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Vinnie and the Stardüsters

Headlining the first Geek Prom was just one of many highlights in the illustrious history of Vinnie and the Stardüsters, a band that has brought fun, laughter — and sometimes nudity — to crowds of social misfits throughout Minnesota.

The Stardüsters’ cult acclaim has forced many critics to attempt to describe their music, resulting in such phrases as “lounge music for geriatrics unafraid to boogie,” and “Husker Doo Doo.” The band itself calls its music “power-rumba parody.”

The band has released two full-length albums, several singles, a slew of promotional comic books called Fascist (parodying the Archie comics) and has performed more farewell and reunion concerts than any other band.

Vinnie & the Stardüsters were a hit from the very beginning, when Minneapolis’ City Pages newspaper’s “Best of” issue placed them in a three-way tie for “13th Best New Band.” The Stardüsters were also nominated years later for a Minnesota Music award for Avant-Garde Band, but didn’t win, so the bassist pilfered the award.

The 2002 Geek Prom was Vinnie & the Stardüsters’ first performance in Duluth. Inspired by the trip, the band would later release an EP called Duluth, featuring the song "Come to Duluth (If You Want to Be an Unemployed Alcoholic)."

The band is as well known for its publicity stunts as its music. Examples include: calling the police on themselves to shut down concerts, threatening to move the band out of the Twin Cities if a 100,000-seat rock arena isn’t built for them, and recording an “XXXMas Song” that was rejected for airplay on The Howard Stern Show for being “too dirty.” (Sung to the tune of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, the Stardüsters instead discover mommy “fisting” Santa Claus.)

According to guitarist Eric Dregni, Vinnie & the Stardüsters met at the Nicollet Child Guidance Center while undergoing treatment for various debilitating mental illnesses. Apparently, bassist John T. Perkins’ schizophrenia combined with Tourette's Syndrome sometimes leads to shocking profanity and then what he describes as a "moral hangover." Through years of treatment, Perkins has been able to transform his expletives into music, according to Dregni.

Drummer Nick Hook’s mantra is "I'm not drunk, I have cerebral palsy." A prenatal birth defect reportedly causes him to flail his arms and legs uncontrollably, especially when listening to the rumba. Happily, he turned out to be a natural drummer, and the hospital staff is pleasantly surprised that playing drums interrupts his incessant playing with himself.

Dregni claims to be what is popularly called an "idiot savant," giving him the memory of a Cray computer but the intelligence of a 3-year-old. While thought to be a child prodigy because he could instantly transpose an entire orchestra score to guitar, his parents soon feared the worst when they caught him memorizing Minneapolis Transit Company bus schedules. Dregni can remember the most minute details of the band's history and has chronicled them in an often-disturbing comic book. Sadly, he can hardly feed himself.

The name Vinnie & the Stardüsters comes from when Perkins returned from a trip to Germany with a mohawk and a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt and the band went to the Stardust Bowling Alley in the "Hub of Hell" neighborhood in Minneapolis. A free-basing drunk named Vinnie came in and changed their lives.