Manitoba x Minnesota Music Exchange poster in Icehouse. All photos by Darin Kamnetz for MPR.
Manitoba Music and The Current are getting to be old pals. For the third year running, the non-profit teams brought Manitoba and Minnesota bands together for a Local Music Exchange, staging shows in the U.S. and Canada to foster cultural exchange and goodwill. The run, which will continue at Red Raven Espresso Parlor in Fargo, N.D. tonight and the Good Will Social Club in Winnipeg tomorrow, kicked off at Icehouse in Minneapolis last night.
Manitoba band VIKINGS were first off the bench, but they played with headliners’ vigor. The group comprised Josh Youngson (vocals), brothers Dave and James McNabb (synths), Luke Janzen (drums) — and a pair of rectangular LED panels propped to form a “V.” Powerful from the outset, VIKINGS performed material from their EP Animal Kingdom and beyond; listen if you like synth pads, lyrics about “cheap champagne,” or tassel loafers.
Locals Fathom Lane went on next, lulling Icehouse with spacious, subtle country music (largely from their 2017 album Asilomar). The music sounded a little darker than I expected after hearing their in-studio session this summer, and the dolor played well against Michael Ferrier and Ashleigh Still’s dulcet harmonies. “[Here’s a] Frank Sinatra cover,” Ferrier joked before playing “Country Roads” (Asilomar‘s intense take on John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”).
The vibe changed dramatically when Winnipeg’s 3PEAT hit the stage. The hip-hop group were down a member (E.GG didn’t make it to the States, and will rejoin his bandmates at the Good Will) but fellow rappers Steve and Dill the Giant had more than enough energy to rock the room in their U.S. debut performance, inspiring shouts of yerrrrp and even getting the Minneapolis crowd to throw some threes up (three fingers extended on a waving hand) as they paced the stage with a rapid-fire set of songs like “Sheep” and “Lazy Afternoon.” Steve even dressed for the occasion, donning a t-shirt with Dave Chapelle in character as Prince — worn for a show on the very stage Chapelle very recently occupied, at a venue that Prince was known to visit.
“It’s about to get loud,” warned The Current’s Andrea Swensson as she introduced Bruise Violet, and locals knew she wasn’t lying if they’d seen the band from shows like Rock the Garden or this past weekend’s First Ave gig with their icons Babes in Toyland. In the relatively intimate Icehouse, the careful songcraft underlying the rockers’ rambunctious anthems came to the fore, with the trio’s three-part harmonies sounding loud, clear, and suitably vicious. “We’re Bruise Violet,” said drummer Danielle Cusack before tearing into her kit, “and we’re not ladies!” Canada, take notice.
Written by Cecilia Johnson (VIKINGS, Fathom Lane) and Jay Gabler (3PEAT, Bruise Violet).