Of all the incredible events and concerts that went on this past Halloween weekend, the most memorable was also the most bizarre.
The Redhaus, an Alice-in-Wonderland-level-trippy art space on St. Claude complete with a thoroughly life-threatening tree house structure out back, marked its reopening Sunday night with an underground concert featuring Frenchmen notables Alex McMurray, Aurora Nealand, and Mike Darby.
Various collaborators had been hard at work for weeks to ready the gutted double shotgun for the show, but everything was still fascinatingly precarious, with countless nooks and crannies and weird surprises.
A giant mechanical skeleton swimming in psychedelic projections hung from the ceiling, a gondola from the 1984 World’s Fair sat perched casually in a treetop in the yard, narrow exposed steps led to a maze of causeways in the rafters. Toilets were to be found sporadically, in various random-seeming little rooms throughout the bowels of the cavernous house.
The bare-bones nature of the construction evidently precluded a functioning heating system, but even on such a chilly night this was a problem easily (and happily) remedied at the bar.
Not to mention the shell-shocking performances.
The show was MC’d by local guitarist Dick Deluxe and kicked off with an enchanting series of duets by Alex McMurray on guitar and Aurora Nealand on accordion. The set mixed poignant old folk tunes, rowdy drinking chanteys, and lots in between.
This was followed by McMurray’s solo act, where he demonstrated his remarkable ability to move an audience with hilarious stand up wit and then seamlessly do the same, in a different way, with heart-wrenching ballads. A wildly talented musician to begin with, his engaging stage personality makes him a truly exceptional performer.
The subsequent solo act was a hypnotic electronic affair featuring a maniacal Aurora Nealand intoning chants and spewing out breakneck raps over loops of her own voice while crushing out spooky synth chords. Later, she was joined by her garishly-costumed band Monocle for a wacked-out electric rock set.
Those familiar with her trad jazz act, the Royal Roses, once again had their minds boggled by the variety of musical hats she can wear, and with such aplomb. (See also her new rockabilly/arctic-exploration-fantasy concept album with Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers.)
The evening ended with high-voltage mania à la Darby, the rip roaring bluesman you may have rocked out to at the Apple Barrel on a Friday night. Various sit-ins like Rod Hodges and Joe Cabral of the Iguanas graced the stage, and the crowd (which included Helen Gillet and Sasha Masakowski) was on their feet and exuberant, despite the lateness of the hour.
It’s always inspiring and baffling to encounter enormous talent in small, unlikely places and for not very much money.
The audience members on Sunday, many of them giants in the local music scene themselves, were individuals who really appreciated what they were seeing, and the fact that the crowd was sparse and the venue unorthodox only added to the feeling of privilege.
The building provides a space where talented and versatile artists can showcase their really interesting stuff – the innovative side-projects that wouldn’t necessarily be marketable in conventional venues.
The reopening of the Redhaus is an auspicious sign for those at the forefront of city’s creative culture.