In This Old Purple Town

“This song is about a man that tells the truth about things that didn’t happen. It seems to be a male thing.”
-Glen Hansard – Introducing “Lies” at First Avenue – July 25, 2010

Most of this comes from an email that I wrote about my weekend in Minnesota.

Sara joined Willy and I for FNSC at The Colorado Grill. After the meal had concluded, Sara and I packed up into the car and headed for Crystal, Minnesota to stay the weekend with her brother Steve and see my favorite band, The Swell Season, in concert.

The trip started with a cloud of sorrow as I was hoping that Jen and Derrick would be joining us for the trip. I had tried to convince them to make the trip even though I knew First Avenue was not a good venue for a 7 month prego to watch a concert. Even if that concert was going to be transcendent. I even went so far as to give Derrick a Mr. T sticker from my childhood sticker book in an attempt to help him see the obvious solution to getting Jen to Minnesota.

My immense powers of persuasion did manage to move them from “no way Jose” all the way to “sitting on the fence”. Unfortunately while they were sitting on that fence a storm with 85 MPH winds came through one Saturday night and shattered the fence and 3 of their favorite trees. This ended my dream of their attendance.

It would not be the last disappointment this weekend.

As I opened up the Buick on the highway, Sara fired up her iPod and we had a Johnny Cash sing-along. At least we did when I knew the words.

Fueled by Johnny Cash and Big League Chew we made it to Steve’s residence in record time.



Our hosts Steve and Maggie


Maggie

We woke up in the morning and headed to Harriet Island to watch Flugtag. I was expecting it to be a pretty big deal, but nothing like it ended up being.

I was hoping to find The Britsons down there, but when we got down to the river there were 90,000 people crowded on both sides of the river. We started our day on the north side of the river, but the entrants and all of the “stuff” appeared to be on the south side of the river. So we made the several mile walk to the south side of the river where we met up with Becca.

Flugtag was cool and I’m glad that I went, but I’m not sure I would go again. It was so crowded on the south side of the river that a person could barely turn around. Although one flying craft did set a new world record, almost every other craft just fell 30 feet off the ramp into the water. There were no food vendors and the only drink for sale was Red Bull and they sold out of that before I got my thirst up.

After we met up with Becca we made the several mile trek back to the north side of the river so we could actually see something and breathe.



On the move to the south side.


St. Paul

< I don't know what these people were, besides interesting.

View from the Bridge


A “Flying” Craft


Another Entrant


Another Entrant


A Hamburger “Flying” Craft


It was so crowded on the south side that you couldn’t see anything but the video screen.


Back to the north side.


Underneath the bridge.


Stopping to pose with Becca.


At least you could see the flight deck from the north side.


Straight Down


This would be fun!


Think it will fly?


If you said, “Sort of.” You win!


Sara getting hot, I imagine.


Becca photographing Flugtag.


Becca photographing Flugtag.


It was hot enough and dry enough by the river that Becca went for a refreshing romp through a fountain.

After Flugtag we ate at a joint called Shamrock’s. I had my third Juicy Lucy this year and I’m still declaring Matt’s Bar to have the best in the business.

After the meal we dropped Rebecca off at her car with plans to meet up for supper at a restaurant that I saw on Man vs. Food.

On an episode of Man vs. Food they went to Gasthof zur Gemutilichkeit to try their Meterbratwurst Challenge. I had no desire to try downing a Meter long bratwurst on my own. I had plans for the remainder of the evening and big plans for the next day. I didn’t want to be miserable.

However, I did want to see the Meterwurst and photograph it. So my plan was to try to convince Jill to split one with me despite the ludicrous $8.00 fee for splitting meals. But fate worked against me and Jill had to cancel on Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit because she was pressed into babysitting duty after her friend’s dad had a heart attack.

I regrouped and made a new plan. I talked Becca into splitting the massive bratwurst with me.

Bethany joined us at the restaurant. As did my friend Matthew. Despite the website making a big deal about getting a reservation and the restaurant calling me back twice to confirm the reservation, the restaurant was only about 70% full when we got there.

Then came the biggest disappointment of the trip. They were out of Meterbratwurst. Becca and I ended up splitting some kind of bratwurst plate that was disappointing. Their bratwurst ended up being the blandest tasting bratwurst of my life.

Becca described it perfectly:

“It tastes like a mixture of bland bratwurst and potato bologna.”

That is not a good combination if you aren’t familiar with potato bologna.

Another huge disappointment was the no free refill policy on pop. Are you kidding me? Are we in a Nazi Germany themed restaurant?

On the positive side, the side dishes were excellent and what I ate off of Steve and Sara’s platter was also delicious. Also, the house accordion player belted out an awesome version of Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”. I believe that I have used my immense powers of persuasion to convince Bethany to book the guy for her wedding.

Then after the meal, it got a little bit weird. The waitress approached us and asked us if we wanted some post dinner smokeless snuff.

I passed as I like to keep my body a temple. No alcohol or tobacco in this temple. Only extremely greasy fried foods are allowed in The Bennett Temple.

My five dinner compatriots tried both the spearmint and raspberry “flavors”.

What they do is put a little bit of the snuff on what looks like a teeter totter. Then they place it under your nose. Then when you are ready they slam down on the teeter totter and you breathe in, snorting the “goodness” up your nose.

Gauging from the pictures below, it was a very enjoyable experience.



Becca wiping her nose.


Bethany in pain.


Bethany enjoying her smokeless snuff.

After the meal, I was planning on meeting up with Nate to go to The Uptown Theater to see Troll 2. Troll 2 is supposed to be one of the worst movies ever made, but highly entertaining. It is so bad that there is currently a movie playing art house movie theaters about it called Best Worst Movie. While that fits into my personal sense of humor, I really just want to see a movie in The Uptown Theater.

However, the timing of things just didn’t work out. I ended up outside of Toby Keith’s talking to Lenny about his 50th Birthday Party and his 35 year old wife. I don’t know Lenny or his brother Lorenzo, but they did provide a certain amount of entertainment until Nate picked me up and we went to Perkins so he could have supper.

At Perkins I had a bottomless cup of Cherry Coke. I don’t think I ever appreciated free refills more.

I spent the night at Nate, Bethany and Becca’s place.

The plan was for Bethany, Becca and I to meet up with Steve and Sara for brunch at Hell’s Kitchen, but it turns out that you need to have a reservation to eat there. Hell’s Kitchen will also have to wait until my next trip to Minnesota.

It also turned out that 11 am was too early for Becca to wake up, but I will let it slide since she was up late watching Once.

The substitute for Hell’s Kitchen ended up being Stabby’s Cafe. A small cafe that Bethany had been eying since we drove past it on the way to Matt’s Bar back in February.

It was a tasty little breakfast, although I was slightly disappointed with their logo. It was a knife through a heart. I knew it was a long shot, but I was hoping that they sold t-shirts with a “stabbing hobo” logo.



There had been much discussion about where we should eat before the concert. Becca had been pushing pretty hard for Azia, but her boyfriend Gelli pushed for his parent’s restaurant: It’s Greek to Me.

Gelli, Becca, Bethany, Jill, Sara, Steve and I met up there before the concert. Gelli kept bring out appetizer after appetizer. Although they were all tremendous, including the Sagnaki, one that really struck me was very simple. It was watermelon with feta cheese on top of it. I thought it looked so extremely weird, but it was so extremely tasty.

I had the Roast Leg of Lamb. It was incredible. Well, I don’t want to go too far with the superlatives though. Because the desert: Kadaifi was truly off the charts when it comes to superlatives. I have spent a few restless nights dreaming about it.

The meal ended up being on the house, but that is not the reason that I highly, highly recommend checking out It’s All Greek to Me if you are anywhere near the Uptown area.

Becca and Gelli left us to go to work. The rest of us made our way to First Avenue. The doors opened at 7. We got there at about 6:20. The line was already around the block.

While there were a few disappointments over the weekend, these were definitely erased by the concert. The Swell Season did not disappoint.

We picked a spot about 50 or so feet from the stage to watch the opening act. The opening act was fair and his voice reminded me of Neil Young and that is a good thing.

After the opening act was done, Bethany, Jill and Sara went outside to smoke. The crowd almost immediately took their spots. It was so compacted in there that it made Flugtag feel like an open field.

A small highlight of the evening for me was when a guitar tech walked across the stage with Glen’s trademark Takamine NP15 and the crowd gave a big cheer.

The Swell Season started the show with my favorite song from Strict Joy, Low Rising. As the song concluded I got a text from Jill. They couldn’t get back to me. They were back by the shirts.

So I made my way through the crowd to get back to them. I made no new friends in this process, but I did make it back to them.

They followed Low Rising with two more songs from Strict Joy: In These Arms and The Rain. Two more great songs.

This was followed by another favorite from Once: Lies. Lies is one of the greatest driving alone and singing songs ever recorded.

Then Marketa took over the vocals for If You Want Me.

She played guitar on their next tune Fantasy Man.

Glen took back over vocals for my 2nd favorite Swell Season song: Leave. This was followed by Back Broke.

Then they played a great cover of Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic. I was very excited to hear a band play a cover of a Van Morrison song that wasn’t Brown Eyed Girl.

They followed this with another Marketa song: I Have Loved You Wrong.

Next was a classic from The Frames: Revelate.

Then they finished up with two great more songs from Once: When Your Mind’s Made Up and the Oscar winning Falling Slowly.

Glen started the encore with a completely unplugged version of my favorite Swell Season song Say it To Me Now. Just him standing at the front of the stage wailing. It was awesome! I had to show Jill that I had goosebumps.

Marketa followed with a new song called Crossroads. I look forward to a time when I am in possession of a recording of it.

There are really only two songs I don’t like in Once. One is Fallen from the Sky that is more than slightly too techno for me. The other is the only song that isn’t performed by The Swell Season. It is called Gold.

Strangely, every musician I know seems to love this song. I think it might be the vocal harmonies that annoy me, but whatever it is, I just don’t like the song.

Gold was the next song they played and I actually enjoyed. The harmonies were less grating in person. Also, the current incarnation of The Swell Season does not include a violinist. Gold is also much more enjoyable without the violin part.

It makes me wonder if I would like Fallen from the Sky live.

Before the final song of the night Glen gave the crowd a vocal lesson and we sang the backing vocals for High Horses.

It was an absolutely amazing show and probably the best concert I’ve ever seen. Even though I had been standing for well over 3 hours I didn’t want the show to end. They could have still played their cover of Springsteen’s Drive All Night that they played at the Hollywood Bowl the week before. Or their cover of The Byrds’ You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere from the I’m Not Here Soundtrack. Or their cover of Candi Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free. Or their cover of The Pixies’ Gigantic that they play on one of their live DVDs. Or numerous other Frames songs like What Happens When the Heart Just Stops or Fitzcarraldo. Or Paper Cup or The Verb from Strict Joy!

But I have no real complaints. Their voices are even better live than they are recorded. I can’t wait until they come around again. Hopefully to a venue where we can sit, but if not, I will still be there.

2 thoughts on “In This Old Purple Town”

  1. This is actually the 2nd German place I’ve been to that served subpar brats. Makes me think that perhaps just like everything else, Americans had to take something from somebody else and make it great.

    You’re welcome world! Now start pulling your weight!

    Ninja (Eric in Hardware) recommended a different German restaurant in Stillwater. I might have to give them a shot before I give up completely on German bratwursts.

    But the concert truly was great enough that no level of disappointment could not have been erased by it.

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