New Year's @ R.T. Quinlan's

Were you at R.T. Quinlan’s for New Year’s Eve too?

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

The Black Eyed Snakes and The Acceleratti and The Surfactants rocked in the New Year at RT Quinlan’s and were the toast of the town.

Usually when attending an event on New Year’s Eve where there are more stocking-caps than tuxedoes one wouldn’t expect to have the mayor walk by them. Times have changed and with the locals piling in and packing the venue it showed that RT’s was the place to be.

In Minneapolis on the same evening The Fineline had Trampled By Turtles with an open bar and an extremely stiff cover charge. After watching The Acceleratti and The Black Eyed Snakes at RT’s for $5, I was reminded how lucky we are to have that caliber of bands up here.

RT’s, which is kind of like Duluth’s own Cavern Club (See: Beatles in Liverpool) with the stone wall behind the stage and being below street level, is a very cool location. The entire stage/dance floor area is perfect how it is set below the bar and the louder part of the sound was contained in that spot as well. It was shocking to be sitting at the bar and to be able to talk to the person you are with and actually hear them. Then to have the ability to go down on the floor and be a part of the mass made it perfect.

The opening band of the evening was PBR touting, surf-rockabilly playing, The Acceleratti. Lead singer Chad Lyons was dressed in a black suit and looked like he had just left a meeting of the mob. This was very different from what he wore a few years ago when I first saw him and he was dancing on the stage shirtless in denim overalls. The skills of this band reminded me how fortunate we are to have groups like this playing around town.

The last few weeks we have been looking back at the past decade of music and while talking to Mark Lindquist he brought up the Black Labels and their weekly shows at the Red Lion as being a highlight. While the members have changed slightly, The Acceleratti is still the core of what made up the Labels. Lyons is the biggest change and is an awesome frontman. He exudes a rough aura on stage and is always entertaining to watch.

About 5 years ago when Link Wray came to town the Labels were the opening band. I had just seen Dick Dale tear down the Cabooze in Minneapolis and was amazed that Link Wray was playing the Nor Shor. Shortly after the show Wray died and Dale was diagnosed with cancer, although he is currently doing better. That era of music (early 1960s surf rock) really is underestimated by most scholars and often times overshadowed by the British Invasion that came a few years later or Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. While watching the documentary It Might Get Loud and listening to Jimmy Page dissect a Wray tune I was reminded of how important this music was and is. The Acceleratti keep the spirit alive and over the many times I have seen them perform I have always been impressed.

After The Acceleratti finished up their set and rang in the New Year it was The Black Eyed Snakes who took the stage and fanned the already burning flame of rock. This performance was not as “moshy” as the one at Luce’ about a month ago. Maybe it was because the show was at RT’s, maybe because it was New Year’s, but for some reason the demons were not out in full effect. Sparhawk still put on an excellent show and reminded the audience of why this was the place to be. I did notice that Sparhawk doesn’t do the big solos that the band plays. He is a great frontman, but the band (Bob Olson, Brad Nelson, and Justin Sparhawk) sitting behind him creates the sound that possesses Sparhawk and the audience.

There was one side observation I had to make from the evening of something that I have seen at the bars since I began going to them many years ago: The Old Man Stalker.

In St. Cloud there was a party house known infamously as 805. It usually had 8 college-aged renters packed into the formerly single family house and was known best for a lofted couch area in the living room. There would often times be 30 people in that small living room with a full band playing into the wee hours.

Usually when all of the young college kids were feeling the effects of the alcohol this much, much older gentleman would show up at the party. He was known as “Sweet Papa” and played in a local blues band. Papa was always dressed all in black and carried around a non-alcoholic O’Doul’s as he would saunter in at around 3am in the morning. He would then proceed to flirt with the young drunken’ college girls and grope them or try to kiss them. He disgusted me as he just seemed like a predator among the crowd. I had totally forgotten about him until on New Year’s I noticed a much older version at RT's.

This guy had long gray hair, not many bottom teeth, and a perfect hunting post with one of the few seats open at the bar. Young girl after young girl would try to make their way to the bar to order a drink only to hassled by the old man. At one point a girl obliged the constant nagging and went in to give grandpa a hug while waiting to be served. The hug was quickly followed by a kiss on the cheek and a very unhappy face from the girl.

There were two ways to look at this, the first would be that it is New Year’s and even old guys deserve a kiss. The other way was to feel pity for the girls having to put up with these kinds of shenanigans just to order a drink. To those of you out there who are still young be warned, the predators control the barstools… be careful when ordering a drink.

Needless to say Grandpa Groper seemed harmless, but at least put in some false teeth if you are going to try to make out with girls who could be your grandchild. RT’s was the place to be on New Year’s, and should be the place to be again with its great set up.