It was a convenient weekend to be a fan of local music in the Twin Cities — especially on Friday night, when you could wander into any number of sold-out or bustling shows from popular Minnesota acts. In Minneapolis, The 4onthefloor showed they have what it takes to sell-out the Mainroom at First Avenue (on their first attempt, no less), while Night Moves brought a stacked lineup to the Varsity Theater for their 7″ release show. And in St. Paul, the Turf Club was filled for a celebration of female frontwomen and a headlining set by booming psych trio Is/Is.
Is/Is performed in the “Hollywood Headliner” slot, and their set had the biggest crowd of the night as well as packing the biggest punch. If you read this blog, you already know that we’re fans of Is/Is’s new full-length, III, and those songs sound even more commanding live. Lead singer Sarah Rose is really growing into her newfound role as a frontwoman, and broke out of her moody, cool stage presence a few times to gush about how much fun she was having. Bassist Sarah Nienaber and drummer Annie May fell into sync and proved to be a tight and thunderous rhythm section, and the three worked together to unspool their dramatic, dark psych-rock in a very no-frills, yet captivating way.
With new Vampire Hands offshoot, Heavy Deeds, also on the bill, the venue filled with familiar faces and had the vibe of a Turf show circa 2009, when Vampire Hands were gigging regularly at the club. Heavy Deeds turned out to be the ideal way to close out the night, with the band’s sunny, harmonic pop tickling the ears of attendees. On their Facebook, Heavy Deeds describe themselves as “a shimmering psych-fog engulfing the funky classic rock coast of the ’70s with both babes n’ hunks,” and I don’t know that I could write a more apt descriptor than that; the band consists of Vampire Hands members Alex Rose, Chris Rose, and Chris Bierden (who also plays bass and sings in Polica), plus Molly Harrington and Sara Bischoff, and they seemed to project sheer joy out into the room.
Another highlight of the night was a short set by Zoo Animal, who performed downstairs in the Turf’s Clown Lounge, with lead singer Holly Newsom backed by her new bandmates. But the overwhelming chattiness of the downstairs crowd all but drowned out Zoo Animal’s newer, sparser songs, so Newsom quickly shifted to playing some of the louder, more aggressive tracks on her earlier full-lengths. The band did debut one entirely new track, however, that was so cacophonous that the room was forced to pay attention — if that song is any indication, the next Zoo Animal record will be another jarring sonic shift for Newsom. I can’t wait to hear it.
Photos by Ben Clark