A place for fun in your life

There’s no one quite like Mark Mallman, and nowhere quite like First Avenue.

by Keri Carlson

The Mark Mallman you see in concert is not the same Mallman you get on an album. To Mallman, his albums represent his reflective process, something very internal. Often, the most personal and confessional songs are too difficult to perform live – performing a song about a dead friend once made him cry on stage. These songs return Mallman to moments he doesn’t want to relive.

Therefore, in concert there exists a very different Mallman. And with his new album “Live from First Avenue, Minneapolis,” the live Mallman can be heard for the first time outside smoky bars.

“I’ve long neglected the extravert,” Mallman said of his live album, “that over-the-top mad man character that I created for the live shows.”

Known for stunts such as a 26-hour marathon song in the Clown Lounge and playing in a refrigerator-sized box for eight hours, Mallman has certainly earned a claim to the title of crazed showman. But this does not imply that he is purely a novelty. We can tell just by looking at his album cover, on which the artist appears with sweat-clumped hair, eyes squeezed shut and gritting teeth that he clearly puts a great deal of passion into his performances.

“Butcher’s Ballad” is the highlight of the album. Mallman yells like a raspy preacher: “The reason we’re all living here is sad but true/It’s that some people are gonna get punished for the things they never do.” He then strips away the accompanying instruments for an odd dramatic silence broken by his rant on a rabbit shivering in the road after being run over.

“Live from First Avenue” captures the heart of a Mallman show. And it is hard not to believe that First Avenue played a major part in his success. Mallman first played the club with his band the Odd and described it like “wearing the coat of one of your heroes.” He added “The day I turned 21, I went to First Ave.; I went there 200 times that year.” The liner notes, written by the grouchy (but still lovable) Steve McClellan of First Avenue, only serve to underscore this fact. These recordings could not have been made at any other club.