If you listened to the radio in the early '90s, music was up in the air. Eighties rock was on its way out with grunge killing off hair metal and a more independent and less produced sound pushing the more pop-oriented production out of rock for a more visceral, raw sound.
Amidst the uprising there were a number of bands that you couldn't escape, like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. A few, however, made themselves staples on radio and unwittingly bridged the gap between what came before, early '90s alt-rock and what we currently see on rock radio today.
Although no one suspected it at the time (including the bands, themselves), Soul Asylum and Candlebox ended up being a big part of that bridge, making it all the more ironic and appropriate that they pair up this weekend for a co-headlining show at Osage Events Center. Soul Asylum played its part in pulling the punk-derived aspects of the Minneapolis music scene into the spotlight to become a part of the '90s alt-rock consciousness. Candlebox, on the other hand, polished Seattle's grunge movement to a high sheen that connects it to today's modern rock. Somewhere amidst the airwaves, the two crossed paths and became staples of '90s alt-rock radio, even though they came from opposite, yet very similar, extremes.
To date, Soul Asylum still doesn't get the respect it deserves from the Minneapolis music scene. Although the band formed in 1984 and released its first record on the Twin Cities now iconic Twin Tone label, it was largely overshadowed by bands like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. Nevertheless; Soul Asylum toured relentlessly and eventually signed to A&M records with limited success. It wasn't until the band signed to Columbia Records and release Grave Dancers Union that the band finally got its big break and exploded onto radio.
By that point, the band's post-punk roots had taken a backseat to Dave Pirner's writing. Although the rough and tumble nature of the band carried through in the live show and songs like "Somebody to Shove" and "99%," it was more songwriter oriented tracks like "Black Gold" and "Runaway Train" that launched the band into public consciousness.
Nevertheless, Soul Asylum carried on with a sometimes-uneven blend of the band's Minneapolis garage-rock roots and Pirner's blossoming storytelling and songwriting skills. After exploding onto radio with Grave Dancer's Union, however, the band never saw similar success with its latter albums.
Perhaps the band's strongest album since that time was 2006's The Silver Lining, which was started before founding bassist Karl Mueller passed away of esophageal cancer in 2005. The band has carried on since with former Replacements and Bash & Pop bassist Tommy Stinson filling the gap with close knot Minneapolis ties. Over the past couple of years, the band has been touring consistently again, which has stirred some speculation of renewed activity in the studio as well.
In March, lead singer Dave Pirner confirmed to Rolling Stone that the band had indeed been writing, with at least three songs, "Gravity," "Into the Light" and "The Streets" already completed. According to Pirner a new CD, the first written with Stinson (as well as his occasional substitute, Pete Donnelly), should arrive before the end of the year.
On what might seem like the opposite end of the spectrum, Candlebox may have been discounted amongst the elite of the grunge movement, but the band definitely helped tie the Seattle sound to current modern rock. You can still hear Candlebox's influence in current modern rock bands like Nickleback and My Darkest Days, who still carry over a bit of the band's tone and production characteristics.
Unlike the iconic grunge bands of the early '90s, Candlebox skipped right past Seattle's indie Sub Pop label and was one of the first few acts signed to Madonna's Maverick label, which immediately launched the band to mainstream radio. Although the debut single, "Change," gained the band a bit of recognition and following, it was follow up tracks "You" and "Far Behind" that exploded on radio and saw the band quickly rise from the clubs to theaters and arenas by the time the album had run its course.
Follow up albums Lucy and Happy Pills both arrived to lukewarm reception as the band had oversaturated the market with the heavy push of the debut album and weathered a degree of backlash from grunge fans who saw the band as a watered down, commercial representation of the Seattle scene. By 2000, the band had rotated members and eventually disbanded, but its singles continued to receive airplay on the radio.
After a few years' hiatus, Candlebox reformed in 2006 with original members Peter Klett on guitar, Scott Mercado on drums and Kevin Martin at the helm with lead vocals. The warm response the band received from a handful of shows played in support of a greatest hits set led to a full reunion and the release of Into the Sun in 2008, with the band continuing to tour throughout the year and look forward to yet another new album on the horizon.
Nearly 20 years after the two bands exploded onto the airwaves, they remain in rotation on alt-rock stations like KMYZ-FM Z104.5, The Edge and have become classic rock staples on KMOD-FM 97.5 and retro stations like Gen-X radio as well.
It's sheer luck that brings the two bands together for a package show at Osage Events Center this Friday night, but the double bill of now classic alt-rock bands is hard to pass up for fans of either band, especially when each will be able to put on a full show and tickets are only $20. The concert is an 18 and over event, due to the venue being at Million Dollar Elm Casino, but it should be a great show for fans of both bands and the glory days of alt-rock radio.
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