Ghost Wagon and Fathom Lane at the Icehouse

Last week I had an opportunity to see a band I knew I liked to see and a band I hadn’t seen before. Starting with the new band, I enjoyed seeing Ghost Wagon. In the spirit of full disclosure, a band member is a neighbor and so I had come specifically to see them.

Ghost Wagon released their first CD (Crooked & Dark) last year and it sounds like they are gearing up for another release in 2018. With eight band members, they easily filled the small stage of the Icehouse. There’s Chuck Nelson on vocals, guitars and harp, John Mack on guitar and vocals, AJ Swenson on vocals, Jimmy Olson on drums, Marc Dockter on keyboard, Chris Hagedorn on sax, Steve Burnett on bass, and Josh Braun on pedal steel. It’s fun to see so many different instruments on stage – especially something like a sax and pedal steel.

Ghost Wagon has a country rock feel – think Tom Petty or Traveling Wilburys. Also it’s fun to see a band that looks like they are having fun on stage and these folks look like they’re having fun. They have an energy that’s infectious. The guitar and keyboard seem to drive the action of a song like Hold My Heart. While the harmony of Swenson and Nelson rounded out the song. I am looking forward to their next CD, the new songs they played seemed even more introspective and just a little more mellow in a good way.

The night ended with Fathom Lane, the unveiled their newest video – The Queen of All Hearts. It’s strange and memorable. In fact, I think every band should open with a video to build a familiarity with at least one song before the set starts. I like their original music, although I especially appreciate how they tie in cover songs. There final song – a singalong of Knocking on Heavens Door was awesome. (Clearly this is something they do – singers joined them on stage!)

Dan Israel CD release – You’re Free – at the Cedar Cultural Center

The musical stars came out for Dan Israel’s CD release Tuesday night – and many of them joined him on stage to celebrate his fourteenth album. I enjoyed hearing some of his older work like Mama’s Kitchen, which I think is a great showcase for the strings on stage. But his newest work (You’re Free) was the shining star and it feels a little different than past work.

Apparently he left his “day job” to concentrate on his music and dedicate attention to his music. You’re Free (the song) gives voice to the freedom of leaving a job, doing what you want. The words are not veiled “no one body knows what you felt inside, you were along for the lonely ride, how you emerged with your pride is a mystery; All of the world is your oyster now…”  It’s pretty straightforward and it’s a feeling that I think is pretty universal for folks who are lucky enough to have a passion but wait for a while to dive in full force.

The sound is rock and country and makes you sway. It’s upbeat and moving forward. Israel has a warm baritone that feels like an old friend in the room.

I’m a fan especially of Make this Life Mine, the beginning feels like a story or maybe like a Disney start. It highlights the lower vibes of Israel’s voice, unique but comfortable. The drums have an exotic fee and the backup vocals add a ethereal sound. It’s a little melancholy, a little unapologetic in theme with an undercurrent of celebration.

Leading off the night was Rich Mattson & the Northstars. They are always fun too. Glad they played Youngest Old Friend of Mine. They remind me of X, in a really good way.

Happy May Day with the Annual Heart of the Beast Parade

Today was one of the best days for May Day I can remember – shocking given my lake expert informed me that ice out happened on Minnesota yesterday! There are three parts to our May Day event: the Parade, the Tree of Life Ceremony, and a Festival in Powderhorn Park. We caught the tail end of the parade, part of the ceremony and the festival.

The theme this year is – What You Feed Grows – it’s all about love. There were the usual actors for the ceremony – the red boats that cross the river, the gods and goddesses with some new ones including my new favorite pink birds. It’s amazing to see the work that folks do in creating their costumes.

May Day is an ancient holiday – going back to 29 BC and possibly before. It was originally a festival of flowers, which makes sense given the spring timing. In more modern time the May Day was associated with the May Pole or even with the religious ceremonies crowning Mary, the mother of Jesus. I can remember collecting lilacs and doing a march for Mary at some of my schools as a kid. In the last 19th century, the Socialists decided to make May Day International  Workers’ Day. So there’s also a historical tie to Socialism.

The Powderhorn Park version of the holiday is heavy on celebrating spring, socialism and opportunities for inclusive approaches to life and politics. The parade includes floats and puppets that carry the theme – as well as a host of supportive/supported groups. The Women’s March marched. And many candidates march. The festival includes music, food, and booths from various organizations. The ceremony happens on the shore of the lake, featuring characters from the parade, and culminates with the giant sun coming by boat to the shore.

Art in Bloom – family tradition with an added dip into China’s Last Dynasty

Art in Bloom is my very favorite annual event at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. They partner with local florists and artists to create bouquets that complement or contrast or make you think deeper about a piece from the regular collection. This year I went twice once my with my mom and once with Aine.

Because it was a gorgeous weekend following a cruel and late winter snowstorm, the place was packed. But it was fun both times. A bonus from the MiA – on special days, such as Art in Bloom, you can get into the special shows, such as China’s Last Dynasty, for free. So some of the pictures actually come from that exhibit. (That exhibit is awesome, if you haven’t seen it yet!)

Quickest way to 17 bands in one night? Midwest Music Fest

It feels like I wasn’t there because I forgot my darned phone at home! But thanks to a friend I have some proof. And living without my phone for 28 hours makes me feel like a better person – although I will *never* do that again.

I left it at home for the Midwest Music Fest Saturday morning. We hit just about everything we could before the bars closed fewer than 12 hours later.

We saw:

  1. Humbird at the Masonic Temple. She was good but the frustration was that Thomas Abban was scheduled to be there and it was one of the few shows I had earmarked as not to be missed.
  2. Karate Chop, Silence in the Tent. Young kids – one noted two years ago he’d been standing in the audience wishing and now, from the stage, his dreams come true. Fun music.
  3. The Nunnery at Blooming Grounds. Looping done well. Looping is the latest, greatest and one of my favorite techniques that seems to have splashed on from Noise/Experimental scene.
  4. Joe Hunt at Acoustic Café. Got a quick look – liked him. Room was too full to hang out a long time. That seems like a good sign.
  5. PaviElle at the Masonic Temple. This was another show I wanted to make sure to see and I wasn’t disappointed. She can bring it and everyone on stage is so energetic.
  6. Alastair at Tredome. Hip hop. Our visit was short; felt like maybe a practice competition.
  7. Lady Lark in the Tent. OK, how can you not like a singer who wears sunglasses anytime, anywhere. TO be fair they seemed more natural at MMF than last time I saw her at First Ave.
  8. Almighty American at Blooming Grounds. Really nice voice. Looked the part. Crowd was pretty intimate, not as in small, but you could feel the lights-on in a smallish space.
  9. Superior Siren at Island City Brewing. I’ve seen and liked them before. It’s all women. There’s something other-worldly about them.
  10. Neil Young Tribune in the Tent. I’m not the biggest Neil Young fan but it’s music you know and they did it well. Lots of people dancing and weaving. And it was near the fabulous food trucks!
  11. Jaybone Bell & Restless Light at the Eagles.
  12. Maple & Beech at Ed’s No Name. This was a repeat; I had seen them before. It’s always fun to see a tambourine.
  13. Frogleg in the Tent. A fun band we’ve seen several times before. Fun to see them in the tent; I think they played a smaller venue last time.
  14. Dirt Train at the Eagles. Really liked them. I’d make an effort to see them again.
  15. Blackfoot Gypsies in the Tent. A hybrid 60s-70s hippie scene. Right up my alley and very fun.
  16. Dosh at the Masonic. Dosh is always going to be a favorite for me. He had The Nunnery as a special guest star. That was nice to see. I always like to see how more experimental musicians collaborate, especially when part of the sound relies on technology. They were the event highlight for me!
  17. A Little Too Short to be Stormtroopers at Ed’s No Name. It’s part jam and part karaoke with known musicians. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s not a bad way to end a music fest – a little something for everyone.