Word & Images by: Jennifer Baechle
A Night for Lyndale Elementary featuring:
The Pistol Whippin' Party Penguins, Down Lo, God Johnson & Pert' Near Sandstone
03.14.08 :: First Avenue :: Minneapolis, MN
When I first arrived at Minnesota's First Avenue for "A Night for Lyndale Elementary," I was a little ill at ease about how the night would turn out as it seemed like there were only a handful of people milling around waiting for the show to start. My fears were soon laid to rest as concertgoers crept out of First Ave's shadowy nooks and crannies and flooded the dance floor as The Pistol Whippin' Party Penguins stepped on stage to kick off what would end up being an epic five-hour marathon of non-stop action.
God Johnson :: 03.14 :: Minneapolis, MN
A mix of country and bluegrass, these boys really know how to get down. How anyone can stand still when Jake Manders and Chris Pyle are dueling it out on the guitars and Matt Walvatne is hammering out the beats on his funky-looking bass I don't know. Throw in Ryan Schallock on the mandolin and a montage of fiddle players and it's a rockin' show for sure. While they played a mix of covers and originals, this girl's favorite was saved for last. If you've never heard "One Acre Farm" then you need to visit PWPP's MySpace page and have a listen, although the experience is lacking if you can't see the strain on their faces as they hit the falsettos.
The night continued as Minnesota State Senator Linda Berglin took the stage and spoke of the important role that non-profits like Vega Productions play in the success of rising artists. The crowd began to thicken and the dancers multiplied when Down Lo took the stage. Energized by the presence of family and friends in attendance, axe-man and lead singer Mark Grundhoefer had the crowd on a string as he piloted the band through a number of crowd favorites including an absolutely ruthless version of "Pimp Junkie." I asked keyboardist and saxophone player Will Nissen why Down Lo decided to play the benefit concert and this is what he had to say:
Elementary school band was my first introduction to music outside the classical piano and the first time I had played in a large group. It stuck with me through high school and I am sure I would not be playing music today had it not been for the public school music program. For us this event seemed like a great cause, and it marked Down Lo's first time playing the First Ave main room. Kids need to be exposed to music at the earliest age possible and with the state of the economy and government cuts in education spreading across the country; music programs are certainly being threatened.
Next on the agenda was God Johnson. Getting lost in the sound, I found myself enraptured by the evening's performance artist in residence, Chuck Hues, but when I heard the band bust into The Talking Heads' "Making Flippy Floppy," my attention returned fully to the stage. Dancing with joy as the band tore though the classic song it was not only my ears, but my eyes that were rewarded as I watched keyboardist Scott Roerick pull some crazy pop & lock moves.
Pert' Near Sandstone :: 03.14 :: Minneapolis, MN
"The Wrath" was another highlight and included one of the spaciest jams that God Johnson has every thrown down. The one thing that never fails about God Johnson is their commitment to the music and their ability to show how much fun they are having on stage. It is definitely infectious.
The climax of the evening came not from the music, but from the MC. Emmy winning Fox 9 News Anchor, and host for the night, Robyne Robinson was kind enough to share her time and her tongue as it turned out, to support the kids at Lyndale Elementary. When offered a donation of $10,000 to lay a big wet one on "Nasty" Nate as she called him, she took the bull by the horns and let him have it.
How Pert' Near Sandstone followed that up I'm not quite sure, but the crowd twirled each other in delight while dance master Andy Lambert let the sweat fly as he pounded out percussive beats on his newly electrified clogging board. When shouted requests of "Who Broke the Shit House Door" went unrecognized, the crowd broke out into song themselves and the Pert' Near fellas just couldn't help but oblige at that point. It was a perfect ending to a very entertaining evening.
When all was said and done, over $15,000 was raised; enough money to purchase Lyndale Elementary's entire wish list of instruments! Extra funding will be available for the art department and there's even a little left over to start a scholarship program resulting from the generous support of the 800 plus people in attendance. Way to go all of you who came out and supported the next generation of rock stars!
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