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Tickle Torture, Strange Names, and Carroll @ First Ave

Aug 09, 2014

The reason why it took me longer than my typical two hours to write this review is that this concert needed to sink in--especially Tickle Torture’s set: a seductive, masochistic, and compelling romp featuring (almost) nude gold painted men, choreographed dance moves, a mountable deer head with gold glitter eyes, and a lot of bottles of cheap champagne: “Everything is better painted in gold,” Elliott Kozel told me after the show.

What made this show interesting was the fact that what these artists have in common has essentially nothing to do with sound. The reason these bands came together was locale and mutual respect, and whoever organized this show knew what they were doing. All of the friends I saw at First Ave’s Mainroom were there to see different artists: Carroll attracting the dad-rock-y crowd, young men and women who feel that Real Estate’s Atlas really “speaks to them.” Two Harbors brought in my friends who really dig British pop bands (they do have a kind of British persona on-stage, despite their being from Minnesota) like Oasis--I really hesitate to say T-Rex, but know that that comparison was brewing in my mind while I watched their relatively short set. Strange Names, who I would say drew the biggest crowd (performing last also helped) and played the longest, had an energetic, whacky, Cut Copy-esque (I recently saw them in the same venue) synth pop set that everybody really seemed to dig. I unfortunately didn’t get to see the whole thing because my date lost her cell phone--if you find it you should give it back to her because it has all the pictures from the show I wanted to post in this review. But the highlight of the show for me (and I would venture to guess everyone else who was there to see it) was certainly Tickle Torture’s set.



Carroll continues, as a Minneapolis mainstay, to gig heavily. Their sets are meticulous, polished, and precise--the songs flow together, their breaks are neither underdone or overdone and they’re an entertaining band to watch. It seems like they’ve opened for everyone who has played a show in Minneapolis. This is a good place to point out a very strange thing about this show: the differences in stage presence and theatrics. Carroll followed Tickle Torture’s absolutely ridiculous romp, which may have been necessary (because there were only four bands and Strange Names was pretty much a lock to go on last) but really didn’t make sense. The crowd still had a lot of energy, perhaps too much for Carroll’s (much) more laidback style.

In the end the crowd acclimated to the slower sound and most people were vibing out. There was a really sweaty guy (no speculation on why he was so sweaty) who was jamming way too hard--jerking his head to the rhythm of an entirely different song. But hey, he was having fun and so was everyone else. 



Strange Names closed the show but I’ve decided to present the review in the format because I have a lot to say about Tickle Torture. Strange Names, like Carroll, is a well-practiced band (not that the other bands weren’t), but I thought they were much more fun to watch because of the interactions that they had with the audience. Their fun rapport transferred over to their synth/dance pop set and, from a perch next to the bar, I looked at the youths having a fantastic time with a tinge of jealousy--I was up here because my date lost her phone, I was being punished by the powers that be and I wasn’t at fault--woe is me.

We caught three awesome songs before we had to leave, and I wish I could have stayed after to use my Radio K clout (this is a joke I have no clout) to get an interview with the dudes from Strange Names. Somewhere in the world a sneaky thief is probably looking through those pictures like: “These are pretty good, but why aren’t there any pictures of Strange Names?” And then they remember they’re gone because they stole the phone. And they stole the fun of the last set for me.



At one point Elliott Kozel, Tickle Torture’s frontman, took the stuffed deer head I mentioned earlier and hit himself in the head with it (hard) multiple times. When I asked him afterwards why he did this he responded: “Angst.” He’s angsty about love, he tells me, he wants to find it. I’m not sure if these shows are the way into a woman’s heart, unless that woman is very, very strange. His music itself isn’t all that strange. Everytime I hear one of his songs Prince comes immediately to mind, and this is perhaps because I’ve seen him live quite a few times and his show is just sexy and raw, choreographed only to a certain extent before the clothes come off and Kozel jumps around the stage, or as it happens, into the audience, singing the whole time--alternating falsetto and tenor.

Kozel takes the stage in a gold jumper, a sequined gold mask, wearing pants that everyone who has seen his shows before knows are coming off. In his wake two men wearing only cotton underwear painted head to toe in gold. Gold, glamour, these are tonight’s themes. The men take a seat on a couch that was set up just for them on stage. I recognize the one with the dreadlocks from Tickle Torture’s latest video--Kozel tells me afterwards that his name is Eli and that after he auditioned for the video Kozel asked him to do the show. The men open a bottle of champagne and sip as the music kicks in, Kozel struts across stage front carrying a confetti cannon, which, with the thrust of his hips, he provocatively shoots into the audience. A thousand balloons in a giant net loom overhead. Welcome to Tickle Torture.

He played the favorites: Forgiven, Lovesickness, etc. but I truly believe that he could have played anything and it would have been an awesome concert. Kozel oozes charisma and is an absolute blast to watch. Picture him crowdsurfing and falling to the ground. You couldn’t. He fell like a cat, back on his feet and back on his stage in one choreographed maneuver. Tickle Torture made this concert for me, and I can honestly say that I would pay Paul McCartney money to see him again.

Sam Howard