Kicking off 2024 with Local Music

On Friday, January 19th, I ventured out into the bone-chilling, single-digit cold to wait in line for the historic Saint Paul venue, the Turf Club. On my way in, I was entranced by the first band of the local music lineup for the night, Services. They had just released their new single, “Shake,” earlier that day, and the live performance of it was fantastic. The lead singer, Sylvia Jennings, delivered vocals charged with dramatic flair, evoking the energy of the alternative sound of the 1990’s. The band played a short half-hour set. 

Lighter Co., formerly known as Zippo Man, followed Services. This was their first show playing under the new name, but they brought with them the same energy and charisma onstage as always. They delivered catchy riffs with punchy lyrics, all while dressed up in quasi-cowboy getups resembling different iterations of the Marlboro man. Lead singer Collin Johnson stunned with an impressive vocal performance reminiscent of Robert Plant’s iconic scream-singing. The band’s guitar-heavy, adrenaline-filled rock created a sound that seamlessly blended multiple genres. Where they shine though, is in their stage presence. Everyone in the audience was transfixed by the group and their lengthy guitar solos. Some of the songs warranted a friendly moshpit, but never too violent. I especially enjoyed the songs “Danny” and “For Her.” 

The third band to take the stage that night was Extraterrestrials. The five-piece Minneapolis band’s evocation of 1980s new wave and classic rock exuded nostalgia while still feeling fresh. Clad in matching red jumpsuits, the ensemble’s attire aptly complemented their space-themed concept, adding a visually captivating dimension to their dynamic stage presence. The band’s look conjured up the B-52’s for me, marked by energetic dancing and singing and themed music. They released their album “Terrestrial” last October with this note about it on their bandcamp: 

“Looking out the window of our spacecraft, we noticed there are fields of green on Earth. After washing our knits and delicates out in the radiation suds, we stop to fully explore what lies in the strange shadows. Not just explore, but fully sink into the ground to pull up the roots of the ghost pepper rose by its rattlestem. We’ve made one concrete conclusion about this planet: it’s alive. It’s time to make trouble before we have to go!”

“Our goal tonight is to ruin your Saturday!” said FènixDion frontman Keston Wright after playing the first song. My single Hamms at the bar left my Saturday morning intact, but they certainly made my Friday night. The band delivered an electrifying performance during their one-hour and twenty-minute set, showcasing an impressive blend of musical influences and playing a few new, unreleased tracks. Drawing inspiration from the soulful vibes of 70s R&B, their set was a journey through time. Funky grooves and catchy lyrics skillfully crafted the ensemble’s sound through a dynamic combination of Keston Wrights vocals, two electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a vibrant percussion section (featuring Nii Mensah, son of Sowah Mensa the Macalester African Music Ensemble’s director!) and drums by Sam Bramble. The diverse instrumentation added layers to their performance, creating a rich and immersive musical experience for the audience. The band showcased a funky sound and an engaging theatrical performance that I think the late Minneapolis legend Prince would approve of. 

One of the biggest reasons why I decided to come to the Twin Cities was for the iconic music scene and nights like these just reaffirm that decision for me. For $12, I got to see four excellent groups and momentarily escape the mid-January arctic chill at one of my favorite venues.

PHOTO CREDS: Nick Greseth (@ngreseth on Instagram)

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