Friday, January 6, 2012

Best Bands of All Time - #4 Run Westy Run

As mentioned in the previous post, this is going to be a Top Four list because no one other act really stands out for me as much as these.

#4 - Run Westy Run

I first got introduced to the Westies through my college roommate, Mikko. It was junior year of college ('90-'91) and Mikko had picked up a copy of Green Cat Island, the only RWR release still available aside from eBay and used record bins. I think Mikko saw them open up for Soul Asylum and that album (on compact disc!) was played regularly at high volume in our dorm room, much to the chagrin of roommate Kevin. I probably didn't entirely get it at first, either, but boy did it grow on me.

In the early '90s Soul Asylum ruled the roost in Minneapolis and the Westies were every bit their live show equal, if not superior. Alas, this type of guitar rock seems to be on hiatus.

Here's an example of their live show, this clip from First Ave. in Mpls. circa 1990:


Goddamn. I'm not sure what words I can add to that video. Here's a Rule of Rock: if your singer isn't going to play a guitar, he better have some serious moves. Kirk Johnson was one of the best.

Mikko and I went and saw them as many times as possible until their demise around 1996. They'd graduated from the 7th St. Entry by the time I got into them, but I saw them a number of times at First Ave, The Uptown and maybe the 400 Bar, plus a few outdoor festival shows. As I sit here and listen to their albums while writing this, I'm asking myself why they aren't #1 on the list. And they could be. These top four are pretty interchangeable in order. Scouring the available YouTube videos transports me back to those days of flannel when Block E downtown Mpls was a parking lot where we'd leave our coats in the car and walk across the street in frigid winter temps to see the rock shows.

Alas, the Westies only put out three formal albums, one EP and a few singles. They were a little into the drugs at the time and that shortened the band's career. I'm fortunate enough to have the albums on vinyl and they're not easy to find in any other medium. The first two albums, Hardly Not Even (1986) and Run Westy Run (1988) and the EP Cockroach Park (1992) aren't even available for download.

Guitarist Kraig Johnson went on to play with Golden Smog and the Jayhawks, and some of the guys re-formed a few years later as the groovy, funky Iffy, a fantastic band in their own right.

The Deets
If you could only buy just one album:  Cockroach Park 
Best iTunes track to sample: "Johnny John"
Best lyric: And if I could have it / any way I'd surely take it / the bad guy way (from "Bad Guys" off of Run Westy Run)
Best song nobody knows: "Marcel" off the Squealer Presents...Shuffle This compilation. 88 seconds of absolute beauty.
Best quote about them from press kit accompanying Cockroach Park vinyl: "some sort of sick psycho-killer machine fueled by hard rock fast times and a smoke screen of stories where fact is inseparable from rumor" -- CREEM, September 1988

Here's to hoping there's a reunion somewhere down the line. I'd do whatever it takes to be there.


Anonymous said...

lemme guess, by POE of who is NOT on your honorable mentions... Uncle Tupelo, Arcwelder, and GBV round out the top 4?

Kirk said...

Well, Anonymous (if that is your real name). You must think you're pretty smart. But what order will they come in? Huh?

There's only one way to find out. You'll have to stay tuned to your RSS feed of lotomojo to learn the answer.

Anonymous said...

I had Uncle Tupelo, Jayhawks and Arcwelder based on your honorable mentions. Maybe Gear daddies who's short but inviting career surprisingly didn't make your honorable mention list.

Anonymous said...

R.W.R.Is reuniting at 1st Ave. on December 27th 2013 went on sale TODAY....

Kirk Ahlberg said...

I heard about the reunion show and an PISSED that I'll be out of the country and unable to attend. Hopefully they'll turn it into an annual deal like Arcwelder.


I wouldn’t rate Run Westy Run as one of the best bands of all time. They were never as popular or influential as Soul Asylum. It took them a long time to find their own distinctive voice.

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