Tim Sherno over at KSTP recently did an excellent piece talking about how Minnesota’s music scene is undergoing a revival of attention, at least in the national media attention’s eyes. From Rhymesayers doing their first European tour together last November, Minneapolis’ beloved new adoptee Astronautalis touring in January, or Doomtree doing their first European tour last month, the scene is bursting past American borders and full on into the wild blue yonder of Europe as well. The latest to land upon these here European shores I’ve called home the past year has been the talk of SXSW 2012 among many French, Poliça. PIAS hosted them as part of their PIAS Nites concerts, showcasing the latest talent on one of Europe’s most important independent music distributors alongside Belgium’s Noa Moon and School is Cool.
Noa Moon opened the evening, which I could see how she fit the bill with a rather lovely voice over acoustic pop. She’s got the chops befitting more feather-weight Colbie Caillat or perhaps Sara Bareilles (sans piano, more reggae but more timid on stage) than Norah Jones as people have been comparing. As she becomes more at ease on stage, she’ll open up along with her voice. Her first EP River was released in April. Hit up her Bandcamp for a sample.
School is Cool is the first band I honestly would rather see in a festival than in a music venue. They were the epitome of fun, akin to pre-“The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future” Los Campesinos! or Noah and the Whale before Charlie Fink and Laura Marling went their separate ways. Unabashed, pure rock folk randomness of indescribable indie live. And they’re Belgian. (Ha, didn’t expect that.) What la Flèche d’or got last night was a five-piece that shared instrument duties (one covered xylophone, drums and drum pad), a violinist who enthusiastically did high kicks while shouting and jammed out to random hip-hop beats (those beats were good quality too), and a front man who could be mistaken for a young Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz & the Tantrums given his impressive command of the crowd. The set may have been an hour long for all I remember (I didn’t care much for it to end), punctuated by abandoning the stage to confused, then a cheering public for an all-acoustic song before launching into “Levitate Me” by the Pixies. See them and their brontosaurus kick drum live. Proof here:
Poliça was mere whispers when I packed up and moved across the pond. For months, all I had was Give You the Ghost and Instagram photos from friends seeing them in Madison, Minneapolis and Chicago. All was finally resolved to the opening beats of “The Maker” resonating over the full Flèche d’or.
It’s not every day you see a band show up in France, lacking a guitarist and doubling up drum sets, and people came out en masse to experience it. “I See My Mother” and “Leading to Death” played right into the hands of Channy Leaneagh on stage, allowing her to channel the music throughout her entire being and translate it into her remarkable voice and lithe dance moves. Towards the end, people were definitely in awe as Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson seemingly synced mindsets to generate a barrage of percussion likely unseen at the renown venue. The only group that still gets close to their precision is A Lull, although how Ben and Drew mix up the cymbals and drums, they edge out the Chicago band ever so slightly.
It couldn’t help but feel a bit strange to hear stuff you’d expect in Minneapolis in the middle of France. Electronic clearly with the Ryan Olson touch that calls to mind Digitata more than anything. Or even the funk influences that could carry traces of Prince over Chris Bierden’s complex, yet never overpowering bass lines. People just in general seemed fascinated, while I’m pretty certain had I been able to make it to their first tour earlier this year, everyone would have been far more focused on losing themselves through movement to the music than wide-eyed. The biggest surprise, however, was the addition of two new songs that add to their repertoire and give something to see outside of recorded material in “Smoke” and “Raw Exit.” The latter of which is an impressive, slightly more barren sonically and darker in tone.
I See My Mother
Leading to Death
Lay Your Cards Out