We Went There: Marijuana Deathsquads, Swamp Dogg and Fog at the Metro (Eaux Claires Fest)
It was easy to see a great triple bill of two prominent Twin Cities artists and a cool outsider crammed in the middle on the 4th of July. You just had to drive 90 minutes east to The Metro in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Starting off the night was a tense and emphatic set from Andrew Broder’s project FOG, joined for at least one night by fellow dj/producer Psymun. Adding the second set of hands to trigger drum machines and distort the sounds really expanded the soundscape and allowed Broder to draw out the thematic vocals that float atop FOG’s dense electronic dirges. Broder always delivers, no matter what moniker he is with on any given night, but this was one of the most inspired I have seen from him in a while.
The second act went from two dudes behind keyboards to a full band that took up the entire stage. Swamp Dogg is the nom de plume of Virginia artist Jerry Williams, Jr, a 75-year-old soul/blues/funk singer who has recently seemed to come into the Totally Gross National Product fold. For his engaging and funky hour-long set, Williams was backed by 10+ people, including few people who must have been part of his crew who seemed to know him best and be directing the band that was filled out by Twin Cities artists. Drew (Policia/TGNP) was on the drums, Chastity Brown and Chris and Channy (Policia) sang backup vocals and Jeremy Ylvisaker (about 42 local bands) on guitar all chipped in for the loose but funky set. After one spirited guitar solo, while the band was still playing, Williams turned to Ylvisaker and asked his name. When he finally heard him say “Jeremy,” Williams told him he was a “bad motherfucker.” It was one of those nights. While the band clearly hadn’t been able to totally get in sync, it didn’t take away from a really fun set from an artist I didn’t know one song of going into the even. It was one of those sets that is going to lead me into trying to find out more about his work as the small sample we got Wednesday night indicated an interesting and compelling artist that is very much worth checking out.
The headliners of the night were Minneapolis collective Marijuana Deathsquads, who were three drummers deep and about 7 strong on the knob-twisting, bringing their usual hypnotic chaos to the mostly full Metro. Their set was based around a “pizza race,” a fun stunt they’ve done at least once in the Twin Cities at Icehouse. As their synth and drum cacophony starts, someone with the band ordered pizzas from four local pizza joints and the race is on to see who can deliver their pie first. (For those interested, the July 4th Eaux Claires winner was a local Rocky Rococo, who not only one but had a super excited delivery person who doled out high fives upon realizing he had won.) I’ve yet to see a MDS set that wasn’t scintillating, and this was no different. Some were dancing, some were slack-jawed at the wave of sound emitting from the stage and others got lost in the noise. It was a great end to a wonderful set of music that was semi-officially the start of the Eaux Claires festival weekend. Check back for more updates from the weekend over the next few days!