‘Steely Ann’ and ‘Joe’s Garage’ combine faculty forces

Do you know any faculty members who are working at Minnesota State by day and working as a band member by night?

How about Rachel Maccabee of “Steely Ann,” and Joe Tougas of “Joe’s Garage?”

Steely Ann is a Steely Dan tribute band that puts its own spin on the classic 1970s band by using two female lead vocalists (instead of one male) and by incorporating more Jazz elements.

One of these vocalists, Rachel Maccabee, talked about how the female singers leave Steely Dan’s touchy lyrics unchanged as an artistic choice.

“Steely Dan is known for some pretty misogynist and patriarchal lyrics,” Maccabee said. “And I think that two women singing them is pretty empowering and you can kind of reframe the way things sound when sung by a woman. It’s pretty cool.”

Maccabee also works as a Confidential Advocate and Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist at MSU. She talked about how she balances her work and band life, especially during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“As tired as I am this week with the programming and the students that I work with, I get to meet with my bandmates tonight just to go over a few little details. And there’s something very fulfilling about being on stage and singing before an audience. So I balance it not very well and as carefully as I can, and I make time,” Maccabee said.

It helps that Steely Ann only has a couple of gigs a year.

After seeing Steely Ann, Joe Tougas was inspired and wanted to start his own tribute band based on another artist who was big in the 1970s, one that he was a massive fan of — Frank Zappa. Tougas assembled talented musicians from around town to create Joe’s Garage (Also the name of one of Zappa’s albums). Tougas does vocals and plays guitar for his band.

At Minnesota State, Tougas works as the Director of Content Marketing, which involves editing for the TODAY, the university’s alumni magazine. 

Along with work, Tougas stays busy by being in a few different music groups (including an acoustic duo with Ann Fee from Steely Ann) and practicing for hours every night.

Tougas talked about what it’s like to perform for an audience, especially students.

“I think it feels great, especially with students because I doubt too many students have heard his music. They may have heard the name, but to have heard the music might be a stretch. So it’s exciting for me to share that,” Tougas said.

Tougas and Maccabee have worked together in multiple music projects before. But this Saturday at 8 p.m both Joe’s Garage and Steely Ann perform at the Kato Ballroom. This will be the inaugural run for Tougas’ Joe’s Garage.

Tougas talked about his passion for Zappa’s music and what he prepared for Saturday.

“He’s got 62 albums, none of which are the same. And that was in his lifetime. There’s been more released since then. He was just so prolific and so experimental that there’s bound to be something you would like in his catalog,”  Tougas said.

“And what I’ve done with the show is try to assemble stuff of his that’s pretty accessible. It shows off his fancy side, but it also shows off his genuine musicianship, and humor and seriousness all at the same time.”

Write to Jack Harding at jack.harding@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Vocalists in the Steely Ann band recently rehearsed with several members of Joe’s Garage. Pictured from the recent gathering are, left to right, Sarah Houle, Jessica Landsteiner, David Viscoli, Ann Fee, Kat Baumann, Rachel Maccabee, Joe Tougas, Evan Bierer, ARK and Scott Rahe. (Courtesy John Cross/The Free Press)

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