[Ed note: This post was updated on the occasion of The Best of GMN 2015-2016 reading, August 3, 2016]
Since age thirteen, I’ve been to 52 concerts of many genres in different places. I’ve had a great experience at almost every single show I’ve attended, and these experiences have contributed to the sum of live music stealing my heart for the long run. There’s still a few shows that stand out from the crowd to me, though.
One of these shows was Frnkiero Andthe Cellabration with The Homeless Gospel Choir and Modern Chemistry at the 7th Street Entry in March of 2015. I hadn’t actually been looking forward to it for months and months, but instead didn’t even know I was able to go to the 21+ show until the day of, when my mom called First Ave to see if I could attend if she went with me. They okayed it, and shortly after getting home from school I was on my way to the Twin Cities.
At fifteen, I was by far the youngest person in the small room. While standing with my mom against the stage, we stood out starkly, which would lead to some odd interactions throughout the winter night.
I remember the first band, Modern Chemistry, were good musicians, but I just couldn’t pay attention during their set because of my anticipation of seeing the headlining punk band. That was, until all hell broke loose.
If someone were to ask me what I think a band’s biggest nightmare would be, I would use that half hour as an example.
Their frontman sang vocals and played guitar, so it was a huge nuisance when his venue-provided mic stand decided to slowly sink to the floor like a sad, withering flower. The determined singer sunk to his knees in order to stay level with the microphone, but he eventually couldn’t get low enough. Everyone laughed it off, and it would’ve been fine, but both the guitarist and the newly-crowned-limbo-champion frontman stopped playing simultaneously to fix the mic stand situation.
Only a song later, the drummer’s hi-hat fell over. Then, the frontman’s guitar cut out during his guitar solo, and he gave up on the instrument. Then the hi-hat fell over again, onto the drummer that time. Then the frontman knocked over his mic stand and had the mic ripped out of his hand. Then they all just started moshing.
After the excitement of Modern Chemistry’s set, I was ready to see what else that night would bring. I hadn’t heard of The Homeless Gospel Choir before, and for some reason I didn’t make the connection that the man on stage before me was him. He was dressed like any normal guy off the Minneapolis streets, and he didn’t have a guitar in his hands, so I assumed he was a tech when he was messing with the microphone stand. He turned to look at me and said “Hey, guess what…I have a really bad cold, right? So I took Dayquil this morning. Except it wasn’t Dayquil, it was Nyquil. I think my body is shutting down.”
My only response to that was something along the lines of “Oh, yikes.”
He turned to grab the guitar behind him before speaking into the microphone. “Hi, I’m Derek and I’m The Homeless Gospel Choir. This is a protest song.”
Despite the entire set being played with an acoustic guitar, I still have never witnessed anything more punk in my life. He ended up repeating the phrase “This is a protest song” before every one he played, and then played in the middle of the crowd for a song. In his ranty tunes, he spoke about serious, important topics in a way that the average person can understand, and was brutally honest about everything. It was one of the most influential sets I’ve ever seen, and I think about it on a regular basis. I’m still eagerly awaiting his return to the Twin Cities.
After a painfully long wait, Frnkiero Andthe Cellabration took the stage, serving energy somewhere near atomic bomb shockwave levels. I was a bit awestruck from having one of my all-time favorite musicians less than three feet away from me. If you’re not familiar with them, it’s ex-My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero along with his bandmates Matt Olson, Evan Nestor, and Rob Low making something I would describe as angsty graveyard punk. The songs are especially hard-hitting live, and there wasn’t a soul in the room that wasn’t hooked. Sloppy transitions tied the songs together in the most fitting way possible.
Iero spoke to the crowd much more than I expected, giving us some time to cool down between songs by telling stories about his old band Pencey Prep, his family, songwriting, travelling, and population. At one point he started ranking people in the crowd as the best attendees, and my mom scored the #3 spot. He later dedicated a song to her. It was wild.
Derek Zanetti (The Homeless Gospel Choir) joined the Cellabration on stage for a high energy cover of Jawbreaker’s “Boxcar.” They did the song perfect justice, giving off some intense high school-garage-band vibes with Zanetti on vocals. Once Derek left the stage, Iero went on to introduce the next song, “She’s the Prettiest Girl at the Party…”, with a “This next song is about the time I watched the prettiest girl I ever saw in my entire life…punch another girl in the face.”
If I had to choose one moment in the set to capture the entire night, it would be when FIATC played one of their most popular songs, “Joyriding,” while passing the mic around the crowd for the attendees to sing the entire song.
That night in the 7th Street Entry will most likely always stand out in my memories of great shows, and if you ever get the opportunity to see any of these bands live, I encourage you to take it.