Category: Retribution Gospel Choir

Recap: The Hold Steady, Meat Puppets, and Retribution Gospel Choir at First Avenue

“We are The Hold Steady, and we’re gonna have a good time tonight!”

Usually when a singer introduces his band like that on stage, it’s just a platitude, an easy way to warm up the crowd. But when Craig Finn says it in Minneapolis, and particularly at First Avenue, you can be damn sure he means it. In strict terms of residency, The Hold Steady might be a New York band, but its heart has always been here in Minnesota. That’s hardly a secret, of course—Finn has been mining his Minneapolis past for lyrical material ever since he and fellow expat Tad Kubler formed THS out of the ashes of Lifter Puller, using it as an essential backdrop for his long-running, loosely connected song cycle about being young and down-and-out. The passing of years makes the theme increasingly nostalgic and hazy with each successive album, but it doesn’t seem like Finn will drop it anytime soon—not when Heaven Is Whenever kicks off with a line about living on Hennepin Avenue.

So when The Hold Steady comes home to the bar one block away, they own that stage. And that’s because we Twin Citians own The Hold Steady. Never mind New York; these guys are ours. “I don’t think anyone understands what we’re talking about half as well as you guys do,” Finn acknowledged during “Little Hoodrat Friend.” Finn makes an unlikely rock star, dressed in a black button-down short-sleeve shirt like a guy from the IT department who’s busting out a few of Mick Jagger’s moves. He had a look of pure joy on his face the whole night, and it was mirrored in the ecstatic mood of the audience, which burst into explosive life for the headliners after an appreciative but more subdued response to openers The Meat Puppets. The crowd clearly knew all the songs by heart and sang along to every syllable.

Originally published Dec. 30, 2010 on Read the complete article.

Interview: Retribution Gospel Choir’s Alan Sparhawk unleashes his inner classic-rock beast

Retribution Gospel ChoirPlenty of musicians get mellower with age, but Alan Sparhawk’s been doing the exact opposite. For the past couple of albums, his main band, Low, has been progressively increasing the noise level on its minimalist (and originally very quiet) rock, and he pushes that envelope even further with side project Retribution Gospel Choir. Where Low is about doing more with less, RGC is a place where Sparhawk can cut loose. Rounded out by bassist (and Sparhawk’s Low bandmate) Steve Garrington and drummer Eric Pollard, the band has just released its sophomore disc, simply titled 2. Although it still shares a lot in common sonically with Low, the album gives free rein to a fuller, almost classic-rock sound, and it has a sense of freewheeling fun not usually associated with Sparhawk’s main band. Before playing at the Triple Rock Social Club Feb. 20, Sparhawk talked to The A.V. Club about Huey Lewis harmonies, Low’s dip into the dance world, and his toughest critic.

Originally published on Feb. 19, 2010. Read the complete article.

Review: Retribution Gospel Choir: Retribution Gospel Choir

Alan Sparhawk’s main project, the Duluth slowcore trio Low, has cranked up the volume and feedback so much over its last couple of albums that Sparhawk’s raucous side projects Black Eyed Snakes and Retribution Gospel Choir aren’t as much of a surprise as they once were. Looking back, they now seem like ways for Sparhawk to experiment with new sounds before committing himself to adding them into the Low recipe. But there’s still lots of ground to explore with RGC—he’s able to go even further out into louder, harder-rocking territory, and he sounds as comfortable there as he ever did in Low’s quiet, still spaces.

Originally a duo project with Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek, RGC is now a Sparhawk-fronted trio also featuring Low bassist Matt Livingston, though Kozelek is still involved as producer. (It’s his record label, too.) Two songs here first appeared on Low’s Drums And Guns, and the changes are instructive: “Breaker” morphs from an organ-and-handclap-driven drone to one built around a thrashing guitar riff, with the urgency kicked up a notch. Better? Not exactly, but it’s like watching two great actors interpret the same role in different ways—they’re both right, and perfect for their context.

Originally published on March 17, 2008. Read the complete article.

WordPress Themes

Spam prevention powered by Akismet