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Chris Kluwe’s farewell musical moment turns into a tribal, cathartic event

The former Vikings punter — performing with his band, Tripping Icarus — cut something of a heroic figure Tuesday night.

Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, right, played a farewell performance with his band Tripping Icarus at Cause in Minneapolis on Tuesday night.
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“I’m gonna sing on this one — don’t judge me. It’s not my fault, I was born with this voice,” Chris Kluwe told a couple hundred people packed into Cause nightclub in Minneapolis Tuesday night at the farewell performance of the former Vikings punter and gay-marriage lightning rod’s prog-grunge band Tripping Icarus.

Then Kluwe and singer/guitarist Jesse Damien Revel lit into a blistering guitar-driven number that found both men screaming bloody murder at the top of their lungs.

It was a tribal and cathartic moment for all concerned, but even still a palpable sense of sorrow hung over the set, as everybody in the room knew that Kluwe — clad in a white baseball cap turned backwards, blue jeans, and a blue T-shirt that read, “It is a very odd sort of patriot that would destroy the first amendment to protect the second — Penny Arcade” — had been spit out two days earlier by the corporate machine for, in my view, speaking his mind.

In that sense, the 31-year-old Kluwe cut something of a heroic figure Tuesday night — if not necessarily for the gathered few, then for the hundreds of thousands of human-rights and free-speech advocates who were at Cause in spirit. Ironically, the bill making gay marriage legal in Minnesota is poised to be signed into law next week, just as one of its most valuable spokesmen is heading out of town — and leaving a local music community he’s been part of the past several years.

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“That’s the part that really sucks,” said Kluwe before the gig. “As Tripping Icarus, we’ve played quite a few shows around here and gotten to know a lot of people, and it’s going to be really hard to keep that going, just being in a [different NFL] city [as a punter] and not being here to play with the guys.

“That’s something I’m really gonna miss. It’s bittersweet, but I’m really looking forward to playing on stage. We haven’t been able to play a show for a while. We were practicing in our space earlier tonight, and just hitting that first chord together as a band, it felt amazing. You feel those shivers down your back: ‘We are making music together again.’ ”

Tuesday’s Cause audience bore little resemblance to a typical NFL crowd, with mohawks, leather and tattoos outnumbering Vikings regalia by a wide margin.

“I’ve always been kind of a free spirit,” said Kluwe, when asked if his status in the local music community emboldened him to speak out in favor of gay marriage in a way that’s not exactly encouraged by the NFL. “I’ve always kind of done what I want. I like being me. And with music, that’s an expression of yourself. You create a song, and then you play it, and being in front of people doing that is amazing.”

That much was evident last night while watching the animated and focused Kluwe, whose week started with him being cut from the Vikings, and crested with his official jump-the-shark moment Tuesday afternoon when The Onion lampooned him (“Chris Kluwe Pens Impassioned Editorial On Challenges Facing Cut NFL Punters”).

Right on schedule, the all-fronts Kluwe backlash is on. But for the several fans who approached him after Tuesday’s show to shake his hand and thank him for having the guts to stand up for basic human rights, Kluwe will always be remembered as a hero, and The Minnesota Vikings the shameful organization who fired him.

“A working-class hero is nothing to be/A working class hero is just property,” sang Revel at one point, as Kluwe thumb-slapped his bass behind him, and John Lennon’s words were lost only on those who weren’t listening.