(Doing what Facebook does best, this is a result of today’s On This Day feature, which Brandi and I discussed at length at like 1am…lol)
In the fall of 2009, Brandi unknowingly changed my life forever when she introduced me to The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound”. I fell in love with that band hard and fast, and when we learned that they were going to be playing in Minneapolis, MN at the famed First Ave, we decided we were going to be there to see them live for the first time. Kyla rounded out our trio and on July 25th, 2010 we were on our way.
We left a day early so that we could take our time on the drive down (read: stop at every casino on the way). We also made sure to hit up a Perkins for lunch, though I’m pretty sure for some reason we ended up hating the manager there (I think he was mean to our waitress? We might have left a passive aggressive comment card about it).
The trip was relatively uneventful until we got about 1 1/2-2 hours from Minneapolis and pulled in to a gas station to fill up. It was at this point that we discovered I had at some point run over a giant screw of some sort and my tire needed to be changed badly. Thankfully, between Kyla and myself we had the process pretty well figured out so we got to work, although I’m pretty sure we struggled with the jack. Naturally, three girls changing a tire on an SUV in a gas station parking lot drew some attention, and we had a gentleman (who we decided was definitely named David) help us out as well.
We finally made it to Minneapolis about 8pm- a mere 12 hours from when we began the journey (for those that are unaware, the drive from Thunder Bay ON to Minneapolis for normal people is about 6 hours…lol).
After checking in to our hotel, which was conveniently located in the heart of downtown, we decided we would head out to try and find a bar that Kyla had seen advertised in the phone book that advertised Karaoke. We wandered all over the downtown area, with absolutely no luck, until we decided to just hang in the towel and go for a drink at the next pub we saw that didn’t appear to have a dress code (literally every place we passed was having a full on ‘club’ night, even though this was on a Sunday night). I wish I could remember the name of the place we ended up at. It was pretty well empty, save for a couple of people who looked like the standard regulars sitting at the bar. I recall the bartender not being overly nice to us while we decided what beer we were going to try from their pretty decent selection; that is until one of the drunk regulars discovered we were from Canada and just thought that was wonderful. The bartender warmed up a little after that.
We stayed for a couple drinks and then I think Brandi was starting to get a headache so we started to head home, still disappointed that we couldn’t find this place that advertised karaoke. On the walk back, we excitedly noticed First Ave….and directly across the street, the heavens opened up and shined their light on O’Donovans Pub, the bar we had been searching for all night! Turns out we had walked right past it earlier in our journey. Despite Brandi’s impending headache, we decided to go in and check it out, and it ended up being on the best decisions we made of the entire trip.
I will forever remember O’Donovans Pub as the best karaoke bar I’ve ever been to, and I have never found another karaoke place that was in the same league since. You couldn’t put a better group of people together in a single place as on that fateful evening. We witnessed people wandering around the bar without shoes, an extremely drunk guy laying on the stage and licking his knee while singing karaoke, and more friendly strangers you could ever hope to find in one place. Not a single person who was on stage (and it was a full-on stage, risen high over the dance floor) was even a decent singer, and nobody cared. Kyla of course went to grab a song book, and we made ourselves comfortable in a booth near the stage. Because I’m an awful person, I waited to see what the talent was like, and once I felt drunk enough, I signed up to sing after Kyla.
I have never felt like such a rock star at a karaoke bar in my life. Not only are you placed on a tall stage above the crowd, but upon hearing the opening chords of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me”, people literally rushed to the stage to dance and sing along with me. Kyla went up a few more times, at one point asking the DJ if she was allowed to walk around while she sang (this is something she always tried to do in Thunder Bay, but our local DJ yelled at her multiple times). The guy just shrugged his shoulders and she was off, singing and performing from one end of the bar to the other. She made a lot of friends, and some duet partners that evening.
The next day was show day, but first we went on an adventure to check out the Mall of America. It’s incredibly overwhelming, and we quickly learned that if you found something you liked, you should have bought it then because you’d never find the store ever again. Literally just a maze.
After a quick rest at the hotel, we were ready for show time. We walked to First Ave, where the bouncers made fun of us for not smiling in our passport ID photos. “What, you don’t smile in Canada?” Apparently at that time they were able to wear hats in their passport photos too. Who knew? We were able to get right to the merch table without issue and I bought my first Gaslight show poster (of which now there are too many for my walls to handle). Someone took photos of us for unknown reasons, I think they said they were from the label but we didn’t press it. Either way, those photos haven’t seen the light of the internet yet so I think we’re good.
Unfortunately at this point, I have lost the camera that held any show photos that I had taken, though I’m sure they weren’t that great to be honest. We weren’t super close to the stage but we had a nice vantage point to the left side of the stage.
We weren’t familiar with the openers unfortunately, but they were great. Chamberlain kicked things off, followed by Tim Barry, who was amazing. Kyla and I were completely entranced by his set. I picked up both of his available CDs that were at the merch table, as well as Chamberlain’s album that evening, and I still listen to them regularly. I still maintain that Gaslight has the best openers; I haven’t seen a band open for them that I haven’t totally fallen in love with (if I wasn’t familiar with them already).
Gaslight came on, and I remember being so thrilled in that moment, even though I hadn’t been a fan for a long time at that point, that show solidified me as a fan. This show was in promotion of American Slang (which had been released about a month prior), and they were so full of energy that it was infectious. One of the highlights of their set for me was definitely having Tim Barry come back to the stage to perform a cover of “The War” by Lucero- it was haunting and beautiful. Tim has a way of making you believe in what he’s singing, and that moment is still one of my fondest show memories.
We met Benny after the show, as well as David Moore from Chamberlain (who was pretty impressed with the fact that we traveled from Canada for the show). And I became a Gaslight fan for life that night.
The ride home was fairly quiet. We were tired from our few days in the city and ready to get home. I would be staying one night in Thunder Bay before heading home to the Sault for a few days after this journey, so I was anxious to sleep. However, we livened back up upon discovering and creating Kyla’s bucket list during the ride home. I’m pretty sure I almost drove us into a ditch because I was laughing so hard.
The Bucket list as follows, for those who are having trouble reading it:
1) Go to (crazy) black church
2) Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon
3) Learn Politics
4) Learn Religion
5) Become an expert at anything
6) want to see a smooth coated otter in real life
7) write manifesto/memoirs
8) moose hunt with a sword
9) time travel (pretty sure I time traveled before…but not certain)
10) go to White Castle
We did manage to cross White Castle off the bucket list, but it was terribly disappointing. I wasn’t eating meat at the time so I can’t speak to the burgers (which the girls didn’t find overly delicious) but I did have some type of onion petal thing that wasn’t very good, so I’ll call it a bust.
This is literally a road trip that I’ll never forget. It was my first Gaslight show, the first time to Minneapolis, and the beginning of a long relationship with a band that is now my favourite.