The Suburbs find a time machine at the Turf Club with the energy and sound of the 80s

Sometimes I wish high school me could see snippets of adult me, like last night hobnobbing with The Suburbs in the Clown Lounge before their song out show – getting a sneak listen to their newest songs. It would have made high school me much cooler.

The set up was a private party in the Clown Lounge for supporters of The Suburbs’ latest fundraising effort, which turned into a record party with free Summit beer and roomful of faces from long ago. (And to help you connect names with faces, Cyn Collins was there with her new book Complicated Fun, a history of the music scene in the Twin Cities from 1974-1984 featuring more than a few folks in attendance.) After and hour or so of reminiscing – we all went upstairs to the sold out show.

The band was tight. They reminded me of The Suburbs I saw back in the high school mixer days. Unadulterated dance music – with barely a pause between songs. They started off strong with Cows. In fact I was amazed at how the show was really hit and hit with a couple new songs snuck in for good measure and the new songs fit in seamlessly.

The new was great. Hey Muse starts like a Stone Roses song. It’s more psychedelic than their usual repertoire but the psychedelics are an additive, it still has the strong dance beat and the energy of a full band – which makes sense as they have a full band of new and old faces on amazing musicians. It harkens back to some of the beats of the 90s but it feels new too. Chan Polling’s voice is unmistakable and comforting. Lost you on the Dancefloor Is a song that calls out for an old school MTV video – nor Real World or Teen Mom style – but the videos like A-ha or Safety Dance used to do. Polling voice is emotive. They make good use of Janey Winterbauer on backup. The song tells a story. The beat is mellow. There’s a catchy refrain. It brings back the best of the 80s.

The old was like a favorite sweater that fits again! Music for Boys, Waiting, Spring Came – again hit after hit. Love is the Law brought down the house – a symbol of how things have changed since the 80s, used a few years ago to celebrate the hard-fought freedom for anyone to marry. The night was capped off with a bonus double encore of Baby Heartbeat.

And to bring it full circle I came home and told my high school daughter that I’d seen The Suburbs. “The guys who sing Turn the Radio on?” she asked. “Cool!” The time machine is working, The Suburbs are still cool in the high schools.

Record Store Day 2017 – 8 record stores, one Science March and a lot of Prince

12 year old: Is Record Store Day a competitive sport?
Me: Yes
12 yo: Does anyone else know?
Me: Nope, that’s how I win

Aine (12 year old) and I have been going to Record Store Day for four or five years. No matter the weather or whatever else is going on – we go. Yesterday was no exception but we went into it knowing we would not beat last year’s record of 11 stores in six hours. This year we had two other events – the Science  March and the first anniversary of Prince’s death – a sad and momentous occurrence.

So this is how our day went…

Because we were driving through downtown Minneapolis, we stopped and took a picture of Prince’s star at First Avenue. There was a gaggle of tourists in matching t-shirts posing when we got there. I thought they could have spent hours – but it was fun to watch them be so excited. (Also they let us sneak in our 30 second shot.) They had obviously come to Minnesota (maybe from Georgia) for the weekend for Prince. They were hitting all of the haunts. Reminded me to appreciate all that we have in Minneapolis and what a draw and influence Prince remains.

Our first official stop was Hifi Hair and Records. It was a quick visit but I went back later with a grownup friend to say hello and watch Paul Metsa play. I haven’t seen Paul play in 20 years. He still sounded great. It did feel strange to see him outside the West Bank (of the U of M campus).

We did a couple of drive-bys with Treehouse Records and Fifth Element. Treehouse is always a fun, old school used record shop. Fifth Element features a lot of hip hop and rap music. I am always astounded at how friendly the staff is – especially on what has to be one of their busiest days.

We hovered at Electric Fetus long enough to get a free Glam Doll Donut – purple for the day that was in it. And tasty! It was as packed as I have seen it. Busier than the in-store performance of Polica a few years back. Folks were buying. Somehow I got away with not buying a dress this year. I’ll probably be back soon though.

Next stop, we crossed the river back to St Paul to check out Eclipse. You know how records are organized by genre – then by alphabet by band name? Aine could not get over the fact that there was no “Q” section. She’s a huge Queen fan. Eclipse had two other things going for it – proximity to Candyland and the Science March.

In fact we had to scoot right out of Eclipse to hoof it up to the Capitol for the Science March. Rumor has it there were 10,000 marchers. There was a heavy youth focus – both in that there were a lot of young people there and speaking but also the signs people held urged people to remember science to help create a better future for you – really to ensure a future for youth.

After some inspiration science talk and feeling buoyed by the support for science and worried by the need to support science – we were back on the record store road. We went to Flashlight Vinyl in NE Minneapolis. I’d never been there. They were set up for fun festivities – and more free mini-donuts. They had a find the Doc Marten contest – where someone would win a pair of Doc Martens. I was tempted – very tempted – but also pressed for time.

So we trekked off to Hymie’s – where Record Store Day is a street festival. You can always pick up a free record, chalk up some sidewalk or grab a quick bite next door. I got a chance to see The Blind Shake, one of my favorite punk bands. They did not disappoint and I got a much needed opportunity to do a little dancing.

There was a shift of gears to check out Americana, country leaning of Miss Becky at Barely Brothers. She sounded great. We were able to sit in the sunshine and listen for a while. Best use of great weather and record store day.

The final record store for us was Dead Media. (And at some point “us” shifting to a grownup friend while Aine retreated back home, which opened the door to more punk than she’d like. We caught Kitten Forever. The tiny place was steamy hot and cheek to jowl – but worth it and a good shot of energy before gearing up for the shift to night time focus on Prince.

I like Prince. I saw a few shows. Prince was one of the most amazing performers I’ve ever seen live. His steaminess alone on stage leaves Dead Media in the dust. But I didn’t know Prince and I don’t have any Prince stories. But I have friends who knew him well. So I’m happy to celebrate Prince and his music to support his memory to support friends and because he was one of the greatest boosters of Minneapolis that Minneapolis will ever know!

We started the Saturday Prince festivities at First Avenue’s street party. It was nothing like the impromptu showing of love and mourning of last year – but it was well done and a chance for lots of people to remember Prince together. Local musicians (and dancers) played Prince songs – led and organized by Michael Bland. I saw Mark Mallman, Kerry Alexander from the Bad Bad Hats, Adam Levy and Jack Brass Band sing, accompanied by and Jeremy Ylvisaker, Ricky Kinchen and Bland. (I may not have gotten everyone.)

The event was free – but ticketed. There was a fence to keep people out. I have to think that was to allow First Ave to sell drinks and maybe for some insurance. It was easy enough to feel a part of the scene from outside the fence. Hard to keep in the music.

Next we made a quick stop into Bunker’s to see Jesse Johnson from The Time. So he can play guitar and look good doing it. You could see the influence of Prince or maybe on Prince. He’s fancy and good and has a that brighter look about him that stars have. We had to leave after just a few songs.

Our grand finale was the family party at the Metropolitan. It was great to hear musicians such as G Sharp, Andre Cymone and Apollonia play the songs as they were intended to be played – albeit without the main attraction. It was touching to hear the stories.

Through the generosity of a family friend, it was very fun to have VIP tickets, which meant no long lines on the way in and a fantastic view of the stage all night long.

But more than anything it was the best people watching ever! People had come from all over the world. Some folks were dressed to the nines! Lots of men in hats. Women in one-legged leotards, leather jumpsuits, lace and feathers and anything in between. People dancing. And minimal grousing about the bar closing at 1 am (for a party that started at midnight).

Also a treat – free breakfast starting about 3:30 am. It was surreal to walk into the full café next door to the Metropolitan and have it be full of fancy people at that hour. There was a little bit of a feeling like we’d all been through the high school lock-in together. Although maybe older and less able to stay up all night – or sadly sleep the whole next day!

Guillermo del Toro at the MiA – creepy but cool

While I’m catching up with the blog, I’m going to catch up. We are lucky enough to have Guillermo del Toro at the Mia (Minneapolis Institute of Arts). Wow! I’ve seen it twice. Del Toro is a Mexican filmmaker – who makes super scary, uber creepy movies such as Hell Boy and Pan’s Labyrinth.

The exhibit included work from his movies, recreation of rooms (or parts of rooms) from his home, which he calls Bleak House, a collection of comic books and art (such as Francis Bacon) that is similar and/or influenced his work. The rooms were very well organized focused on topics such as a room on childhood fears and the super natural and beasts of all shapes and sizes. And there were videos of his various movies, most of which I couldn’t watch – too scary!

A key for anyone who is thinking about going to the show – and lives on a budget – you can see the exhibit for free if you become a member of Mia (membership is free) and then get tickets on a special My Mia day. It looks like April 9 and May 14 are the last days.

Minnesota State Capitol Art – what do we want to represent us?

Today I had the opportunity to see a presentation from Jim Bear Jacobs on the painful historical art in the Minnesota State Capitol – specifically how it depicts Native Americans and celebrates a manifest destiny that sought to “civilize” and already civilized culture. It was eye opening.

After the talk, we went on a brief tour of the Capitol to view some of the works he discussed and an exhibit hidden away on the third floor that he didn’t discuss. I wanted to share two pictures from the tour.

The first picture is from the Rotunda ceiling – the main entrance and focal point of the Capitol. Mr. Jacobs explained the depiction of manifest destiny, of the white male figure driving savagery from the land. He is led by angels – implying that he is being led by God to take the land from the current inhabitants. He is driving away a bear, a cowering mountain lion, a naked woman with the head of a fox and a brown-skinned man.

Not all of the details are prominent from the main floor but this photo was taken (using my phone) from an upper floor and the details are clear from that perspective. It gives a message that is horrifying. Perhaps you can make the case that it’s important to remember our past – but not in the main entrance, a place that should invite and welcome all citizens. This picture is not welcoming, rather it creates – through art – an imbalance based on color, ethnicity and I’d add gender.

The second image (Discoverers and the Civilizers led to the Source of the Mississippi) overlooks the Minnesota Senate Chambers. This is more brutal than the previous. This time white men and women (again led by angels) bring their church to “civilize” the inhabitants. And if that isn’t persuasive, they also have snarling dogs. The Native Americans in the pictures are seriously under-dressed for Northern Minnesota where they’d freeze in the winter and be eaten alive mosquitoes in the summer and the attire is not based on traditional Ojibwe attire. (Background on the picture leans to an Ojibwe connection.) Again – horrifying!

Art should celebrate Minnesota and Minnesotans. This art doesn’t. If you think it doesn’t make a difference, listen to Representative Peggy Flanagan talk about her experience viewing the art. Walk around the Capitol and view the pictures of people of all colors (if you can find people of all colors), look at women, look at the events that are celebrated. We can do better.

In a gallery on the third floor, we found an exhibit of photography of Mike Hazard – an artist whose work I know. These are pictures of faces of people we see in Minnesota today – doing every day Minnesota activities. We need to make room to celebrate these faces and others. Also featuring art of contemporary Minnesota artists might build an audience and develop economic opportunities for contemporary artists. If I learned nothing from last year’s Guerrilla Girls Takeover of Minnesota’s art scene, it’s that we can build an opportunity for art and change with thoughtful approach to how art is used.

I remember visiting the Belfast City Hall three years ago where they were in the process of re-selecting art and artifacts that would represent art and artifacts that respectfully celebrate a painful past. Maybe art can bring Minnesotans together in the same way.