There were moments when your foot would tap, and then there were other times when I found myself drifting away from the music.

The band itself felt sharp and retro-cool in their sound. They used a recoded track that began playing before each song started, and then it continued throughout the entire piece.

Hojas Rojas also had this eighties underground vibe that was mixed with modern revival rock. You could hear bands from the Lips to the Pixies to the Strokes swirling around in a huge cup of music.

The band itself consists of D.J. Kukielka (Band Leader), New Congress member Manuel Guzman on bass, Centurions/Spikedriver skinman Tim Hovanetz, razor-sharp axeman T.J. Shaffer, and other contributors. They are hard to describe, but that is the way they like it.

For a band that touts themselves as for people who love The White Stripes and Brian Wilson though, I found that the band sounded like neither of them.

Altogether the band was extremely tight, but at times the singing from Kukielka was inconsistent. Like Jack White of the White Stripes, Kukielka was all over the stage, and seemed to be coordinating several things at once. After a few songs were played there was a time when it felt as though he lost focus of the piece he was doing, which was when the audience waned a bit.

Watching Hojas Rojas live the band sounds a bit rough, but their recorded songs were more electric and produced. Where Kukielka’s voice was ok live, on the album he has a sound more Strokish from the vocals, but not to the point of the Black Eyed Snakes.

After their show ended we meandered across the street to the Gopher Bar and Savage Grace playing.

Going from modern indie Minneapolis rock one minute to hair band covers the next is quite the experience. Replacing tranquil beers with gritty rail drinks always makes the evening speed up toward the end.

One notable observation about the Gopher Bar is that even though there is a smoking ban and most bars have lost the smell, the Gopher still has that old fashioned second-hand odor to it. This was my first time venturing into the Gopher, and I found it a very nice establishment. The sound was excellent and Savage Grace filled out the bill as, “everything I thought a bar would be when I was a kid.”

It felt at times like the Gopher was a place where young people passed through on their way to Mr. D’s, and night-owls waited to pounce. The bar had plenty of room to sit down, but seats were not empty in any great number.

One thing I need to tangent on here is about how funny some people are who use a barstool as a way to lure in prey. Usually someone who is a well-seasoned vet will leave one barstool open when there are none around to entice someone to sit down. Not just anyone can sit down though, only the ones whom the predator deems worthy.

Luckily the Gopher had ample seating around the bar so this wasn’t a problem, but there were a few vultures waiting for something to turn up.

Savage Grace rocked as the rail-drinks began to kick in. Beer and indie music is great, but hard liquor and eighties-hair-sprayed rock really makes a person tipsy. Forget 50 Cent, the club and a bottle full of Bud; give me Savage Grace, The Gopher, and a Jack & Coke…

This weekend the Gopher Bar has Virgil Caine performing on Friday night and Beaner’s Central has Chris Trapper… Compare for yourself.