As Minnesota music fans, we’re lucky.
Sure, seeing big shows at places like the Target Center is exciting. On a slightly smaller scale, so is catching signature local bands (say, Trampled by Turtles) play at venues like the Palace Theater.
But for me, nothing beats intimate shows at smaller venues. They are the backbone of the Twin Cities music scene.
Every night there are diverse, quality shows at places like the 331 Club, the Icehouse, the Amsterdam, the Nomad, the Kitty Kat Club, the Underground Music Café (Falcon Heights and Minneapolis locations), and countless small breweries and coffeehouses. Each has their own feel and persona. Each add life and color to the Twin Cities.
Friday night’s show at Caydence featured Silverback Trio (jazz), Falcon Arrow (post-rock), and Bitter Ghost (grunge-y alternative rock). The bill was a classic example of the musical diversity we’re privileged to have.
Don’t know about Caydence? Well, your life is about to get 100% better. A record store, coffee shop, and live music venue, Caydence is part of the ever-growing Payne Avenue revival on St. Paul’s east side. It has a cool, laid-back, neighborhood vibe, even if it often features loud punk and metal bands. Their coffee and snack menu is modest but effective, and their expansive record collection seems twice its actual size.
Jazz with Punk Energy: Silverback Trio
First on the bill was Silverback Trio. The jazz-fusion band features Brent Wallace on bass, Byron Johnson-Blanchard on drums, and David Hirsch on saxophone and keyboards.
At its best, jazz improvisation can take you into another world, and Silverback Trio does that. Their show ranged from mellow and melodic to wild and loud, the band sometimes locked into a groove and sometimes all soloing at once. Their musicianship is as proficient as you’d expect from a jazz band, but their energy was pure rock.
The setlist was mostly comprised of tracks from their inventive self-titled debut album. The songs came alive in a completely different way in a live setting. The band members played off each other like it was as natural as breathing, and they also rocked a lot harder than on their recordings. On the album they come off as a more traditional jazz band, but live they have an almost punk energy.
“Twitch” was a highlight, featuring a spacey atmosphere and a super funky wah bass solo. They ended with two new songs, “Amoeba” and “Here’s the Thing.” The former began with an ethereal section led by cool analog synths, morphed into a heavier rock part with fuzz bass, and ended with an extended sax solo. It was their most impressive performance and an example of their compositional skill.
Falcon Arrow will Blow Your Mind
Falcon Arrow was up next, playing the penultimate gig before their 10th anniversary celebration next month (December 8th at Moon Palace Books, another singular local venue). They’ve solidified their place at the front of the local post-rock scene with their atmospheric and intensely rocking albums. True to the unique aesthetic of post-rock, they do this all as a bass/drums duo, creating sonically diverse tones and sounds with a variety of loops and pedals. Their forthcoming album, Occurens, is their heaviest and most mature to date. Tentative release is early 2019.
Their set, for lack of a better term, was ferocious. Watching Matt Reints build each song with just his bass is like watching an artist paint a picture. Indeed, he creates an aural picture. Melodic bass lines, heavy bass riffs and chords, and modulated loops create a wall of sound that has to be heard (and seen) to be understood. And that’s not even to mention the intensity of drummer Dav Kemp.
And in the end…
The night ended with Bitter Ghost, a traditional power trio of bass, guitar, and drums. The bands grunge-y alternative rock is nuanced by thoughtful melodies and intelligent songwriting. Indeed, their melodies are catchy enough to border on pop/punk (in a good way). They’ve only released a three-song EP, which they tore through in its entirety, in addition to some new material. If you’re the sort that enjoys comparisons, they reminded me of post-At the Drive In 2000s rock band Sparta.
Last night’s triple bill at Caydence showcased the best of what is just beneath the surface of the Twin Cities music scene. We’re lucky to have so many high-quality local bands playing here every night, and at so many interesting venues. Be sure to support shows like this whenever you can, as the creativity of bands like Silverback Trio, Falcon Arrow, and Bitter Ghost deserve to be recognized.