concert memoirs pt. 40 – trip shakespeare, big black & the three johns

Trip Shakespeare (Minneapolis band)

I mentioned this in my blog about Breaking Circus, but I want to go into a little more detail on First Avenue’s New Band nights. Back when John and I were going to Club Degenerate, First Avenue’s weekly dance night featuring punk, post-punk, industrial, indie, etc. music, on each Tuesday night, we could cross-over to the 7th St. Entry to catch New Band Night. It was free and a good opportunity to possibly see the next big thing from Minnesota.

It was during these New Band Nights that we first saw Breaking Circus and numerous other bands that I’ve forgotten since. But, I haven’t forgotten Trip Shakespeare. Since it was New Band Night, it must have been Trip Shakespeare’s first time playing at First Avenue, albeit in the Entry.

They were a three piece band then. Matt Wilson’s brother, Dan, had not yet joined the band. As I recall, they were all dressed in matching grey business suits. I don’t remember if they wore ties. Maybe. I do remember liking their catchy tunes right away. I also recall that the gal playing the drums, Elaine Harris, was standing at them. I don’t think I’d ever seen drums played that way until then.

Matt Wilson had an usual stance and moves while playing. He would sort of lean back and squat slightly, then sway side to side while stomping his feet in time to the music. At least, that’s how I picture it.

I bought their first LP, ‘Applehead Man’, when it came out. For some reason, I got rid of it. I wish I hadn’t.

Big Black at First Avenue 1986 or 87 with John.

This was a very loud show. They started off the show with what I think was customary for them, lighting off a brick of firecrackers. I don’t know if they amplified the fireworks at all, but it was damn loud! And it must have taken a minute or two before the last firecracker exploded. The smoke and smell of gun powder hung thickly in the club for the rest of the show. I’m not sure the fire marshal would have been pleased.

So, Big Black was a three piece band using a drum machine. They were loud and very, very angry. The sounds they made were incredible. I still think the opening guitar riff of their song ‘Kerosene’ is one of the all-time greatest moments in guitar rock history. And Steve Albini pulled it off brilliantly live.

I especially liked Albini’s use of his guitar strap as a belt. Cool visual. As if the guitar was attached directly to his pelvis.

The Three Johns w/Lesley Woods in the 7th St. Entry with John.

This was an interesting (and fun) night in the Entry. It started with Lesley Woods, fomerly of the great UK band Au Pairs. It was just her, a microphone, and a boom box. John and I stayed at the back wall and watched her tell a story or two, perform some Au Pairs tunes and some of her solo work from there.

I thought it was pretty gutsy to get up there like that, solo with just a backing tape playing on a boombox. But, then it’s pretty gutsy to do anything in front of a group of strangers.

Then came The Three Johns. Boy, were they fun. They were another three piece band using a drum machine. Playing some really good guitar driven post-punk dance music was their thing. They released some really good singles. Such as, ‘(He’s a) Brain Box’ and the brilliant’ Death of a European’. Their albums were ok, but it was their singles that made them special.

During their set, it was their between song banter that stole the show. They were very funny and they took special enjoyment out of razzing some of the gals in the audience.

“Oh, look! It’s Madonna!”

“And there’s Madonna, too!”

“And another one!”

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