“Check it out,” Sean McManus said from the Entry stage — and normally, there’d be nothing special about that. But this phrase had a particular ring to it. When McManus said “out,” the word sounded more flat than the typical Midwest pronunciation. Along with a few of his colleagues and half of the night’s bands, he hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba; the whole crew drove to town for the Manitoba x Minnesota Music Exchange, which hit the Entry on Thursday and arrives in Winnipeg on Nov. 12.
A couple of years ago, non-profit promoters Manitoba Music (McManus is executive director) brought three Winnipeg artists to the Entry for a night of Canadian music. Last year, The Current hopped on board, welcoming Mise en Scene and Living Hour to the Twin Cities and swapping Reina del Cid and Gospel Machine right back at the Manitoba capital. We brought back that model this year, holding a public vote to determine our five local finalists and staging a super-show with winners ZULUZULUU and Sleeping Jesus plus Manitoban picks Micah Erenberg and Lanikai.
Winnipeg’s Micah Erenberg and band kicked off the show, and they stretched their five songs over a placid, solo-heavy half hour. Set closer “Unlucky” would have seemed right at home around a bonfire, while “I Just Wanna Go To Sleep Forever” was introduced as a nod to Tuesday’s election. The cutest part of the night: Erenberg’s reunion with Zach, a U.S. friend he hadn’t seen in four years. The duo hugged before the show, and Erenberg shouted his friend out from stage.
Sleeping Jesus represented Winona, Minnesota in the next slot, nearly packing the Entry with their soft, mellow rock. Aside from back-up vocalist Leah Nystuen, frontman Nick Elstad is the only person you’ll hear on Sleeping Jesus recordings, as he writes, performs, records, and mixes it himself. Ross Nixon, Tyler Steinley, Chris Wehr, and Nystuen round out the band live.
They added a trumpet and a saxophone to the mix, but for the most part, Lanikai went on with the night’s indie chill. They’re a bit surfy, very blue, and fluent in Feist, and a Carpenters cover would come as a welcome addition to their set. As it is, frontperson Marti Sarbit’s lyrics are the main attraction.
ZULUZULUU, the evening’s closers, proved Picked to Click voters exactly right. Coming off the second of four Icehouse residency installments, they tore up the Entry with their prismatic, toned Afrofuturism, playing What’s the Price? favorites and a satisfying number of new songs. One highlight: Trelly Mo’s first time singing lead vocals on any ZULUZULUU track (the lyrics asked, “How does it feel?” and mentioned falling in love with a ghost). His bandmates cheered for him at the end of the song, grinning wide. An oasis from current events.