- JIM WALSH POP MUSIC CRITIC
- It was just before midnight Monday, and the crowd at the 400
Bar on the
- West Bank of Minneapolis numbered exactly 20 -- and that
- bartenders, soundman and the musicians onstage.
- One of those musicians, Dave Pirner, has sung in front of
- thousands of people at a time. As the guiding light behind
- Pirner has performed on the White House lawn and to national
- audiences. He has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone
- toured the world over and sold millions of records.
- Another one of those musicians, Mason Jennings, has had
- 500 copies of his self-produced, self-released debut CD. He
is one of
- the brightest new songwriters in the Twin Cities, but in
these days of
- fractured and/or unadventurous club-goers, he's struggling to
- This night, however, the two songwriters -- the seasoned
elder and the
- young buck -- found equal ground on the 400 stage, as Pirner
- Jennings band for an unannounced three-song set.
- The greater part of the evening was given to Jennings who,
- his ace band (bassist/vocalist Robert Skoro and drummer Chris
- performed two wonderful sets of his own material, including
- ``Butterfly,'' ``California,'' ``Nothing'' and ``Godless.''
- acoustic-framed rock trio was more than holding its own with
- but attentive audience when 400 Bar owner Bill Sullivan
yelled from the
- front bar, ``Hey, Mason! Mind if my friend plays a few with
- Jennings glanced over to see Pirner sitting at the bar, and
- consent. A few minutes later, when Pirner ambled onstage with
- acoustic guitar, it was the first time the musicians had ever
- alone played together. What happened next was a marvelous
- the spirit of risk-taking, musical spontaneity and to the
- can be had only from trolling clubs, away from the numbers.
- The setting was so intimate, barflies could hear Pirner
- chord changes and arrangements to the young band, who
- alternately nervous, cocksure and blown away. They wobbled
- version of TLC's ``Waterfalls,'' which lurched at first, then
- easy groove. That was followed by a subdued version of Soul
- ``To My Own Devices,'' with Jennings adding flamenco-flavored
- guitar touches.
- ``I feel like I'm from out of town, and I just found a
- band,'' cracked Pirner, who had just returned from a
- and television tour, and was in town briefly before Soul
- Wednesday for the Southern leg of their most recent tour.
- ``This one is pretty emotional for me, so it might be
- Pirner, before going into Sinead O'Connor's ``To Mother
- obvious affection for the song, coupled with the band's
- with it, made for a fascinating dynamic: Everybody in the pub
- wondering if the ad-hoc group would make it through the song.
- Pirner give up in frustration? Would the young trio rise to
- In the end, the song soared, and the room pitched a bit. And
- the crowd was smaller than what any respectable street busker
- Pirner, ever the singer/showman swept away by the moment,
emoted his way
- through O'Connor's stately, undiscovered gem like his life
- it. When it was done, he thanked the trio, got off-stage to
the sound of
- a few hands clapping and, with a squirrelly smirk, said,
- Jennings' crew finished the night with two songs, and
- to the bar.
- In a recent interview, Jennings said, ``You've got to talk to
- you're singing to. There's a boundary between you and the
- I'm trying to get rid of that boundary.''
- Monday night at the 400 Bar, the boundary between the
audience and the
- singer was razed, shot, demolished. Just ask those who were
- 20 of them.