Sunday’s most-read story on the Star Tribune website was “Fastest growing religion in Minnesota and the country is ‘none,’” about the increase in non-joiners and nonbelievers who identify with no organized religion and how we’re all going to hell for not showing up in the pews.
But no matter what the state of the heathenry, Sundays remain a day of reflection, and humans will probably always instinctively yearn for something like community and Big Love on the seventh day. So this past Sunday, as a refutation of the idea that we live in a state and country void of spirituality and worshipful ways, my buddy Pete and I headed out to be among the non-church-goers to see what revelations could be had.
I know from experience that there’s all sorts of ways to worship, all sorts of rooms to be with god in, and after a week of politics, elections, crooks, hate crimes, racism, fascism and constant reminders of all god’s children’s differences, I just wanted to hunker down in some churches of someone else’s making, with the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” playing in my head.
Friday and Saturday nights may historically be the most popular live music nights, but Sunday promises it’s own under-the-radar miracles. This past Sunday was the birthday of Kurt Vonnegut, who famously wrote, “This is Sunday, and the question arises, what’ll I start tomorrow?” Yes it does, and yes it burns, but first up was Sunday, lovely Sunday, at the Driftwood Char Bar, which has been hosting James Loney’s orchestral folk-pub rock band Lolo’s Ghost every Sunday morning since spring.
The Driftwood after all these years has remained incredibly vibrant in this neighborhood, offering music, food, drink and connection seven days a week, and it’s always worth championing as a good example of the aforementioned church of the DIY. As the band played, regulars and first-time brunchers drank coffee, mimosas and beer and feasted on omelets and eggs Benedict. As a hazy noon sun seeped through the windows, the cozy little hideaway once again felt as vital a hub as there is in this town.
There was Terry Katzman, legendary music champion, promoter, producer and label head, behind the soundboard recording Lolo’s Ghost for posterity and his massive live music collection. There was David and Debra, a couple of nightclub critters clad in Keith Richards and David Bowie T-shirts, regaling their table with juicy local rock gossip from the Hook and Ladder the night before. There was Driftwood owner and manager Heidi Fields cooking breakfast in back and server-bartenders Tina and Lori purposefully singing along to Loney’s version of Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Have To Serve Somebody.”
Loney’s big heart and songs spirited us on our way, and after a pit stop at Harriet’s Inn to watch the Minnesota Wild vanquish the St. Louis Blues, we set out on the treacherous trek to St. Paul without the convenience of shuttered interstates 35W and 94. Heroically on this cold Midwestern night in this godless country, we made our way across the Mississippi River to University Avenue and the Dubliner Pub (formerly the Ace Bar), where Ray Barnard and his crew (Clark Adams, Mikkel Beckman, Nick Salisbury, Blair Krivanek) were in the middle of their monthly happy hour set. The groove was perfect, soulful and steady, the songs as delicious and smooth as the Guinness on tap, and taking it all in were several of Adams’ friends and fans from the Blaisdell YMCA, where Clark works as a custodian and fills the place with his heaven-sent falsetto.
After hanging with songwriter-bandleader-music lover John Magnuson and engaging in an impassioned chat about the creator, reincarnation, music, frequencies, life, death and existence itself, we made our way down University Avenue to the Turf Club, where we stopped for dinner in the Clown Lounge and talked about our friend and hero Slim Dunlap, who we will pay tribute to in that room the day after Thanksgiving, and who lit up many Thursday nights up on that Turf Club stage for many memorable years in the ’90s.
Upstairs, legendary British techno duo The Orb was holding forth with music that sounded like it was birthed in caves and catacombs. I’ve spent a lot of time in my headphones with The Orb, and Lord knows I wanted to feel that bass in my torso, and once upstairs, The Orb did not disappoint. The Turf was a throbbing womb, set to a primal beat that the first people associated with, yes, god. “We could be anyplace in the world right now, any club anywhere,” Pete said, reading and speaking my mind, and hell if the sonic shower didn’t wash off some of this mortal coil’s latest scabs. Birth. Baptism. Rebirth.
We stood up front and I danced the Kirk Cousins dance amidst the cool kids and, for a couple hours I was all-in for all of it: the volume, the sensory overload, the rapture, the perfectly synched and sexy videos, the otherworldliness of it all, the simple fact that we were all out on a Sunday night on the prairie, immersed in a cutting-edge, one-night-only connected freedom.
“Let’s get lost,” Chet Baker said, and so we did, a roomful of techno-ambient house-dance music seekers who found themselves gathered on a Sunday night. Our souls and feet were lifted by the decibels, harmony and sheer beauty — all of which, in fact, led to this Monday morning ramble. Because as I stood there in the middle of the Turf Club late Sunday night, looking up at the swirling metallic ceiling and enveloped by an ancient pulverizing sound in what felt like a tunnel to eternity, I was heartened to realize that, despite the headlines about people not going to church, every bit of what I was experiencing as a sentient being had been organized by true believers and people of faith.
So call them it you will — tabernacle, cathedral, temple, synagogue, mosque, shrine, sanctuary, church, bar, pub, whatever. We were there, and we were alive and human and worshipful, and our Sunday sample study proves that any given Sunday can be inspiring and deeply meaningful. So much so that going forward, this heathen gives thanks and praise to God that he has a plan for next Sunday and all the Sundays to come. Hallelujah!
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at email@example.com.