It used to be safe for music fans to leave town over Thanksgiving week and not miss a thing, but the bookers at First Avenue have pretty well taken care of that. This year, the days around Turkey Day saw two of the most electrifying 7th Street Entry shows of the year, as well as some of the most potent installments of the main room’s two most beloved annual traditions of recent years. That’s not even mentioning the Hold Steady’s two-night stand, which resumes tonight (and will be covered tomorrow). Here’s what you might’ve missed if you went to Grandma's house instead:
DEATH GRIPS (Entry, Wednesday night)
What a way to work up a Thanksgiving appetite. Death Grips rapper/growler MC Ride and his onstage accomplice, drummer Zach Hill, only put on a 40-minute set in front of a sold-out crowd Wednesday, but there were more energy and adrenaline and sheer physicality poured into that 2/3-hour than most bands can muster during two full hours. Mr. Ride (Stefan Burnett) and Hill weren’t just being cool when they tore off their shirts upon taking the stage and jumped right into the opener “Come Up and Get Me,” almost like cold-clocking the crowd to start a fight. The dudes simply never let up from there.
Other songs from the new collection, “No Love Deep Web” -- whose free release on the web led to Death Grips losing its short-lived deal with Epic Records -- ran together like jackhammer noise bleeding into iron-welding at a construction site. As hardcore punk in tone as it is hip-hop, with nerve-rattling but never heavy-handed electronic backing, the music wasn’t so much of a shock to local fans who are also into P.O.S. and/or Marijuana Deathsquads. At times, it came off a little too brawny and chest-beating (think: '90s rap-metal show), which left Ride’s radical lyrics somewhat lost in the chaos. But what thrilling chaos it was, especially when the crowd exploded for “Guillotine” mid-set.
IKE REILLY ASSASSINATION (First Ave, also Wednesday)
Outside of the '70s-Vegas-gangster-looking suits they wore to the stage, Reilly and his band of temporarily garish gentlemen didn’t offer anything fancy for the 10th anniversary installment of their Thanksgiving Eve performances. They didn’t need to, either. While these annual showings have occasionally been spirited to a fault (“spirited” in the alcoholic sense), this one was surprisingly clean and spot-on. The IRA hit the ground running with a string of fan favorites right off the bat, including “Cash is King,” “Duty Free,” “Hip-Hop Thighs No. 17” and “What Ever Happened To the Girl in Me.” They brought back their trio of three female backup singers -- dubbed the Assassinettes -- who actually added more of a devlish quality than angelic to songs like “I Don’t Want What You Got (Going on).” In the encore, they dedicated “Commie Drives a Nova” to former Turf Club fixture Leah Rule, currently battling cancer and a big part of the original Twin Cities support base that led to the IRA landing this annual gig in the main room. “Do you believe it: ten years of this shit?” Reilly coyly asked mid-show. There was no reason to doubt it this year.
TITUS ANDRONICUS (Entry, Thursday)
“All I want for Christmas is no feelings.” What a thing for Patrick Stickles to sing on Thanksgiving -- one of several instances of weirdly poignant lyrics given the timing of his Replacements-loving New Jersey band’s latest Twin Cities gig. Perhaps the weirdest of all was the paired-up “Food Fight” and “Eating Disorder,” from the new album "Local Business," which culminated with Stickles spattering the line, “Spit it out! Spit it out!” No doubt, some of the fans who were moshing and stage-diving were on the verge of regurgitating some of their holiday meal -- the second night in a row the Entry saw such mayhem.