The Turf Club, near Snelling and University Avenues in St. Paul, is marked by a green horseshoe sign which calls it the “Best Remnant of the '40s,” a claim that contrasts with the decidedly more contemporary patrons smoking in the doorway. Enter the darkened interior and you’ll spot a long bar, strings of lights, darts, pinball, and a photo booth. This classic dark and gritty dive bar is the perfect place for a reading.
Last night, the bar hosted its almost-monthly Riot Act Reading Series, organized by Paul Dickinson and Laura Brandenburg. The series got its start about five years ago at the Loring Pasta Bar (then put on by Dickinson), and recently moved to the Turf Club. Says Brandenburg, “[The series] has a punk rock history.” (Dickinson is the lead singer and guitarist in punk rock band Frances Gumm.)
Underscoring Brandenburg's assertion, Laurie Lindeen read from her new memoir, Petal Pusher, A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story, which chronicles Lindeen’s experiences as a member of Zuzu’s Petals, an all-girl pop-punk band that formed in the late 1980s and made its mark on the music scene in the early 1990s.
Dickinson opened the evening by joking, “I know many of you are here on court order,” as he raised his pint of beer and launched into a series of darkly funny poems punctuated by quips such as “I’ve been thrown to the wolves so many times I’m part of the pack,” and “Air Force laser beams slice government cheese for lunch,” and “Foucault, you rabid Frenchy.” Brandenburg followed with a “poem cycle” on fear, jealousy, and rage delivered partly in a slightly demented-sounding southern accent.
Then Lindeen took the stage, book in hand, her blonde curls and red and white floral print dress lending her a rather angelic aura amid the red glow of the ceiling lights. She looked more like the mom, writing teacher, and published author that she’s become than a rock 'n’ roller. But then, looks can be deceiving.
Lindeen read a few passages, including one about a night spent in an hourly motel—the only place the band could afford—with rather unpleasant traces of former couples left behind on the floor, walls, and bedspread in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, after a gig at NYC’s legendary CBGB club. Needless to say, they sleep with their clothes on. She continued to read from chapters about opening for Adam Ant, singing Jesus Christ Superstar in the van on the way to a gig, and getting busted by an overzealous highway patrolman on the way to an important gig. Reading at the Turf Club instead of her more usual venue—Barnes & Noble—seems a bit more fitting: The stories are funny, insightful, and even a little quixotic. As Lindeen says, “Sometimes you can’t help yourself. Rock 'n’ roll is sexy as hell.”