Community grows at its own pace and usually with an undefined path it creates, sometimes to its own detriment or harm. Thus, the illusion of success becomes the catalyst for change that effects the community in an ambiguous manner. Such was the reason for Wednesday night’s closing party at Harriet Brewing Company’s Tap Room featuring James Loney and Lolo’s Ghost and Faye Goulet. For as the neighborhood has grown into a newly revitalized section of South Minneapolis, gentrification has begun to force out some of the tenants who have been essential to that growth, like Harriet Brewing.
As one of the first wave of the craft brewery craze here in Minneapolis, Harriet Brewing became home to its own thriving musical community, offering bands a quality music venue to play at, and fans a chance to enjoy top notch acts across a wide spectrum of musical genres. One particularly important aspect of their booking policy was their use of residencies to build up a fan base loyal to both the band and venue.
Making the most of their nearly year and a half as the Wednesday night house band, Lolo’s Ghost solidified behind James’ leadership into one of Minneapolis’ most compelling and consistently excellent live acts. Their release party in September for their latest album +The Darker The Night, The Brighter The Stars_ showcased the band’s strengths to maximum advantage. The guitar interplay between James on acoustic and Terry Issacsen and David Bennett on electrics. The mighty rhythm section of Joe Scanlan’s rock steady drums, Paul McFarland’s loping bass lines and GR Svendahl’s intricate phrasing on keys, and their not so secret weapon, the gospel soul power of the Ghostette’s, Colleen Martin Oake and Edie Rae, on backing vocals.
On Wednesday the band followed Faye Goulet’s hard charging Stones and Patti Smith inspired set with a nearly five hours long marathon of originals, choice covers and multiple guest artists with a fearless mix of punk rock attitude, 60’s and 70’s large group dynamics, and a party hearty vibe that carried away any sadness at the recent changes of fortunes for the venue, the community and the country at large.
Opening the show with one of their latest album’s strongest tunes, “Bright Star,” James and band lit into the set with a visible sense of determination and focus that highlighted the strength of James’ detail oriented stories and cinematic lyrics. Buoyed by the Ghostette’s powerful voices, Loney conveyed the sense of resiliency and hard fought optimism that gives his songs their emotional truth and power.
After nearly an hour into the set, James brought up the first of many guests, Minneapolis guitar legend Lonnie Knight, a long time friend and honorary member of the band, whose solo on Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody inspired Terry Walsh from the Belfast Cowboys to jump up on stage to sing the you can call me Zimmy part of the song, and now, the party was fully on!
One of my favorite things about Lolo’s Ghost is the versatility they bring to the stage. From biting kiss offs of love and faith betrayed in I Believe, to the tender pleas of self empowerment behind the Holliesesque vocals of “Don’t Let Yourself Down,” to the full throttled rock and boogie of “The Breakdown Shuffle,” Lolo’s ability to improvise to the moods of the crowd and the flow of the set elevates them above many of their peers in the Minneapolis scene.
This was reinforced Wednesday night with their playing on Loney’s original tunes, those of some of their guests like Doug Collins, whose “Song About A Train” was a highlight; on through to a wide range of covers from the percolating funk of the Commodores’ “Brick House” sung by The Phones’ Jeff Cerise, Terry Owens’ jazzy turn on Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight,” and finally, in a lilting cover of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” sung by Joe Fahey, from Joe Fahey and The Bottom Forty. As farewells go, Loney and his band’s efforts cemented the Harriet into the firmament of Minnesota rock history alongside with the Uptown, Union and 24 Bars, and the bands that served their once vital scenes.