Local Current Blog

The end of Too Much Love and the rebirth of Sovietpanda

A 2011 flyer featured the ubiquitous Too Much Love logo

In the grand scheme of things, seven years isn’t all that long: it’s about as long as it takes to grow a Christmas tree. In the turbulent world of Minneapolis dance nights, though, the seven-year-old Too Much Love amounts to a towering sequoia. Since 2006, DJ Sovietpanda—known to his friends, family, and Glam Doll Donuts coworkers as Peter Lansky—has anchored one of the city’s best-known and best-promoted weekly dance nights, a late-night Saturday staple at First Avenue.

Now, Lansky is switching things up. Too Much Love as we know it comes to an end with this Saturday’s installment, while Lansky himself is ditching “Sovietpanda” for a new DJ name—TML, the initials of his serial party—and launching a new dance night with Jim Frick of the WAK LYF collective.

“Sovietpanda was never meant to be my DJ name,” Lansky told me. “It was the name of the music blog that I’ve had since high school.”

It was that blog that caught the attention of the co-founders of DFA, a New York record label that was building an international reputation for cutting-edge acts like the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem. Lansky’s introduction to LCD Soundsystem—the now-retired band fronted by DFA co-founder James Murphy—came one day when he was working in a computer lab. “I realized I’d been listening to this one song for eight minutes, and I was super into it.”

Lansky started a message board to share news about DFA and its artists, and the label quickly took notice. “One of the founders of the label grew up near me in Chicago, so I was in touch with them early on. I met James [Murphy] at one of [LCD Soundsystem’s] first national shows, and we’ve stayed in touch since then.”

Murphy made two guest appearances as a DJ at Too Much Love, and when Lansky announced plans to retire the series, Murphy posted an affectionate shout-out on LCD Soundsystem’s Facebook page.

“I was always awkwardly proud that his party got its title from one of our songs,” wrote Murphy. “I like shit like that. it was such a beautiful party, and i was very proud to play it more than once. sad that it’s ending, but things always change and move and end, and we have to look forward to whatever is next.”

Too Much Love had its start in 2006, in what is now called the Record Room at First Ave. “There was a bunch of really cool crossover music between indie rock and electronic dance stuff,” said Lansky, who had come north to attend the University of Minnesota. “I was super into all of it, and I really wanted to play it. I was familiar with First Ave from working at Radio K, and I asked them if we could try a night.” The venue agreed to give Lansky a shot, and what started as a one-off quickly built to a weekly party in the Mainroom.

The first Too Much Love, Lansky remembers, attracted “like 100-something people, and I was really satisfied with that. The next time, we doubled that. The next time, we sold out, and I was like, okay…this is good.”

At its peak, Too Much Love was the biggest brand name among local dance nights, a regular destination for scores of revelers and a near-mandatory stop on the First Avenue Saturday bar crawl. On a typical night, there might be a bachelorette party taking lemon drop shots at the upstairs bar; a couple rounding second in the back booth (Lansky’s seen partiers escorted from the premises for “getting physical” beyond even the liberal norms of a late-night party); a growing dance circle of women in party dresses with a guy trying to breakdance in the middle; and That One Bald Guy grooving across the floor, absorbed in his own bliss.

“I was concerned about being consistent and changing the vibe as my tastes changed,” said Lansky. “Really intense electro stuff was what we started playing, but then we turned to house and disco stuff. Other dance parties would be focused on being insane, but they’d have a shorter fuse. I’d try to stay away from gimmicks.”

Lansky would often enlist local peers like Jonathan Ackerman and DJ Bach to guest, in addition to international luminaries like Murphy—who brought tourmates Arcade Fire along to hang out. Once, remembers Lansky, “This guy Traxx came and surprised me by bringing his buddy, a vocalist, to sing live over some of the tracks.”

In a Facebook post announcing the end of Too Much Love, Lansky elucidated further: “There have been some legendary Saturday nights. We’ve hosted locals and internationals, vocalists and bands, and more than one keytar. […] First Avenue managers shuttled employees during a blizzard so 100 people could get their party fix. Diplo played an impromptu set. Bagpipes were blown. Tim Sweeney named us one of his favorite parties. There was a billboard. We’ve heard Silent Servant play disco and Get Cryphy play techno. We’re responsible for hundreds of hook-ups and at least one marriage. We’ve served hot dogs, pizza, cake, and an unimaginable amount of booze. We’ve seen a sold out mainroom lose their minds to a Dustin Zahn track, and a sold out Record Room shout along to Human League. We’ve partied on a float in the Pride parade and spun records on the mall at the U. I went several years without missing a single Saturday. And the one time our party was cancelled, it was by Prince himself.”

Eventually, Too Much Love downsized and returned to its Record Room roots. “We were doing 500 a week in the Mainroom,” said Lansky, “which is good, but you need at least that many for it to feel like a good party.” Both Lansky and First Ave “were into the idea of moving it back upstairs, which is more intimate, an awesome size for a place to play music.”

Retiring Too Much Love is something Lansky’s had in mind for a while. “I’ve been doing everything myself from week to week. I learned a lot in terms of doing my own booking, working with agencies, putting up DJs—and in terms of DJing [myself]—but I was ready for something new. The WAK LYF guys talked about how they were going to [pursue] some of their own ideas, and Jim and I wanted to do something together.”

For the uninitiated, WAK LYF was “an Internet collective of people from Minneapolis and other places,” Frick told me. They’ve thrown their own dance nights—recently, at Honey—but are amicably parting ways to try new projects independently.

The new weekly party, Real Fun, will kick off on February 8, precisely a week after the last Too Much Love; it will have Lansky and Frick in the ever-reliable Record Room every Saturday (except the last Saturday of every month). “It’s going to be really rad,” said Frick. “We want to get artists in there to do visual stuff. We’ll have rotating DJs; we’ve talked about putting a zine together.”

As Lansky and Frick have learned, though, party-throwing is like basketball: you can’t neglect the fundamentals. “We want to have a cool party,” said Frick. “Smiling faces. Good times. Four-dollar beers.”