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October 1 in the year of farewell to habeas corpus 2006

As we cross into Minnesota we honk the horn in celebration as we always do when crossing a frontier. But RW’s heart is conflicted as it always is when landing in the state where he was born. Minnesota. It looks like home. The air smells like home. The fall weather as is a familiar is it could possibly be. But a Minnesota homecoming is never a purely happy experience for RW. Haunting would be a better description. But as we push onward towards the Cities, jacked up on pie, with time to spare until our gig, things are pretty mellow. The dusk air is unusually warm for the first day of October. We aim the rental minivan for the 400 Bar, Dinkytown adjacent, backed up against the University. We load in and find the “dressing room,” a musty basement below the stage bearing graffiti from generations of Twin Cities rock shows. This place has the funk.

Things are looking pretty sleepy even for a Sunday night as we approach gig time The most activity is going on at the Muslim bakery next door to the club. It’s Ramadan and the sun has set so folks are coming out to eat and socialize, in caftans and caps, women in full veil. There’s no “Clash of Civilizations” going on here. The Minnesota Muslims are cheerful and welcoming. RW hangs in the parking lot with cousin Ben and his girlfriend Carolina. Old friend Jim and wife Katherine pull up. Dave Cox of Rochester, MN even shows up for a surprise. Cousins-in-law Alix and Caulder roll in with their spouses. Dennis P, Hawks’ counselor/enforcer/executive producer lingers in the shadows. Yes, there’s some fine folks here in Minnesota.

The 400 Bar is as bare bones as a rock club can be, but as the lights dim for downbeat, it’s suddenly atmospheric. The club hits a respectable threshold of attendees as the Hawks take the stage. It’s a reflective set with moments of rockness closing on a downbeat Midwestern version of “Houseboat.” Hiawatha, I hardly knew ya. Kid Dakota follows with a power duo–nice electric guitar work and tunes that are long odysseys, a pre-White Stripes White Stripes–but instead of a wraithlike female drummer with tentative command over the kit, a monster lurks, hunched over the drums, black hair dangling in his downturned face, filled with the spirit of Baker and Bonham, with some DeJohnette elbowing in amidst the thunder, some dainty cymbal work in the quiet interludes between merciless pounding. Ian Prince is his name, and he’s a rock drummer.

The Hawks slip away into the night, bound for different destinations.