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Hockey Night playing at Mercury Lounge NYC.
I first saw Yonkers at the Turf Club a couple years ago doing a solo show. I had no idea who he was, but his guitar intrigued me. It was either homemade or sawed apart and glued back together in the wrong configuration (it was the latter). It appeared to be held together with only duct tape and good vibrations. The sound that he was producing was distorted almost beyond recognition. There was a definite beat to it but it was unrecognizable as even coming from a guitar. It was a most interesting sight; a 6 foot-plus middle aged man banging away on a tiny guitar making one hell of a racket. On a deep reptilian level it reminded me of my high school years banging away on my own homemade electric guitar (before I learned to play at all!). The sound was a magic mix of sonic distress and physical discomfort. It was heaven. It was sex. It was drunkeness. It was everything rock and roll is and should be. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this experience please, please, please go to your local Guitar Center and tell the man behind the counter, “I’ve never played a guitar in my life. I want 5 minutes alone with a Les Paul and a Marshall Stack. I’m not going to buy it, I just need to know what it feels like.” Don’t worry about not being able to play, most of the kids in there sound like shit anyway. If the 14 year-old punks give you any dirty looks just say, “Link Wray. Look him up.” And if the guys at Guitar Center aren’t willing to help you out, give me a call and we can make a special trip out to my parent’s garage.
Michael Yonkers has been playing around the Twin Cities music scene since the 60’s. A true mad scientist of both sound and instrument; Yonkers made many modifications to both his guitars and his effects. In 1968 he recorded Microminiature Love, an album that, until just recently, had never been released. He self-released many other albums on LP, 45, and CD-R and has experienced a bit of a revival in the past couple years.
Enter The Blind Shake. I don’t know how it happened but the teaming up of Yonkers and The Blind Shake is a musical event that won’t soon be forgotten in the Twin Cities. The Blind Shake share Yonkers enthusiasm for loud, distorted, high energy rock and roll, and are fueled primarily by beer and tour van exhaust fumes. I’ve attended a number of their shows and their music is reminiscent of earlier times when “the music was fast and loud.” (Tony Venne gets credit for that phrase.)
It’s a phrase that makes one stop and think. Ask anyone between the ages of 21 and 40, “Remember when the music was fast and loud?” and most likely you’ll get a smile and a thousand-yard stare in response. It means so much to so many people in so many parts of the world. Everyone has their own definition, their own band, their own club, that typifies this phrase. My own recent history points to bands like Falcon Crest, Malachi Constant and Hockey Night as major players in this Golden Age. When the Turf Club had tacos instead of big-screen TVs, the lounge was still Clowny and the afterbar reigned supreme. If you could find it.
I’m sure there are bands today that rock just as hard, and I’m sure people are drinking as much Grain Belt as ever. But there is something special about that time, those people, that sound, and those places that all came together in that perfect storm to define your Friday nights (and Saturday mornings). There is no replacing that.