Move Over Replacements, the Biggest Reunion Show in MN This Year Is Willie & the Bees
As Much as I appreciate Paul Westerberg’s songwriting skills and the Mats’ last three albums before calling it quits, the reason I never caught one of their drunken, self-indulgent, hit-or-miss concerts back in the day was because I was usually on the funky West Bank having a beer at the 5 Corners or a dark and tan at Palmers, talking music with Joel at the Viking (God I miss Joel — I had just got to know him pretty good after spending an evening talking music while a mutual friend pitched investors for her restaurant, shortly before he passed away). Or, more likely, seeing Willie and the Bees at the Cabooze, Union Bar, or my favorite venue: Moby Dick’s.
As good as the Hayes brothers, Doug Maynard, and Mr. McCabe’s bands were in the late 1970s and ’80s, nobody could touch the musicianship, original material, and authenticity of the incredibly under-appreciated Willie Murphy and his phenomenally funky band the Bumblebees, later simply the Bees. Other than James Brown’s music, with its unique concept of time, and the earlier incarnations of NRBQ and their unique groove they called the zibiglia (sp?), Willie & the Bees are about the only other band that I can think of that could take any song and put their own unique stamp on it. It was like someone took a great soul record from Hi or Stax and then sped up or slowed down the turntable to give it just the slightest hint of dissonance like a Parker, Coltrane or Miles bop record, it made you appreciate the sweet parts by contrast.
Whether it was Zoogies (formerly the Longhorne), the Cabooze show with Dr. John that was a rehearsal for the Survivor’s movie at the Blues Saloon, the Union, the countless Cedar Fests and River Flat Jam, outdoor shows, or those incredible shows at Moby Dick’s (10 year anniversary show with special guests like Bonnie Raitt and Tony “the Grinch” Glover) where the crowd would demand “Cheerleaders on Cocaine”. Or later solo piano shows at the 400 or happy hour at the Viking, Willie Murphy and the Bees: Maurice, Joe, my old friend Howard, Jose (the heckler) and the horns always played as if it was their last show.
One of the music highlights of my life was the reunion show at First Ave, which was the last performance by Koerner, Ray, and Glover, who warmed up. If there was ever one show, one encore from a Minneapolis band not to be missed, it would have to be the Willie & the Bees reunion show October 10.