The crickets were loud over the lakes neighborhoods of South Minneapolis Saturday night-Sunday morning, knowing as they do that their lives are short, three months to be exact, so as the summer goes on, those desperate little crickets beat their legs faster and faster, raging against the dying cricket light, which is the sound we hear when we hear that heated whistling chorus that whirls everywhere after dark these hot August nights. The sound of death, in other words, but also of a life spent singing all the way to the grave.
The sun came up over 46th and Grand at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Paul Douglas assured nothing but blue skies all day, the universe was cooperating; people were nervous and excited. Kings owners Molly and Sam ate breakfast with their kids and boyfriends in the back lounge section of their successful wine-bar-slash-agora. Jake set up the stage. Andrew from Twin/Town donated and set up the sound system, then ran back to the shop and grabbed a drum kit, which an hour later would be commandeered by the likes of Chastity Brown, Jim Meyer, Nate Dugan and Tony “Sticks” Nelson.
The occasion was Kings’ first birthday. At 10 a.m., the staff wore the collective look of sailors smelling a perfect storm on the rise. Hungover tattooed professionals wrapped silverware in black linen, piling rolls into shelves and bins like sandbags against a coming flood. Balletic bartender Michelle (aka Foxy Roxy, a founding member of the Minnesota Roller Girls) smiled the wan smile of the sleepless as she wrote “OMG We’re 1” on the Kings’ chalk street placard.
Christian, Adam, Aaron, Kelly, Chloe, Ben, Chris, Jackson, Austin, Andy, West, Schreiner, Nick, Jennifer, Kelly, Carrie, Emily and many other friends and family polished glasses, packed burgers, made bratwurst, cut cake and poured lots of beer. Eliza Blue was on the road, driving home from a gig in Dubuque. Mother Banjo was doing the same thing from an out-state bluegrass festival. John Swardson was crashed somewhere, down for the count but gearing up for late afternoon after having opened the Pizza Luce Block Party the day before. Venus the of All The Pretty Horses was en route from Chicago. All would end up on stage together around 7 p.m.
David Barnes, father of Molly and Sam and patriarch of Kings, made his way through the crowd like a proud invisible ghost. Pete Christensen helped with the kegs and set up his keyboards on stage. His psychedelic riffs bounced off the garages in the alley and called to Les, a sweet walrus of a man, who ran back up the street to his house for his camera and spent the day shooting pictures. Gretchen Seichrist took over the back alley with a Patches and Gretchen merch tent and pitched her latest art-song product with her daughter, Iris.
Old friends, new friends, ex-employees, would-be lovers and other exes stopped by to chat and reconnect. Strangers pitched in. The musicians took the stage. The first song was a sing-along:
“Let’s go down to the lynching
“That they’re having at the ol’ grade school
“We’ll give those kids something groovy to learn
“And watch the mother–er burn”
And so we were off, surfing the wave of spontaneity that is the heart of any hootenanny. Highlights: Jack Klatt’s calm anti-folk strength and wry humore. Chris Koza’s firey spirit in the night. Lucy Michelle’s amazing grace. My brother Terry Walsh of the Belfast Cowboys/St. Dominic’s Trio/Mischke Show on ‘CCO ripping through a tear-in-your Fulton-Lonely Blond version of “This Is It,” the Ottoman Empire’s transcendent Celtic ode to the neighborhood pub. Chorus:
“This is it, I come here to drink
“I come here to smoke
“I come here to think
“I love my wife and I love my child
“But I’m staying here a little while”
A kiss from Ashleigh Still. The magnificent stillness of Luke Redfield and Ryan Paul. The never-say-die tropical storm Martin Devaney. The power and majesty of Brianna Lane. The feline witchery and musical mysticism of Ms. Blue and Chastity Brown.
Slim Dunlap, with a bad wing and black shades, walking down 46th Street with his wife, Chrissie, my wife, Jean and my brother Jay and his wife Kim and our goddess artist friend Mary Gibney. My mom and daughter in the second row; Jim and Margaret Hanneman in the third, the Kaiser family in the shade on the boulevard; Alison Locey cruising through the alley; Shawn and Mary Gibbons singing the heart-melter “Tonight You Belong To Me.”
John Devine (sax), Dan “Daddy Squeeze” Newton (accordion), Lamont Sandifer (big drum), Andre Suchy (voice) sitting in. David De Young singing two brokenhearted pop-rockers, then beaming the live hoot feed back to our fiddler friend Joel in Sweden. Ben Glaros leading a delicate singalong of “The Ballad of El Goodo,” which was perfect, since the day Alex Chilton died, his and Big Star’s music was played over Kings’ succulent sound system deep into that sad night.
Two soft singalongs to the late, great Mark Linkhous’s “Sad and Beautiful World.” Jennifer Markey’s bad-assery at high noon, Little Man and Mayda’s side-by-side bad-assery at one, Ben Kweller-via-Graham Early’s bad-assery at three. Drew Miller and Kari Tauring turning the whole of the hoot into a Scando-tribal drum orgy. Ciaran Daly, forever the pasty Irish kid, melting in the sun like a vampire under a garlic crucifix, but still uncorking two melancholy pop tunes to die for.
The sound system breaking up. Kings staffers throwing cold beers and water at the singers. Delicious people-watching. Food, devoured. “Eat, Pray, Love,” mocked. Egos, playing badminton. Crushes, formed. Tears, shed. Smiles, looking heavenward. The wind, blowing through a guitar player’s hair.
Drunk people in need of love and sorting out. DJ Jake Rudh playing new wave-punks hits behind the bar. Deejay and ELNo guiding light David Campbell pounding the bar to the Bangles’ version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter,” singing with Schreiner to “Xanadu,” and wrestling post-gig gargoyles under the 46th Street lights.
A quarter moon.
Raccoons in the shadows.
A foot race.
The crickets, chirping louder and louder and louder still.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.