Mykl Westbrooks, Christian Erickson and Jon Hunt perform their final set together.
After five years as bandmates, the six members who comprise Blue Sky Blackout took the stage together for BNLXFest, and for their final show, on Friday night. The band were already booked for the the annual indie rock festival at Cause Spirits and Soundbar when they decided that this would be their last show, and their sleeves seemed adorned with mixed emotions over the decision, notably when frontman Christian Erickson made the band's final introduction.
"Brandon and Mykl make the noise," he said. "Jon writes the songs. Marc and Tim play the rhythm, and I'm just... I don't know." Erickson frequently paused to wax nostalgic between songs, but he couldn't often be heard over the cheers from the packed house, which seemed a healthy mix of tastemakers and plain old-fashioned fans of hook-heavy rock 'n' roll with shoegaze sensibilities.
The noise inside being what it was, I caught up with Erickson and band leader Jon Hunt outside the venue where I could hear them somewhat better. There, on the stretch of Lyn-Lake sidewalk where Cause patrons go to smoke, we talked about the last five years as the two pieced their respective recollections together. Hunt offered up his reason for starting the band and Erickson supplemented the story, which all began with a move from California to Minnesota.
"I just had a bunch of songs that I had written," said Hunt, "and I had some demos. Christian, how did you get ahold of them? I sent them to Marc or something?"
"The deal was that I was talking to Marc," said Erickson. "He said he was doing this, and they had someone who they thought was going to sing." Erickson wanted in, so he suggested himself as the singer. "So he gave me the tapes and, since he hadn't heard me sing in a long time, I said I'd do demos or whatever. So that's how I got those tapes."
"Then I got Christian's demos while I was driving back from California," said Hunt. "I was listening to them in the hotel room, and I thought that works perfectly."
When asked why he formed a six-piece band, instead of a more manageable three- or four-piece, Hunt answered, "Guitars."
"You only need a one word answer there," added Erickson.
Hunt elaborated anyway. "When I came up with the arrangements, they had all these layers and I hated listening to a record full of interlocking guitar layers, then seeing the band live and it's one dude. I didn't want to do that. I needed muscle."
Erickson added, "So you called up all your favorite guitar players."
"Right," said Hunt, "and it's never that we're all playing in unison. It never happens that all three of us are playing the same thing. It's always interlocking parts, which I'm proud of. We actually managed to pull that off for five years."
Both members attributed the band's consistent track record with its being so large a collection of talent.
"That was the thing," said Erickson. "We never played what I thought was a bad show."
"And that's the other thing about having a six piece," said Hunt. "Two of the guys can be out of it, and the other four will make up for it. There have been shows where I was tired, and I didn't feel like playing, but I don't think anyone noticed because there are five other guys on the stage."
The band's size, for all its benefits, was also its ultimate downfall. The task of getting six members together regularly grew more difficult as their individual lives diverged and, in the end, they all acknowledged that working around so many other schedules was becoming well nigh impossible. With that in mind, they felt it was time to consider disbanding.
"The reason is that we're a six piece," said Erickson.
"Exactly," said Hunt. "We could just never get six people together in a room."
Erickson added, "What I said when I suggested that we should probably just hang this up is, when you spend more of your time talking about scheduling than you do working on stuff, then you have to ask yourself if you should maybe think about just not doing this anymore."
Rounded out by Marc Iwanin, Tim Ritter, Mykl Westbrooks and Brandon Dalida, the band played their last set while the crowd sang along with the refrains of "The Universe is Expanding" and 'Somebody Said That You Love Me,' the latter a fitting nocturne for the end of their last set. It was the first thing Blue Sky Blackout had played together, and they had played it at Cause (then known as Sauce) when both the band and the venue were brand new to town.
After the final song, Erickson took the mic and said a brief goodbye, punctuated with something that probably would've really resonated with the crowd, but we'll never know for sure. He couldn't be heard over the cheering.
[Photo: Nancy Cerkvenik]