Five hundred and ninety-five days.
That’s how long it’s been since I last covered a show for Music In Minnesota. I’m sure you don’t need me to go into detail explaining why that’s been the case, so instead, I’ll simply echo the sentiment many other music journalists and photographers have shared over the last few weeks: it feels so damn good to be back!
Over the last eighteen months, both Gully Boys & VIAL have cemented their place as two of the hottest acts that Minneapolis has to offer. Now label-mates on Philadelphia’s Get Better Records, the members of each band have worked feverishly throughout the pandemic to stay active within their communities, perform virtually when they could, as well as find the time (and inspiration) to get new music written and recorded.
Fortunately for all of us, they’ve both absolutely nailed that last part.
The latest single from Gully Boys, “Russian Doll,” is a fiery, grunge-infused punk track that has been getting airplay all over the Twin Cities, and is only the first of what’s sure to be many impressive songs off their upcoming EP, Favorite Son, due out September 10th.
Not to be outdone, though, VIAL has also dropped a handful of singles over the last few months, including the anthemic, queer love song “Violet” and subsequent music video set at Skateville in Burnsville. This all culminated with the release of their sophomore effort, Loudmouth, a ferocious, pop-fueled, punk rock record earlier this week, which the band celebrated last night at Fine Line.
I ended up getting to the venue just in time to grab a quick beer, mingle with a couple of friends I haven’t seen since last March, and set up shop before VIAL took the stage.
Despite existing almost entirely during a time in which performing live shows was impossible, what struck me immediately was the ability the band has at commanding the stage. As soon as they stepped out and blasted off into their song “Ego Death,” the sold-out crowd was instantly eating out of their (sanitized) hands.
Ripping through the entire Loudmouth tracklist from cover to cover, each member of VIAL emphatically took turns singing vocals and playing different instruments, as well as telling jokes, explaining the inspiration of different tracks on the album, and thanking members of their team in between songs as the buzz from their amps reverberated off the walls of the venue.
They even had prepared material to properly “stall” the audience while sound techs attended to the various technical difficulties which unfortunately plagued KT’s guitar throughout the performance.
The highlight of the show for me, though, had to be the performance of one of my favorite tracks off their sophomore release, “Planet Drool.”
Between the sarcastic “Patty Cake” inspired opening in which KT & Taylor clapped hands and chanted “You’re not punk, you’re not queer, nobody even wants you here!” and the climax of the song where the entire band makes an assertive declaration to “eat my ass and suck my dick!” it’s a track that shows you everything you need to know about VIAL; they’re playing by their own rules, and fuck you about it.
As the closing notes of the song “Grow Up” from VIAL’s debut rang through the venue, I was struggling to put together a list of bands in my head that was worthy of following up such a thoroughly spectacular performance. Luckily for us, though, one of the bands near the very top of that list was just gearing up to take the stage.
Gully Boys have been carving out their place in the consciousness of every music fan both here in the Twin Cities and across the country for years now. They went from not knowing how to play their respective instruments in 2016 to being voted ‘Minnesota’s Best New Band’ by City Pages in 2018, and haven’t come anywhere near slowing down since then.
After releasing their debut LP Not So Brave in the Fall of 2018, Gully Boys played just about every single venue I can think of over the next year and a half, both supporting larger, national touring acts, and selling out venues all on their own. A global pandemic couldn’t even slow them down, with the band performing multiple virtual shows, releasing singles, and plotting the eventual release of their third EP, Favorite Son.
It’s been nearly two years since I’ve had the chance to catch a live performance from our favorite boys, but they not only picked up right where they left off, but they are even more measured and formidable than ever before.
The addition of a second guitarist, Mariah, has added a whole extra layer of thundering riffage and tasty guitar licks, and has really allowed the three members we already know and love to feel even more comfortable in their respective grooves. During the show, bass player Natalie Klemond professed that it was “fun to play songs from their debut record with an extra guitar player,” and I would argue it’s just as fun as a fan to hear what new flavors are added to these familiar favorites as it is to play them.
The pinnacle of the performance for me was getting the chance to hear the latest single “Russian Doll” live for the first time, but the boys also rolled out a preview or two of what’s yet to come from their upcoming release, including the title track, “Favorite Son,” a self-described “bitter” song about the expectations and struggles that come with being the oldest child.
Of course, the fan-favorite “Neopet Graveyard” from the band’s debut record, as well as “New Song No. 2” were both incredibly well received, with the crowd belting out the lyrics word-for-word along with Kathy, Nadirah, and Natalie. You could tell no one ever wanted the night to end, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that neither of these bands will be leaving us anytime soon.
All in all, it was a truly magnificent night of live music here in Minneapolis.
The venue staff was outstanding from the bar to the door to the hard-working members of the stage crew, and the energy in the room was palpable from the minute you stepped foot inside. It’s a feeling I don’t anticipate will be any different as more and more people begin to experience their “first” concert all over again, something that is only possible because of all the incredible people across this country who are doing their part by getting vaccinated.
As someone who would love the opportunity to continue experiencing nights like I did yesterday, please get vaccinated if you are able to do so, and continue to be safe and do what you can to help reach the end of this pandemic. The music industry and all your favorite local bands appreciate you for it.