Kurt Vatland & The Alrights

The Alrights & Kurt Vatland:

Braving the wind chill!

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

There comes a time when the weather gets so cold that people don’t even leave their houses. Luckily for The Alrights and Kurt Vatland Saturday (Feb. 3rd) at Carmody’s was packed with some tough Minnesotans. Many kept warm just by dancing the night away.

When talking to The Alrights’ Danny Cosgrove (Bass), he said that the night before playing at the Rox in St. Cloud was somewhat slow. Every bar in St. Cloud was virtually empty on Friday, making for a disappointing evening. Well, slow until they had a three level after-bar party at the Kelly Inn that lasted the entire night.

Saturday night in Duluth though Carmody’s had a packed house. There were several people talking about how this was one of the busier nights they had seen at the new Irish pub on Superior. Carmody’s has ample seating and a warm, Celtic atmosphere. Big tables and plenty of chairs provide enough seating to relax and enjoy the music. After an interlude of jazz, Kurt Vatland opened the evening show playing solo on an acoustic guitar. With several new songs it was a nice introduction to the evening of rock and roll. Kurt was the lead singer of the band Velveteen from 1997 through 2003. He then went on to front Black Box Found for a year or two before finally going solo. With many connections in the recording industry he always has something brewing, but a show in Duluth is a special treat.

Kurt’s new songs are very insightful and heartfelt. His song “Cherry Farewell” was written around the time he was up in Duluth at a halfway house battling alcoholism. When he would play live there would be a crowd of people that he had just met listening attentively. They were in his same situation and the song identified the difficulties of dealing with addiction. As a musician it is difficult to not drink. When your bread and butter come from playing for people drinking the internal struggle to stay on the wagon is challenging. Kurt sings in “Cherry Farewell” about how drinking helped him write imaginative songs and the struggle he lives with. He sings, “My favorite one – desperation - Coming to me at last call, my inspiration - drowning in my own alcohol.” His next show is on February 24th with Jesse Lang (Kid Johnny’s sister) at Bunkers in Minneapolis.

After Kurt engaged the crowd it was time for local favs The Alrights to warm up the night. When they took the stage people immediately rushed up in front of the stage and started to dance. I suppose people isn’t specific enough, tons of women rushed up front to dance. The bar was full and about 30 people were dancing away, many even braving the cold to wear scanty bar tops. This is noteworthy as The Alrights have been playing around Duluth almost weekly for over two years now and their following is growing. Wherever they play the crowds are turning out in droves, not quite TBT at its height, but getting there.

The Alrights are playing many new hits as they prepare to release a new CD this year. Songs dealing with love, science, and finding Superman are a bit different from their extremely popular High School debut. With a busy touring schedule the band is getting around, and spreading their infective music wherever they go.

At the end of the evening the only sad sight was a bouncer yelling at patrons to leave the bar. I have been amazed in Duluth that I had yet to go to a bar where the bouncer(s) had flexed their authority and yelled to get people out. Well, almost three years in and finally someone was callous enough to continually yell, “Get Out.” Most nights you feel bad for the trapped bouncer who has to spend his whole night working extra hard checking for minors and looking ominous. When the weather is -20 outside though it may have been a sign of good will to show some compassion. Other than that last “Debbie Downer” the night was a big success.