Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Dan Wilson and friends make the Clown Lounge their living room

Dan Wilson and John Munson share a moment at the Clown Lounge. All photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR.

“So, the secret’s out,” Dan Wilson said into the microphone. “We’re doing a gig.”

He’d just taken the stage with pianist Andy Thompson, ready to play for an audience of about 65 people in the Turf Club’s downstairs Clown Lounge. Wood paneling and garish clown art lined the room, and guests sat at tables and booths. Some stood in the back.

Wilson wasn’t supposed to perform at the Clown Lounge on Saturday. He was supposed to be at First Avenue, playing 1996’s Great Divide with the rest of local ’90s rockers Semisonic (bassist John Munson and drummer Jake Slichter). But Slichter slipped on Minnesota ice just a few days before the show, breaking his wrist, and both First Avenue and a date at the Turf Club had to be postponed (to June 16 and June 14, respectively).

So what was Wilson to do? “I was rattlin’ around Minneapolis for a week,” he said, “and I couldn’t stand it, so here we are.” He played 12 songs in about 75 minutes, including “Free Life,” “Love Without Fear,” and “Someone Like You,” the tune that won him and Adele a Grammy. He shared that he’s releasing an album of reinterpreted songs he wrote for others, which should come out in about half a year (watch for the Gabe Dixon Band’s “All Will Be Well” on the tracklist).

As the night went on, special guests filled out the performance. jeremy messersmith took lead vocals on “Once You Get To Know Us,” a wry plea to aliens to give humanity a chance, and he stayed on guitar and harmonies for most of the rest of the night. Ken Chastain’s cajón drum added spice to the latter half of the set, and John Munson brought out his beat-up bass for “Across The Great Divide,” “In Another Life,” and other Semisonic tunes.

The more special guests, the more it felt like a living room sing-along. Munsons and Wilsons (including Matt, Dan’s brother and member of the Twilight Hours) sat in reserved booths, and Wilson bantered with the audience, joking about “walking down the clock” — to which fans yelled, “Running!” For the last song, Dan Wilson encouraged everyone to join in on Free Life’s “All Kinds.”

The audience savored the show. For every joke Wilson told — “A mom gives her son two ties for Christmas, a red and a blue one,” he said. The next time they see each other, he’s wearing the blue one. “Why didn’t you like the red one?” she asks. Wilson said that’s what he’s like with his songs — the crowd rewarded him with a belly laugh. Whenever he would announce or begin a song, a gasp would cut through the room. He made one woman’s night when he played her request, “Down In Flames.”

If Slichter had to slip and break his wrists, at least fans got to see this show. And the good news is that Semisonic is still on the books for First Avenue and the Turf, just a few months later than planned. There are worse timelines to be in.

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