by Cyn Collins
You’ll soon find SPMC bands, bookings, bus and “The Bob Song” at bars, backyards, basements, ballparks, barbeques, Bob Dylan, Bonnie and Clyde’s (up North) and Belfast . . . The SPMC and Turf Club house band the Mammy Nuns have left the building, and are hitting the road.
After ten years of SPMC Tuesdays at the Turf Club, the SPMC and booker/president
Rob Rule’s band the Mammy Nuns are returning to their nomadic roots. The
SPMC (St. Paul Music Club) is “simply people and music,” originally
a community of a half dozen to 10 local rock bands that played parties, and
their friends. Early bands included the Mammy Nuns, Lifter Puller, the John
Ewing Band, Kruddler and more. Rule informs me that an SPMC band can be anything;
just people who want to show up and have fun. “We’ve worked with
the Glenrustles and Ol’ Yeller for years, the Rank Strangers and Baby
Grant Johnson. The list is huge of people that worked with us over the years
and so I consider them SPMC bands. You don’t have to have a tattoo or
anything; it’s very loosely constructed. It’s more mysterious that
way, too, because nobody really knows.”
Fifteen years ago, Fat Tuesday needed a co-headliner at the 400 Bar, and asked
Rob Rule to throw one of his parties there. The Mammy Nuns, Peal, Interstate
Judy and more played and invited friends.
Rob Rule says, “When we got 30 to 40 people all coming to shows, that
made it a viable commodity to play clubs. We were throwing parties, and having
hundreds of people. We took that to the clubs. When enough people came out and
had fun, they [clubs] booked us again and again, so we started doing shows all
Original Mammy guitarist/singer Dennis Hildreth came up with the name St. Paul
Music Club at a practice. The SPMC incorporated in 1994, and had a board of
directors including Rob Rule, president, his partner Leah, Turf owner Mark Johnson,
Clown Lounge booker and drummer Dave Weigardt (Magnolias, current Ben Weaver
tour), Turf booker Dave Ricker and Todd Brown. They had meetings, came up with
logos and hosted several shows at Twin Cities clubs.”
SPMC wanted a regular place to play in St. Paul that felt right. “We dropped
into the Turf Club [in 1995] and everything just meshed,” recalls Rule.
“Mark Johnson was wonderful and welcomed us with open arms. Hands down
it was the favorite place we’d been in. It felt right. It felt like the
stars were in alignment. We found home. And it was wonderful. It was close to
home and wasn’t like anywhere else in town. We enjoyed having people play
there who waited and watched, and decided we had our heart in the right place.
They chose to embrace the place. All our musical heroes came. I’m lucky
to call a lot of them friends now.”
At the Turf, Rule provided an entire backline (unique in the Twin Cities) for
the musicians —“We’ve always insisted that all the bands use
the same gear. People start to get that it’s just part of the community.
It’s a sharing and a bonding process. You get four drummers a night who
are strange ducks to start with and they play the same drum kit—they become
buddies because they’ve shared the same drum kit.”
The SPMC plans a few events every year, including Grand Young Day (in which
20+ bands play exclusively Neil Young songs), a special Christmas Show, Rock
’n’ Roll Circus and tribute nights, such as James Taylor, Deep Purple,
ZZ/Cooper. the Kinks’ Christmas, Styx and Stones, and many Frank Zappa
nights. “We do wacky tribute nights and get a bunch of bands together
for the sense of community,” explains Rule. “They’re fundraisers
for the SPMC. We print T-shirts, make bumperstickers, get hats and fun stuff.
Rock ‘n’ roll swag.” They put the SPMC money back into the
community with useful things such as drum kits, amplifiers, props. “Many
guitar players have used the amps over the years and feel like they’re
at home,” claims Rule. “That’s something that nobody in the
Twin Cities has ever done.”
The SPMC continues to host tribute nights and multi-band nights featuring four
to six SPMC bands every month or two at Twin Cities clubs such as the Triple
Rock and 7th Street Entry, and in the future possibly the Nomad World Pub and
Hexagon Bar. They will continue Grand Young Day next year, but will have a streamlined
Neil Young event at the Entry in June.
The SPMC leaders now have time to organize their 1,500 hours of archived live
shows at the Turf Club, thousands of pictures, and 200 hours of video, capturing
things such as Lifter Puller going from an opening band to a headliner. SPMC
will finally get to produce a live record on SP’RF label (“SPMC
at the Turf”), which they’ve wanted to do for years. They welcome
assistance with making films from the videos.
The new SPMC website is being developed by illustrator Leah (who likes “to
make flyers and stuff”), Eric Kassel, Brigid Kelly (an “idea person”)
and Terry Walsh (self-titled, “SPMC Lackey”). The website opening
soon will feature upcoming shows, photos, history and a message board.
The board is still in place and Rule says he can’t begin to list the numbers
of people who have offered to help. Rule hopes to attract more new people and
keep spreading the music. He says, “There’s nothing better than
people meeting at musical places. There’s a magic to it. There’s
a saying, ‘It’s the dancing of molecules in the air that tickle
your eardrum.’ It’s a living thing and it’s very moving. It’s
For up to date information of all SPMC happenings call the
SPMC Hotline/Booking line at 651-644-3428 or visit the soon to be up and running
SPMC website: SPMC.RatDiet.com.