The exact origins of Golden Smog are lost in the hazy backwaters of the late 1980s Minnesota music scene. Initially a loose-knit outfit featuring members of notable bands like The Jayhawks, The Replacements, Soul Asylum and Run Westy Run, early Golden Smog wasn't much more than a jokey cover band side project. Within a few years, the lineup solidified around a core of Gary Louris and Marc Perlman from The Jayhawks, Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum, and Kraig Johnson from Run Westy Run. The punny On Golden Smog, an all covers EP, came out in 1992 complete with fake identities and wacky Chris Mars cover art.
With Wilco's Jeff Tweedy now on board, two mid-'90s releases, Down By the Old Mainstream and Weird Tales, put Golden Smog on the map in a big way, featuring first rate original songs and inspired performances, aided by drummers Noah Levy and Jody Stephens, and violinist Jessy Greene. Often labeled as "Americana," these two landmark albums encompassed an impressive array of sounds and styles. It would be 10 years before the next Golden Smog album, Another Fine Day (2006), a sprawling, adventurous work of art that remains a true lost masterpiece. A follow up EP came the following year; a greatest hits album was released in 2009.
Golden Smog live shows, and especially tours, have always been something of a rarity given all the conflicting schedules. The last full-length tour was in 2006 followed by a handful of one offs and tribute shows. For the most part, the last decade has been very quiet in Smog world. In July 2019, that silence was broken with a stealthy full-blown Golden Smog show in an off-the-radar basement event space in Minneapolis' St. Anthony Main neighborhood to celebrate Dan Murphy's birthday. Things fell into place naturally, the band sounded great and a good time was had by all.
Which brings us to #goldensmog2020 and a high profile show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of First Avenue, one of the most important venues of the rock era, just about 30 years after Golden Smog played their first show on a smoky stage somewhere that nobody can quite remember now. Who knows what the future will bring? Stick around and find out.