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United State of Electronica w/ Aqueduct and Melodious Owl (Wednesday, March 9th, Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis)
United States of Electronica - Photo courtesy of Peter Vomocil from U.S.E.'s website ( See more photos by clicking the link and visiting the "fans" page.)

By Wes Holmes

The Twin Cities press has been singing the praises of Melodious Owl for several months now, and the swagger of the young rock stars is well known. By the time they took the stage Wednesday night at the Triple Rock, I had heard plenty of the buzz. I found the praise mostly right on, but while I was impressed with their precocious stage show, I found their performance lacking in the kind of interaction that marked the performances of the two later bands. Melodious Owl played their Devo brand of dance rock, but as lead singer, Wes Stadler himself noted, the crowd seemed inhibited, standing back with arms crossed.

When Seattle’s Aqueduct took the stage things began to change. David Terry chimed in with the first lyrics of The Ghetto Boys’ “Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster” and smiled wide as he poured out the obscenity-laden lyrics as if he were singing about walking through the park. From there, the band moved into the songs off their new record I Sold Gold and blending their keyboard-driven rock with dance beats.

Aqueduct, as the record sleeve would tell you, is David Terry and David Terry is Aqueduct. He’s a one man show, who brings others to play on tour with him. At this stage of the tour, Aqueduct has added bass and drums to Terry’s keyboards and other tracked instruments.

What made their show stand out was something I noticed as they played on Conan weeks ago. On The Late Show, they played Wednesday night’s closer, “Growing Up with GNR” and David Terry winked as he sang, “Baby, you’ve been looking foxy tonight.” He seemed so un-rock star, so out of place, like the Conan O’Brien of rock music, he is a talented geek among Mic Jaggers or that guy from the Hives (don’t make me look up his name). [Editor’s note: that’d be Howlin’ Pele Almqvst, Wes.]

The music was markedly original, but rather than strutting around the stage and putting on a show, the band worked through their set, absolutely thrilled to be there. They played as if there were no other thing they’d rather be doing than in Minneapolis, playing rock music just for you. It’s that sense of immediacy and enjoyment that struck me as so endearing and honest.

When United State of Electronica (U.S.E.) took the stage, they took it by storm. The seven members struck their first chords, pumped their fists and yelled out the first “Hey” of “Open Your Eyes”, the power took you and you couldn’t escape the infectious power of their live show.

By the end of their set, a good fifteen crowd members were on stage dancing. The wall between performers and audience members that Melodious Owl didn’t break and Aqueduct started to tear down was officially destroyed.

The idea of U.S.E. is simply to have a good time—I can’t say it more eloquently than that. Assembled in part from members of the pop-rock band, Wonderful, U.S.E. consists of musicians who should be playing indie music, but couldn’t be happier dancing and jumping off monitors. They don’t seem to have a problem singing lyrics like, “It is on! All you party people come on!”

Watching (or experiencing?) the U.S.E. live show is something akin to your first trip back to the playground, 30 years later—it’s simply too hard to believe that people can be that happy, they can have that much fun and they’re not even being ironic or self-conscious.

For both the Seattle bands it was their second time playing Minneapolis (except for a brief stint in St. Paul for which Jason from U.S.E. thanked the St. Paul police) and I left the show in awe. For one night last week at the Triple Rock, there was a world where music was fun again, where everyone took part and where we needed nothing more than a fist in the air, a vocoder and the words “Party ‘til we drop, don’t stop, get up and do it again!”