Last night's show was a bittersweet tribute to the late great guitarist/graphic artist/ and all around good guy Bruce C. Allen from the beloved Mpls punk/new wave band The Suburbs. Bruce passed in December from complications of kidney stones which resulted in a blood infection that took him way too young at the age of 53. His band were the premiere Minneapolis party band of the late 70's/early 80's and helped fuel the scene that spawned The Replacements and Husker Du. The Burbs played a quirky brand of music that was too new wave for the hard core punkers and too punk for the new romantics - thus they fell through the cracks in the commercial marketplace, not helped by the weak production values and lack of decent promotion from Polygram and then A and M when they were on major labels. Yet live, they threw down the gauntlet with raucous, fiery and frenetic sets featuring the over the top showmanship of lead singer/guitarist Blaine "Beej" Chaney and the stylish keyboards and singing of Chan Poling, now out on the scene with the band The New Standards which takes punk/alternative songs and gives them a jazz setting and context featuring a piano, upright bass, and vibes trio setting. Bruce held down the rhythm section with drummer Hogho Klaers and bassist Michael halliday who missed last nights reunion as he has not felt like making music since Bruce's passing as they had been friends since first grade. Indeed one of the bands last night was Bruce's junior high/high school band before The Burbs and included members which went on to form last night's opening band Suicide Commandos (Mpls first major punk band , who toured regularly with Devo, Pere Ubu and The Ramones back in the day and were signed to Polydor), The Figures, and Shack Nasty.
The Commandos opened the show with a set that was heavy on songs from their first two albums which Bruce had done the artwork for. Covers of My Generation and She by The Monkees were mixed with their originals as they blew through an 11 song set in 33 minutes ending in their one minor hit Complicated Fun which may be best known as the song from one of last year's Target stores ads. featuring lead vocals from all three members Chris Osgood on guitar, Steve Almaas on bass, and Dave Ahl on drums they set the tone for the night with their rapid fire power chords and anthemic choruses.
Next up were the X Boys which was Bruce's side band and a rotating cast of characters from the Twin Tone stable of bands. Featuring Twin Tone producer Steve Fjelstad on bass, Texas folk singer Casey McPherson on lead vocals, Osgood and John King on guitars and Ahl and Suburbs drummer Hugo Klaers on percussion they played a loose set of rand b laced covers including a wicked version of Wang Dang Doodle,the Yardbirds For Your Love and The temptations Cant Get Next To You. The high point was when Chan Poling came out for versions of Moot the Hoople's All The Way To Memphis and All The Young Dudes.
Many of these players were present for the set by Bruce's junior high band which played a storming 5 song set including Fire by Jimi and The Stones Under My Thumb.
Following a quick heartfelt speech by Bruce's daughter announcing the start of a scholarship fund in Bruce's name for local music/art students and a moving video montage of Bruce's life by his long time girlfriend/partner the stage was set for the long awaited reunion of The Suburbs augmented by long time Minneapolis guitar player Steve Brantseg best known from his work with Tommy Stinson's post-Replacements band Bash and Pop and Slim Dunlap, Bob Stinson's replacement in The Replacements. Opening with their fan favorite Music For Boys they plunged into their single for their last album for A&M Life Is Like before igniting the crowd with a scorching version of Cig Machine folowed by their ode to LSD Goggles On featuring Beej's outlandish vocals and fine, frothing solos by both Brantseg and Beej. The crowd really started moving to The Burbs fun and friendly classic Cows followed by a stirring and rocking take on one of their best songs Rattle My Bones. The night's emotional highlight came next with an absolutely stunning and beautiful rendition of rtheir lovely ballad Girlfriend with inspired vocals by Chan Poling and an exquisite solo by Brantseg. Spring Came lightend the mood a little and set the table for their best song the title track from their 1984 album Love Is The Law, featuring an extended sax solo by Max Ray and Rochelle Becker, the crowd at 1st Ave went apeshit in one of the funnest and best pits I've been in for a while! Lots of smiles and love gave way to a quiet version of The Best Is Over to end the set proper. The encore was a start studded whose who of Mpls bands with representation from almost any band that had been on Twin Tone. Curtiss A. long time Mpls vocalist supreme took lead vocal duties with Poling and Chaney and was joined on guitar by Osgood, Dunlap, King, The Pistons Kurt Nelson, as well as The Magnolias Tom Cook on percussion - all in all a fitting send off to their musical brother in arms. As it was an excellent reunion and tribute to Bruce's musical legacy and a healthy recap of a portion of the last 35 years of Minneapolis musical history.
My heartfelt sympathies go to Bruce's family and bandmates and a hearty thanks to the Minneapolis music fans and musicians for making this such a special evening!