i got a bad religion and a forty-five



Mike Gunther getting his howl on at the 7th Street Entry in Mpls, May 2004.

Last Thursday, JRDN & I ventured out to the Turf Club in St. Paul to catch local heartthrob Mike Gunther and his band the Restless Souls. I've known of Gunther for quite a while (his younger brother was my class president at Armstrong high school), but I first saw him perform back in May of last year, opening for gypsy punks Gogol Bordello in what may have been my top show of 2004. City Pages named Gunther the area's best songwriter in 2003, and I'm not one to disagree. I missed his performance at the Fine Line a few weeks back, so I made damn sure I was in attendence this time.

MP3 Mike Gunther & his Restless Souls - "Have Mercy"
Just as he was at that Entry show, Gunther was preceded by local bluegrass duo The Get-Up Johns at the Turf Club, as well as the Tin Star Sisters, who apparently co-starred in a music video for this song. Ben Weaver may have been the headlining act that nite, but I (along with plenty of Armstrong alumni) were there to see Gunther stomp & hiss & shout & croon all over the place, and he didn't disappoint. Cyn Collins was at the Fine Line show & did a fine job of describing Gunther's stage persona for How Was The Show:
Mike Gunther, ordinarily kind of a quiet guy, becomes an old-time troubadour on stage, singing of dark matters of the heart, battling the demons of desire, drink, guilt, loneliness, and jealousy. He is oft-compared to Tom Waits and Nick Cave, and it’s easy to see and hear why; but he and his band really are in a class of their own. Using his versatile voice - at times gravelly, at times smooth and longingly plaintive, at times the voice of a medicine show barker – Gunther uses religious iconography in the song “Have Mercy” and lyrics “turning water into wine” and evokes dark and sometimes nightmarish images of sex, murder and mayhem. With the aid of ‘20’s or ‘30’s revivalist preacher suits and kerchief, it began to feel hot as hell on a mid-summer day even though it was 0 degrees outside. Not only does the high theater and performance, which is like none in this town, make the show worth seeing to be believed, but the skilled instrumentation and Gunther’s and Scholten’s songwriting is worth hanging on every word.

That odd, deep-bass beat you're hearing is multi-instrumentalist Suzanne Scholten banging a bunch of old, rusted chains on an oil drum. Very sexy. "Have Mercy" comes from Gunther's 2003 debut album Every Dream That's Dropped & Died, which you can order here from Heart of a Champion records. There are additional songs available via mp3 at Gunther's website.

MP3 Mike Gunther & his Restless Souls - "Redemption #4"
I friggin' love this song, the opening track on Every Dream That's Dropped & Died, so I decided to repost it. And while the Waits influence is blantantly obvious, I think I also hear some Johnny Cash swirling around in there.

BTW: Local artist David Witt designed a poster for this Turf Club show. Also, a shout-out to childhood chum Kyle, who apparently reads this blog, and Angela, who I hadn't seen since high school, who were both at the show.

MP3 RANA - "900 Numbers" (Live in NYC 5/11/02)
ATTN NYC: If you missed last Thursday's RANA event, the first of their 3 week Tribeca Rock Club residency, you've got another opportunity to rawk out tonite. Don't miss out. Want a preview? Download RANA's classic 11/29/02 show from CBGB's through iTunes. It'll be ten bucks well spent. This loud, massively stretched-out version of "900 Numbers" comes from a memorable 2002 performance at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. Guitarist Scott Metzger uses some trippy layered echoing effects with great success as keyboardist Matt Durant goes off on an incredibly intense & wild rant, as he tends to do on this particular song, and it's powerful sh**. Play this at a high volume & your ears may bleed, but in the good way.

Lastly, Oscar nominations came out a couple days ago. Yawn. For all the hype surrounding Sideways, the best thing about the movie (by far IMO) - Paul Giamatti - got snubbed. Oy. I was glad to see Before Sunset & Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind get screenplay nods, as well as Kate Winslet for her wonderfully manic-yet-tender Eternal Sunshine performance. I've been so bored with movies of late that I haven't seen a lot of the nominated flicks. I have almost no interest in Clint Eastwood's "girlie" fightin' Million Dollar Baby since a) I accidentally found about the movie's big plot twist and b) it seems to be as overly-lauded as his last feature, Mystic River. Ugh.

ETA: "Shorelines" "7/4", apparently the first single from Broken Social Scene's forthcoming Windsurfing Nation LP, is up over at just for a day.

Kyle from More Cowbell just informed me that this version of "Shorelines" "7/4" is from an in-studio performance on CBC's Zed TV, not from the new album. I thought it didn't quite sound like a Dave Neufeld-produced track.

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