by Tom Hallett
Get Well Soon, Neil Young—who suffered a brain aneurysm last week and is currently recuperating at a NYC hotel. RTD will rejoin the Ergo© Time Machine in action again next week. This edition goes out with big, big love, to the inimitable Saint Paul Music Club, The Mammy Nuns, Rob & Leah Rule, Dave Weigardt and the entire staff—past and present—of the Turf Club.
Thanks for the Mammy-ries, gang!
Well, I guess some of you have been wondering when the ‘Dial was gonna break down and address the latest disturbing news on the local music scene; that beloved St. Paul music venue The Turf Club has changed owners and the revered SPMC has pulled up stakes and vacated the building. And that’s mostly true—the defunct Clown Lounge sulks in the bar’s basement like an aged cabaret starlet, her makeup stripped off; her wigs, silky threads and feather boas packed away in a mildewy trunk. Upstairs, there are no Raleigh’s Tacos flying outta the kitchen with clockwork precision, no SPMC stickers, T-shirts, or albums for sale under the cash register.
OF THE WEEK: “Earth is a flower, and it’s pollinating. It’s
starting to send out things, and now we’re evolving ... because we need
to spread out in the universe. I think in 100 years we’ll be living on
— Neil Young
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Turf Club, St. Paul”
— Todd Newman
There’ll be no giant, garish green banner hanging behind the drum kit
on stage—oops, did I say drum kit? The SPMC bought, maintained and shared
all of the gear at the Turf, including the drum kit. If that gear’s still
there, it’s only because the SPMC are just a nice goddamn bunch of folks.
There are no outlandish costumes thrown willy-nilly over the couches and tables
in the Green Room, no bulletin board overloaded with notes reading, “Folk/Funk
fusion act desperately seeking drummer,” “Hard rock vocalist looking
for band. I’m into Queens Of The Stone Age, Motorhead, and some emo,”
or, “Lost: One Zildjian cymbal case, black. Please call Carlos at blah
blah blah.” No rockin’, boppin’, grinning Rob Rule peering
out over the soundboard. And somewhere, right now, there are around 70 beat-up
vinyl copies of Neil Young’s Harvest album (which used to hang from the
ceiling there like so many gentle, dusty, rock ‘n’ roll Christmas
ornaments) stacked willy-nilly in a cardboard box.
For music fans, curious college kids, local and national (and international)
artists, and bookers, PR flacks, and media wonks alike, it truly is the end
of an era. Quite frankly, if you weren’t there, you’ll have to be
content with (and put up with) the memories of those of us who were, bragging
it up, comparing it to everyplace else, and, sometimes, shedding a salty tear
in our beers over it. Personally, I can only say that there’s a real good
chance that there would not only NOT be a Round The Dial, but I may not have
continued writing about rock ‘n’ roll at all had it not been for
the people, experiences and opportunities that came with being a member of and
friends with the SPMC. A loose collective of local artists, musicians and fans,
the club was responsible for giving a much needed leg up to countless fellow
rockers, folkies and boogie-woogie bad boys (and gals) over the years, but mostly,
they acted as parents-by-proxy, swingin’ party hosts/hostesses, or cool,
late-night baby-sitters to any and all who knocked upon their figurative door.
will I miss the most about the SPMC no longer being at the Turf? Well, you might
think it’d be the excellent bands and artists (Rob Rule, especially, who
booked, hosted, led the house band, ran the soundboard, and basically wiped
the drool off the chins of everybody who looked like they needed it) they brought
my way since I first started haunting the joint in the mid-’90s. Or the
Clownge, where I and my fellow Squealer magazine cohorts first sponsored the
Sunday Night Clown Lounge Calvacade of Stars, long before regular jazz nights,
visits by the likes of Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams, and a nightly parade
of horny, haughty hipsters became regular occurrences there. Or maybe the complete,
no-holds-barred access I was given as a journalist to some of the world’s
most talented singers, musicians and artists. And yeah, you’d be right
on all of those counts, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth.
Sure, it was a real treat watching people like Dream Syndicate founder Steve
Wynn, Hank Williams III and Syl Sylvain of the New York Dolls tear up the same
stage my best friends played on every other night of the week. And yeah, the
Clownge (and its one-of-a-kind host/bartender Dave Weigardt) was like a home
away from home for me, even years after I’d had anything to do with the
booking or entertainment there. Hell, I missed more than one great show upstairs
sitting at that tiny bar. One night, local writer Jim Walsh and I hunkered there,
drinking and yacking through a two-hour show by a national artist we’d
both come specifically to see. Upon hearing the band quit playing and glancing
at the clock, we both gaped at each other and threw up our hands....that’s
just the way that room was, like time stopped in a blissful state of limbo.
Finally, there’s no denying that I was thrilled beyond words to have the
opportunity to make ex-Mother Of Invention Jimmy Carl Black and his band tacos
and hang out with ‘em all night. Have my photo taken with Alejandro Escovedo.
Buy Lucinda Williams a drink, and have her give me a special autograph (“To
Tommy—My Other Drunken Angel. Love, Lu) and a hug or three. To hang out
listening to stories from The Silos’ Walter Salas-Humera after hours.
I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything.
But what I’ll really miss the most, as you might have guessed, will be
the people. The regular, beer-swilling, cig-sucking, bullshit-spouting folks
who, just like me, came to the Turf for the camaraderie, the vibes, the warmth.
Lounging around on the SPMC bus for A WHOLE DAY, sucking down a kegger and trading
verbal jabs with Grant Hart, Rich Mattson or John Ewing. Stumbling up those
stairs with Dave W., my buddy Max Edwards and Martin Devaney at closing time.
Hanging out with three or four other die-hards on a Sunday side-stage night,
watching Hazy Dave Hazledine play ancient blues and folk tunes on a battered
acoustic. Haunting the alley after hours with Tom Siler, Andy Schultz and the
Mammy Nuns until the last rock trivia question was answered, the final Bill
Nye The Science Guy theory expounded upon, the final vehicle had pulled off,
reluctantly, into the first faint strains of a new dawn. Catching Leah Rule’s
knowing glance and open grin as we both totally grooved on a riff, or a lyric,
or a stance from one of the cats onstage. Spinning around to catch some sorta-famous
celeb strolling through the doors, or Rob switching costumes onstage (let’s
not forget the dozens of “Tribute” shows the Mammys and friends
put on over the years—SPMC Stinks, a tribute to the Replacements, Frank-O-Ween,
the annual Frank Zappa-a-thon, Styx And Stones, Grand Young Day, the yearly
cover band gigs) during one of those Tuesday night Mammy wammy-jammys. It’s
the people who made that bar, the people who gave it life, and the people who
are leaving it with the reputation, the great vibes and endless possibilities
So yeah, I’ll miss the SPMC being there. I’ll miss Mammy Tuesdays.
I’ll miss the old guard, my old pals, my favorite artists, my insider
privileges. But you know what? I’m not going to count the Turf Club out
quite yet. There’s no doubt that it will never be the same, but that doesn’t
mean nothing good will ever happen there again. Bands and artists that Rob booked
are still on the docket, and they deserve our support. Some of the old Turf
staff remains, good people like Dave Rickert, who helps book, always has a friendly
smile, and makes a damn good day drink. Word has it that Ol’ Yeller front
man/soundguy Rich Mattson may take over booking on Tuesdays—how cool is
that? And neighborhood people, regular folks, people whose faces you know by
heart but you’ve never spoken a word to—friendly, familiar rock
‘n’ roll background—they’ll all still be cloistered
around a half-full pitcher of Summit, laughing at the Green Day song playing
on the juke or the drunken fool playing pool. Rob and the gang will be sorely
missed, but they’d be the last ones to tell you to never darken the place’s
door again, people. That’s the legacy of the SPMC—and he and the
gang would want you and I to keep that flame a’ burnin’. In the
meantime, the staff and the Mammy Nuns will move into their next exciting phase,
with new shows, new venues, new adventures lying just around the corner. Thanks,
Rob, Leah, Dave and the rest ... lead on, brothers and sisters. We’re
right behind ya.
National and local artists/fans react to the changes at the
Tuesday night crowd, the SPMC people—musicians, fans, bartenders, the
fabulous Leah Rule, writers, bouncers (are there bouncers at the Turf? Door
guys, I guess. Never noticed them doing a lot of bouncing)—know a definition
of the word “support” that no car ribbon magnet could ever duplicate.
Tuesday nights made my whole work week tolerable. I guess that explains why
I suddenly quit my day job on Friday. But my defining memory of the SPMC at
the Turf is obviously the Mammy Nuns. The way they can bounce from hilarity
to brilliance within one verse of a song. The way Rob unselfconsciously plays
ringleader and keeps his fellow geniuses in check on stage. The way musicians
would come to see him play, trying to get gigs at the Turf, and then come back
even when they were already booked. He looked like a different guy every single
Tuesday, and I was a happy witness to the way his songwriting blossomed over
the last couple years at an age that is way too big of a number for American
Idol. I am heartbroken, miserable, distraught, inconsolable. But I’m holding
out hope that there will be a Tuesday night soon that finds me sitting at a
Turf Club table with Rob and Leah, watching Ol’ Yeller. Ideally, the Mammys
will be on the bill. Life goes on, and it ain’t time to die yet, dammit.
2AM, Belfast Cowboys
takes a bit of touring before you can find that club in each city that becomes
your “home.” The Turf Club had become that place for me and
my band, a club where we always felt welcome and appreciated, where we felt
good about playing music and having friends and fans there along with us to
enjoy a good evening. I’ve always said that so much of the music each
evening comes down to how the band feels about their surroundings when they
hit the stage. Rob and everyone at the Turf Club always made sure we had a good
time and that’s why my Turf Club memories will always be good ones. Thanks!
Dream Syndicate founder
auxiliary member, Golden Smog
I think it was about the time that they demolished the old 24 bar when the SPMC
first popped up and that 24 scene sort of migrated over to the Turf—Whiskey
Sour Notes, Beangirl, etc. I guess what sticks out in my memory most are
all the weird theme nights. The craziest one I can think of was the Alice Cooper/ZZtop
cover night. I don’t really get the connection, A to Z maybe? I sang “I’m
the Coolest” by Alice Cooper, and even though I was really a fat drunk
with a horrible hair cut, somehow when you were around Rob Rule and the SPMC
nights at the Turf, you felt like you really were the coolest.
Kingdom Of Ghosts
11 hours from my house to the Turf Club. Why did we drive there twice a
year for eight years? The Turf Club/SPMC family provided the place and atmosphere
for live, original music. Never mind the giant, leaky air conditioner—thank
you Rob & Leah and all the drunken musicians.
Terry & Jamie Rouch
The Roach Brothers, Indiana
now and then when I’m feeling particularly blue, I sometimes think about
how few places there are in the town where I live that I feel absolutely comfortable.
Except for the Turf Club. For the past 10 years, I have been fortunate, like
so many others, to have a place that personifies the heart and soul of the free
thinkers of the Twin Cities music scene. In cement, always present, without
a doubt, if I wanted to surround myself with people that were like-minded, full
of philosophy, or vastly without, I knew where to go and that I would find them
there ready to fulfill my unspoken request. Rob Rule and Dave Weigart, for creating
and nurturing this masterpiece, I will be forever indebted to you.
Solo artist/Minor Planets
I became hooked on “Three Chords,” and tacos 9 months ago. The
Mammy Nuns are great tongue-in-cheek rock ’n’ roll, and Raleigh’s
tacos are the best. The Burrito Bash was one of the funnest events, with favorite
bands such as Little Man, Kruddler and Ol’ Yeller. The playground known
as the Turf is the best place to hear local rock music and meet and hang out
with friends. I’ve developed many friendships with fellow music lovers
there who share similar socio-political and arts views. Rule and Weigart and
other staff are the most supportive folks around musicians and journalists.
The place has tons of heart which makes it special.
played the TURF a couple weeks ago (the last Saturday in March) with Slim (Dunlap),
and everyone—especially Rob—was totally bummed. It’s very
sad when a great venue changes. Luckily the SPMC seems to be a pretty committed
bunch and I’m sure many more great gigs are in our future. Cheers!
It’s hard to come up with one example of why I love the Turf club.
the Turf has been like a second home to me and Accident Clearinghouse. We played
there about once every two months, have done our New Year’s show there
every year for the last seven years, with two exceptions, and whenever we put
out a record we did the release at the Turf. Why? Because they took care of
us. They treated us like friends, or, better still, like family. We knew everyone
there and they knew us. We had fun together. If we played a good show, it was
an awesome show at the Turf, and a bad show was still tolerable, because of
all the support from the folks there. None of this really captures what I’m
feeling, though. It’s hard to put into words what a place and the people
associated with it really mean to you. Maybe the best is just to say Thank You,
for everything, to everyone. We love you guys, and we’ll miss the Turf
& Accident Clearinghouse
really glad I got a chance last summer to fulfill my dream of fronting the Mammy
Nuns for a Tuesday night performance! And little did John Ewing and I know
when we did our “Summer Side of Life” Ode to Gordon Lightfoot on
a Hazy Dave Sunday that there would be no more summerTurf Club shows to write
home about. St. Paul has lost a lot of incredible vibe, Donna Dee at The Manor,
Casey’s, etc. Maybe Captain Dave (Weigardt) can re-open the Edmund Fitzgerald
in his own basement, a more true “Members/Clowns only” kind of hang.
In the immortal words of Wiggy himself,”Alright, you guys, I’m gonna
start trying to get us all out of here!”
Larme’ De Colere
ex-Tulip Sweet/The Odd
How could such a cool place be brought down so quickly? Even though
this 15 year old was only able to enjoy one concert at the Turf Club (the Ike
Reilly band), it was a mind opening experience. It was such a peaceful environment,
it was the happiest bar I have ever came across, and it was the kind of place
where the people drowning their sorrows in alcohol looked like they were having
a good time. It seems all the good places where people can go to escape and
listen to some good live music are getting brought down. I wanted to take a
little venture there when I turned 21, but I guess I can’t now, and it’s
a sad thought. Maybe I’ll just go to an Irish pub, what the hell. But
I just don’t think it’ll feel the same.
15-year old local music fan
One more note on the SPMC: I found a great site dedicated to the club
on line, hosted by SPMC member/Mammys fan/local rocker Jon Rayl. There aren’t
many posts up there yet, but I think it could be a great web-meeting place for
SPMC members, fans and the curious to hook up and share memories, anecdotes,
and post/gather info on upcoming SPMC/Mammy events. I hope to see scads of messages
up there soon. Thanks to Jon Rayl. Here’s that URL.
That’s it for me this week, gang. Tune again next time for more trippin’
with the Ergo© Time Machine and new CD reviews. Huge ups to the artists/fans
who contributed their Turf memories to this piece. Until we meet again—make
yer own damn news. ||
If you have local music news/gigs/events/CDs you’d
like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to complain that
you’ve been experiencing serious hunger pangs since Raleigh’s Tacos
vacated the Turf, send replies to: (NEW E-MAIL!!) Tmygunn777@peoplepc.com.