Jake Rudh has been spinning tunes and getting people to hit the dance floor for 16 years.
If you haven’t seen him behind a DJ booth at his weekly Transmission dance party, you’ve likely at least heard Rudh’s voice over the past five years during his weekly show on 89.3 The Current. In April, Rudh will celebrate Transmission’s sweet 16 while also wishing First Avenue a happy 47th birthday with a dance party in the mainroom.
For Rudh, an “absolutely music-obsessed guy” and a Fulton neighborhood resident, the famed club has always been a backdrop for his career in music.
Rudh first went to First Avenue during his late teenage years when he worked as a REV-105 intern, a gig that had Rudh on the stage, throwing T-shirts into screaming crowds at all-ages parties. Rudh would see his first rock concert at First Avenue with a show from English indie rock band The Charlatans in 1991. The love affair hasn’t ended.
“First Avenue truly is a home away from home,” he said.
The relationship has come full circle now that Rudh has performed at the venue many times over the years. Though he’s been close to selling out the roughly 1,500-person mainroom throughout his career — including coming just a few dozen tickets short during Transmission’s 15th anniversary event last year — his first sold-out First Avenue show came during Rudh’s “Let’s Go Crazy” tribute to Prince last summer, which spawned a total of three sold-out nights to keep up with fans of the Purple One flying into town. In addition to being a veteran DJ, Rudh is also a VJ with plenty of music videos by the late musician, a figure who played an important role for Rudh while he grew up in the ’80s and ’90s.
Of course, knowing the self-identified anglophile, the loss of David Bowie just months earlier had already left its mark on Rudh.
“Both of those artists are on a plateau that few can reach. To lose both of them was just a punch to the gut times 10,” he said.
During his nearly 20 years as a DJ, Rudh has had the opportunity to play with his heroes, acting as a musical emissary for Minneapolis for some of the greats: Clem Burke, drummer for the pioneering new wave band Blondie (Rudh was a drummer growing up); The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke; and Chan Poling of The Suburbs, one of Minneapolis’ most influential punk rock bands.
Despite booking big names, Rudh and his regulars are the highlight of most Transmission nights. Rudh said he walks into a Transmission without a single song pre-planned. Instead, he caters each night of Transmission to the audience. Typically, the first hour or so when people are just getting to the bar — be it a regular night at Clubhouse Jäger or another venue — will feature more experimental tracks. Beyond that, about 15 or 20 tracks will be requests, on average.
“The biggest thing for me is being able to read the floor and play requests. My personal challenge is trying to weave those into my regular set,” he said. “I do love to tell stories with my sets.”
Ask Rudh to rattle off his favorite genres of music and you’ll be there for a while. Whether he’s crafting a playlist for The Current or just for his morning commute — “my life is like one big playlist,” Rudh said — he feels the vibes and digs into Brit pop, shoegaze, synthwave, electronica, post-punk and more. Rather than a specific type of music, it’s this eclectic quality of Transmission, and, by extension, Rudh, that has made it a destination for local music lovers.
“My audience is just great and opened-minded. I’m so proud to have a night where those types of folks come down,” he said.
Rudh recommends readers check out the ’60s-era psychedelic sound of England-based Temples, which just released a sophomore album dubbed “Volcanos.” There’s also Duett of New York, which produces instrumental synthwave music harkening back to the late ’80s (“It sounds like it could be in the background of a ‘Miami Vice’ scene,” he said). Finally, Rudh recommends The Radio Dept., a dreamy pop band hailing from Sweden. In March, Rudh played the Triple Rock Social Club with the group, which was touring off of “Running Out of Love,” their first LP in six years.
Rudh will host the special 18-plus night, Transmission: Sixteen Candles, on Saturday, April 1 at 9 p.m. at First Avenue.
Bad Waitress, good drinks
Bad Waitress, many Minneapolitans’ favorite spot on Eat Street, isn’t known for its cocktail program, chiefly because up until this year it didn’t have one. But all that has changed with the opening of a second Bad Waitress in Northeast Minneapolis. With Johnny Michaels (La Belle Vie) at the bar’s helm, cocktail seekers are in good hands. The colossal menu boasts more drinks than any group of friends is likely to try in one sitting, so repeat visits are advised. I started with the $9 Strong Vibes, a refreshing herb-infused gin drink with green chartreuse. For Old Fashioned fans, Bad Waitress Northeast has a Knife in the Water ($10) with an infusion of blood orange. In the opposite direction is the Tiny Bubbles ($11): complete with a flower, the punch, served in a wine glass, boasts pineapple, lychee and guava. Running with the trend of non-alcoholic cocktails, the restaurant has a mojito, a house ginger beer and a Romulan ale — yes, that’s a “Star Trek” reference.
Board games galore
Even if you’re not one to go out and hit the bars along 1st Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, there’s a place for you. Two geek-chefs have built out Byte, a coffee shop and lunch spot that turns into a casual board game bar in the evening. The place is great for game nights that require zero planning because Byte carries a plentiful selection of board games, from “Settlers of Catan” to lesser-known card games, and all the snacks, beer and wine you’ll ever need. To get a feel for the atmosphere, think if you combined the back part of Shinders where people are testing out new “Magic: The Gathering” decks with a fast-casual restaurant like Chipotle or Punch Pizza. The price point is similar, with nothing over $10 on the menu, so an evening at Byte will run you less than just about anything you can find downtown. For food, you can’t beat $5 loaded tots or nachos. For lunch or dinner, the curry chicken naan wrap ($8.50) and Korean BBQ beef rice bowl ($9.25) are winners.