As I walked into Treehouse Records on this past, balmy, Saturday afternoon, I immediately noticed that I was the youngest person in the building by a good margin. And it was awesome. A crowd was gathered to watch the Suicide Commandos play an acoustic set of new songs a day after the release of Time Bomb, their first album in 38 years.
At 2 p.m., the excitement in the air was palpable even more than the sweat and the dust from the one-dollar clearance shelves. “I’m really, really happy,” said photographer Mark Engebretson, 58, of Minneapolis, who first saw the Commandos at a 1977 St. Paul show with the Ramones, and later saw many of their shows at Jay’s Longhorn Bar. Engebretson, who is making a documentary on the Longhorn, had been waiting a while for the Commandos’ return. “It’s overdue.”
Eventually, some younger fans filed in and shared in my excitement as well. “They’re just a great Minneapolis band, said local Zach Baker, 23. The younger concertgoers also shared an appreciation for Treehouse. “Minneapolis has such a rich alternative music scene, going back a really long time. This is hallowed ground for that, and I really want to be a part of it because I missed it the first time,” added Chris Wheeler, 23.
Expert showmen that they are, the Commandos let the tension build, signing records and t-shirts for over an hour. Copies of Cyn Collins’s new book Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock are also strategically positioned for sale, and Collins herself showed up later to sign a few copies. But by 3 p.m., the local legends were ready to play a short set of brand-new material.
Once sufficiently warmed up, they blurred through new songs from the album with boundless energy and the kind of timeless, irreverent humor that influenced so many younger rock groups. Chris Osgood wore a confident sneer. Steve Almaas was a kid in a candy store. Dave Ahl sang like he was about to explode out of his shoes.
The addition of Suburbs drummer Hugo Klaers near the end of the set, on a cover of the Monkees’ “She,” was a reminder that the album marked the return of not just the Suicide Commandos, but the entire Twin/Tone label, which was reborn to release Time Bomb. Klaers’s hair, as always, was on point. “Frogtown” took the energy even further, with a feature by Twin Cities comedienne Phyllis Wright on a crutch and wielding a kiddie microphone, verbally sparring with Ahl.
Everyone was pretty sweaty at that point. No one cared. In some respects, it was a day for reminiscing with faces familiar on stage and in the audience. The retrospective was jolted by the news that it was the last-ever in-store show at Treehouse, formerly Oar Folkjokeopus. Treehouse owner Mark Trehus is retiring this year, and the crowd pays him their dues for years of music.
“I’ve been wanting for the 32 years that I’ve been on this corner to have this band play here,” said Trehus. But even with their respect for the past, this crowd was joyful and grounded in the present. “I am going out with my favorite band.” It’s not hard to see why. Today, with a sound that maintains their signature madcap energy while adding decades-worth of experience and polish, the Suicide Commandos are looking forward.
Ezekiel Saw the Wheel
She (feat. Hugo Klaers)
Ibad Jafri went to Treehouse Records to see the Suicide Commandos. While there, he bought a Lawrence Welk record.