BY NATHAN BURNEVIK | The Statesman The 13th Annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze performance will take place at the Red Herring Lounge in Duluth on December 5 at 8 p.m.
Kris Carlson and the rest of the Gold Star Junkies put their names in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze registration box about a month ago, which means the band has been temporarily split up and assigned to a newly formed band at random.
“We’ll see who we get hooked up with this year now,” Carlson said.
The bands could be selected to perform anything from “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature to “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones.
While figuring out how to perform “Salt Shaker” by the Ying Yang Twins with a typical rock ‘n’ roll ensemble may prove to be complicated, the goal of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze is simple, to allow local musicians to connect with one another.
Erik “Heiko” Edwardson, who created the event twelve years ago, told me he started the event to bring local musicians together and to give everyone an opportunity to perform in a band.
Assigning musicians of various instruments and backgrounds to random bands allows for an equal playing field.
The event creates connections with other local musicians and can even lead to something larger.
The Gold Star Junkies are basically the embodiment of the Kamikaze’s goal.
Jim Hagstrom, Sheila Wonders and Blake Konrad were assigned to a band two years ago during Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze and still practice and perform together today. The band now consists of Kris Carlson, Bob Bursell, Wonders, Hagstrom and Konrad.
Participants had a month to put their name in a box for selection and another month to practice with a band that is randomly assigned by Edwardson.
On December 5, each band will perform one assigned song and usually two others of their choice during a 15-minute set in a “battle of the bands”-type competition.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze gives musicians a chance to perform for a full crowd, regardless of their background or genre.
Konrad and Wonders were amateur musicians interested in playing with a band prior to becoming a part of the Gold Star Junkies.
Konrad explained that he had been working at Pizza Luce, which was the venue for the event, and decided to participate in the Kamikaze five years ago after seeing previous performances.
“I finally worked up the courage to put my name in that stupid box and go up on stage just nervous as all hell,” recalled Konrad, who said he had never been in a band and only performed at some open mic events prior to the Gold Star Junkies.
Due to the spontaneous nature of the event it is not uncommon for band members to learn to play instruments that they don’t typically play.
When he found himself in a band without a bassist, Konrad stepped up and learned how to play the bass in the month prior to the event.
“Until that year I had not picked up a bass guitar,” Konrad said. “Since then I’ve stuck with it.”
Two years ago, experienced musicians Hagstrom and Carlson were encouraged to participate for the first time by friends.
“For me, the adrenaline rush is just when you see all those people out there, it just makes you want to be there even more” Carlson said, who has participated every year since. “Of course the next year it was a no-brainer.”
Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze is a “guaranteed packed show,” Hagstrom explained.
While the Rock ‘n’ Roll Kamikaze is a competition, it is open to people from all musical backgrounds and experience levels.
“If you kind of don’t know what you’re doing it’s a perfect opportunity to get on stage. You can practice for a few weeks and kind of get it down but if you mess up a little bit that’s just kind of part of the gig,” Hagstrom said.
More information about the event can be found on the Facebook event page for RnR Kamikaze XIII.