“Ciaran Daly…the Geraldo Rivera of the MPLS indie rock scene.”

Props to geoff for the video.


Clubhouse Jager Uber Alles?

A true crime post sent in by Stephenhero North Loop correspondent Ciaran Daly:

What’s a scene, exactly? What does it ask from you, and what do you owe it?

These thoughts have been bouncing around my head for the last few days since my last ill-fated visit to Transmission, the weekly 80s/British/indie themed night hosted by local DJ Jake Rudh at Clubhouse Jager on 10th & Washington. Long a favorite of local bands as a hangout night, Transmission landed at Jager about a year back after its last run at the Hexagon Bar. It’s more successful than ever in its new surroundings, regularly packing the house. It’s been a fortuitous match for both venue and DJ–yours truly has been going to Transmission on and off for over 5 years, and it’s morphed from a notoriously uneven night that was either dead or packed, to one that always has a respectable draw.

Clubhouse Jager is a new venue going through the usual growing pains. After several unsuccessful events nights, they recently fired general manager and founding partner Rickert Whyte and replaced him with former bartender and new GM Angie Heitz. By all appearances, Jager and Transmission is a marriage made in heaven. Rudh’s Transmission has long been one of the few local dj nights that supports local acts and regularly plays and promotes their new releases. (On that note, btw, check out Minnie Indie’s new night, Swyndle, Mondays at the Uptown Bar.) Local bands have repaid Jake’s loyalty, recently throwing a benefit at the Fine Line headlined by Tapes ‘n’ Tapes for his fiance Mercedes Gorden, who was badly hurt in the 35w bridge collapse. Turn up at Transmission on any given Wednesday over the last year, swing a stick, and you’d hit members of any number of the local bands on Transmission’s Myspace Page, whose “top friends” reads like a who’s who of local indie rock talent.

But show up over the last 6 months, and you might have witnessed members of those same bands getting attacked.

The aggressors in both instances were members of a tight-knit crew that often show up dressed identically, with very short or shaved hair. Sources identify them as former West Bank skinheads. The first incident took place in October of 2007, when the crew in question showed up at Transmission wearing black suits and red shirts. Dan Larsen of White Light Riot was talking with a woman who had appeared in the company of the half dozen or so men dressed and asked (not unreasonably, given their attire and grooming), “Are those guys Nazis or something?”

It earned him a beating.

One of the men charged, and struck him. When drummer Mark Schwantz ran outside to Jager’s busy enclosed back courtyard to aid his friend, he was hit by another of the men who was waiting by the door, Chris Miller. Rickert Whyte, GM at the time, recalls “I heard about it after the fact. I was for 86ing them, but Angie (current GM Angela Heitz) and Julius (Julius Jaegar de Roma, the owner) vouched for them. A few days later I was let go. No one there has returned my calls or e-mails since.”

He also mentioned that the next two staff members to leave or be forced out due to a sudden lack of hours were both Jewish. When I asked Schwantz about the night in question, he referred me to a member of local band So It Goes, who prefers to remain anonymous. This gentleman had a bizarre experience with owner Jaegar de Roma in July of that year. He introduced himself to the owner of the beautifully appointed new club, only to have the conversation immediately take a bizarre turn as he was interrogated at length on his ancestry. The young man replied he was Icelandic.

“That’s good Aryan stock,” Jaegar de Roma noted approvingly.

A joking reference to his blue eyes earned further such comments on his “race.” Troubled by this conversation, he decided never to return to the venue.Former GM Rickert Whyte corroborates the stories of his mercurial former boss’ “eccentricities.”

“I would sit in that bar while it opened and literally watch him drive people away,” Whyte said. “He would sit down at their table and start talking about the Holocaust and customers would leave and never come back. Eventually I just asked him not to come down to the bar because it was hurting business.”

Jake Nordin, sound man at The Guthrie, reports a similar conversation about politics with Jaeger De La Roma in which an errant comment had him asking “Julius, I have to ask you – do you think the Holocaust actually happened?” After some hemming and hawing, he recalled saying that it was a simple enough question, requiring only a yes or no answer. Nordin recalls hearing something which shocked him: “I think 40 or 50 thousand people died, and that’s terrible, but no I don’t think 6 million.”

He became another of Club Jager’s ex-patrons that night.

In February of 2008, Chris Miller–the backdoor man Jaegar de Roma vouched for in the first attack–would make his presence felt at Jager again. On February 6th, he was passing by a Transmission regular of 7+ years, Allan Kleckner, in the crowded bottleneck leading to Jager’s bathrooms. On several previous occasions, he had elbowed Kleckner, who is Jewish, hard in the back as he passed by. On the third occasion, in front of several witnesses, Kleckner stepped back, and Miller rounded on him, looming over him and glowering down at him with his face perhaps 6 inches away from Kleckner’s. Bizarrely, he asked Kleckner, the smaller man, what his problem was. It was at this point that I stepped between the two, asking Miller his name (he refused to give it), and to calm down, telling him that no one here was going to get in a fight.

Miller proved me wrong by punching me repeatedly in the face.

In the scuffle that ensued I came away with nothing more serious than a goose egg on the back of my skull when I fell and struck the floor. Miller outweighs me by at least 100 lbs, so either the big man can’t hit or I’m very lucky.

Whether the next person he attacks at Jager will be so lucky is anyone’s guess. The reaction of the staff I found particularly telling. Miller, whom multiple witnesses indicated was the aggressor, was allowed to stay and pay his tab. I was hustled out the back. Later, I learned that the cops arrived almost immediately and were told by the bar staff that they were not required. I would have been happy to give a statement, but it was too late–they were gone. I asked for my attacker’s name. It was refused. I asked that he be 86d. GM Angie Heitz told me, “No one will be 86d. No one will go to jail. That’s how I want it.” After multiple requests online indicating a name was needed to file a police report, I was given a name on February 10th, four days later.Jake Rudh contacted me about the incident the next day, expressing his concern. He said he would “give his 2 cents” to the management but that he “just plays the tunes” and could do nothing more. He also confirmed that the people in question had been given a warning by the bar, but would still be let back in, noting “they always bring $ down to the bar.”

What do I think about all of it? In the end, Jager’s a private establishment. They can act as they please. If they continue to let a violent element into their bar, it sends the clear message that those people are more important than their customers feeling safe. That should shake itself out pretty naturally. Jake has a fiancee in ongoing physical therapy with a ton of ongoing medical expenses, so I can understand his not wanting to rock the boat.

But thuggish people have a way of forcing you to make decisions.

“Time is going by really, really, really, really slow.”

I know this is old, but time is going by really, really, really, really slow this winter.

Logrolling Johnny Swardson

So my buddy Jeff just sent me a link to an article that Jim Walsh wrote about our friend Johnny Rock.

It’s a story about “Highway Songs,” a song on Johnny’s new album, Silver Dust. Walsh writes how Johnny was inspired to write “Highway Songs” after making eye contact with a stranger driving north on Highway 8 just before her apparent suicide. It’s an incredible story–one of the best behind-the-song stories I’ve ever read (probably number one, actually, because the Phil Collins “Something in the Air Tonight” backstory has been discredited). But it was strange for me to read–it’s one of those you wish you would’ve written yourself, you know? And not just because I’ve known Johnny for years, and now a story that he told me over Camel lights in the Green Mill parking lot is being told by other writers, on other websites.

It’s strange writing about art in this town, because it’s small enough that you wind up being friends with a lot of artists, sometimes before the piece comes out, sometimes after. And let’s settle down with the “these people are going to try to be your friends” Lester Bangs in Almost Famous shit. An article in City Pages or Mpls.St.Paul is not going to make or break anybody’s career, but there’s a good chance it will cause an awkward conversation at the Triple Rock.

Most of the time with these things, there’s a chicken-or-the-egg scenario…was I this dude’s friend first? Or his fan? Later, followed by, (even if only on an unconscious level, but usually pretty goddam consciously), do I like this dude, but have major problems with his new [record, movie, play, book]? Then there’s the matter of what’s actually out there on the public record and how much private stuff do you know simply because you’re a friend. If you go to the dude’s wedding, and a year later, have to write a story on him, how many intimate details can you include? What does your friend the artist consider to be intimate? Even after you’ve successfully negotiated what’s in and what’s out, after you’ve agreed to a version of the “official story” you both can live with, it’s not uncommon that I’ll get a call two days after the interview…”uh, dude, would it be cool if you didn’t mention [blank]?” And all of it is complicated by this objectivity paradigm that you’re supposed to adhere to as a journalist. So are you violating some H.L. Mencken blood oath if you critique your friend’s shit positively? Are you violating the friendship if you critique his shit negatively? Do you have divulge where you rank on the BFF scale in your lede? Bottom line, with all this angst, you run the risk of pussing out or overcompensating and turning in a corny or worse, phony, piece.

My point is (let’s just get it out of the way), go see Johnny’s new band tonight at Barfly. They’re called John Swardson and the Get Gone, and they go on at 9:30.

Quickly, before all this gets swept under the friendship rug: I met Johnny in ’98 when we were both waiting tables at Sidney’s on Grand Avenue. Back then, he played rhythm guitar in this R&B band, Blue Dot Trance. They were a good time–used to catch them at the old Loring or The Red Sea. Their frontman was this six-foot-four black dude with dreads down to his ass that would hug a bongo drum between his knees and sing like Lenny Kravitz. BDT did a killer cover of the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s hit “So Into You.”

Johnny had a weird dye job back then, and he had these ridiculous sideburns that ran from his ears to the corner of his lips–he looked like a stag beetle with frosted highlights. So I guess he fit in with the funk soul brothers in the band, most of whom he went to high school with, or knew from the St. Paul neighborhood they grew up in. But he had one song that he would perform in the middle of the set, “Chasing the Rabbit.” It was germane to the whole funk-on-acid vibe, but it told a darker, more sophisticated story than some of Blue Dot’s other songs. And when you got to know Johnny, he was obviously more into artists like Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder than the Atlanta Rhythm Section. (Uh, thank Christ?)

Blue Dot broke up five years ago (maybe more), and in the meanwhile, Johnny’s been doing the troubadour thing–playing his songs solo with an acoustic guitar at different rooms around the city. In 2006, he put out a record, Ablaze, of songs that he’d been been playing solo for awhile. The record sounded dramatically different though. He recorded it in his friend’s home studio, and he got a bunch of musicians from around town to guest star on different parts–Dave Boquist played slide on one song, and Mark Mallman did keys on another. But Johnny never got a band together in real life. Never played a “CD release party” that City Pages could hype in the A-List. I don’t know if he just wasn’t confident enough in the record, or if he didn’t want to be responsible for getting his own band together. Who knows. It was kind of frustrating, because Johnny had these great stories to tell, but they were great rock songs, not great coffeehouse songs. Honestly, they were songs that I wanted to write about, but it seemed like Johnny was consciously avoiding putting himself out there. Maybe he didn’t want to be written about, didn’t want to be evaluated by anyone publicly.

And then he puts a band together and records a new album that he’s so proud of he hands the “Highway Song” scoop to Jim Walsh. I mean, Jesus! That’s what friends are for, I guess. As Dan Barreiro says, “We’re happy for ya.” So sure, go to his gig tonight. Go crowd the stage. I’ll be the guy in the back with his arms crossed.

The guy into the earlier material.

Alex Jones and Willie Nelson

Alex’s classic intro of Willie:

Part 2, Willie on the war and 9/11:

Part 3, Willie on the new world order and the possibility of a cancelled election:

Another Strange Endorsement

Coulter, you magnificent bastard.