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Fort Wilson Riot (Thursday, August 11th, 2005, Turf Club, Minneapolis)
Fort Wilson Riot's Amy Hager and Joe Goggins at the Turf Club CD Release - Photo by Patty Hager (click for larger version)

By Cyn Collins

Last Thursday, Fort Wilson Riot had their CD release party at the Turf Club. Fort Wilson Riot is a new favorite of mine, one of the best new bands in town, and a band I think will go far.

In the opening slot, The Alarmists were a musical wake-up call, refreshing with their energetic Brit-pop that reminded me of the Beatles, Spoon and Supergrass and even Super Furry Animals at times. The Alarmists pushed the edges of guitar experimentation with cool solos that left you wanting more (a tricky thing in the world of solos.) They were also playful, had great vocals and guitar chops and are definitely a band I recommend checking out.

There'll be a chance for you to see both Fort Wilson Riot and The Alarmists together when they play Big V's on Sept. 8 with Maudlin, a band in the umbrella category of gypsy punk that includes The Knotwells, Murzik, Mike Gunther and His Restless Souls and Thunder in the Valley.

At Thursday’s CD Release Party, FWR started their show with lead singer Amy Hager curled up on the floor in an Italian Renaissance-looking outfit, singing atmospherically, while the rest of the band looked like they'd either just come back from hopping trains or working in a coal mine for 3 months. After the opening song "Overture," they tore directly into early punk riffs and carnivalesque rhythms, like a Tilt-a-Whirl out of control. Classical keyboard elements wove around '70's-style female vocals, Carpenter's-like harmonies, and the Spoon/Wilco/Beatles-infused guitar of Jacob Mullis (formerly of Seldom Seen). The versatile Hager and Mullis alternated on the keyboards with melodramatic songs about politics, hair loss and self-pity in the midst of global warming, hair spray, and the war, infused with magical realistic images like a shrinking and flying orange-haired woman, all performed in front of a black and white backdrop fantastically painted by Hager. (Fort Wilson Riot’s new CD also features artwork by their friend Brian Squillace.)

Lyrics like "Smooth Lager Beer, take me away from here" were sung with a melody precariously close to a Calgon commercial ditty. "I live in a country and I'm heir to a throne, but of an evil king, bent on ruining his own. . . we don't know much but we know its wrong. These laws and this war can only lead to harm."

The song “Why Can't the God's be Laughing?” is a nice twist on Christian guilt, and “Forget about Legs” is strangely funny and dark.

There are so many cool and funny surprises in a Fort Wilson Riot show -- like "harmonoboxing," something that Joe Goggins "on bass, weirdness, beatbox, vocals" does that is a cross between playing harmonica inside a little flowerpot and the beat box -- that sent me into peals of laughter. This happened many times throughout the show, and I got spoiled, wanting to hear more macabre gypsy punk that made me laugh, think and dance all at once. Goggins also did cool Tom Waits-style mouth percussion. Altogether the band’s vocals sound like birds chittering, slide kazoos, and trumpets. There are Spanish guitars and vocals on “Angelitos Negros” and classic rock riffs teasing the memory throughout . . . I could go on all day.

Your next chance to see Fort Wilson them is at their CD Release Party, Part 2 at the Hexagon this Friday, August 19th along with Pretty Boy Thorson and the Fallen Angels, Steve Jacksaw, and Murzik at 9:30.

Cyn Collins is at cynth[at]


Setlist from CD Release Party #1:

Why Can't the Gods Be Laughing
Orange Haired Woman
Satin Sheets
Forget About Legs
Bitch Tit
Heir to a Throne
Angelitos Negros
Ass Hair
Hairspray that Holds
Bumble Fuck