Astronomique – Sharp Divide CD release at Seventh Street Entry

I’m a fan of Astronomique. I often feel like their show sounds like Barbarella looks. It’s retro and funky and techno. It’s a dated glimpse at the future. The latest material sounds smoother, calmer, maybe dreamier than earlier material.

I enjoyed the title track from the new CD – Sharp Divide. The live and recorded versions are quite different. Live the song feels like a clever repetition of a simple tune but the recorded version feels more layered; it sounds like a much larger band when really there are only four of them: Logan Andra Fongemie on lead vocals and synth, Sean Hogan on guitar and vocals, Mitch Billings on drums and vocals and Preston Saari on bass guitar.

The keyboard really adds the retro-future feel to the songs. The drum is solid and especially prevalent when live. And the strings keep the band firmly grounded in a rock sense.

There are elements of music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s across the album. There’s somethings familiar but new. It would make a great house party soundtrack.

Wowed by Caroline Rose and Cardiod at the Seventh Street Entry

Mostly I write about Minnesota music and art, but something I run into a show that strikes me that even though it just takes place in Minnesota, I still want to write about it. Caroline Rose with Cardioid at Seventh Street Entry was such a show!

Both bands are unconventional (maybe creating new conventions), energetic and post-feminist (my observation, not their label), female-led bands. (Though the guys rock too.)

They sing and talk about girl topics – including, but not limited to, PMS and periods. It’s not gratuitous, it’s just every day stuff but refreshing to hear it from the stage, again in a non-gratuitous way.

Caroline Rose rocks, just no other way to put it. And she’s very clever. Every song is her favorite to play.

The band has the energy of a Shonen Knife. Seems like everyone had a guitar (or bass) and a keyboard. And interesting setup, especially for musicians to like to dance too. I can’t wait to see them on a bigger stage.

Jeannie Becomes a Mom should be a techno anthem. It’s a cautionary tale with a beat. Bikini is more like next generation B52s – it’s a female’s POV homage to the two-piece. It’ll get you places – but you have to wear it. A double edge sword.

Cardiod play Fantasy Metal – a genre we should all be promoting to greater heights.

The front women look like they walked off a Broad City sound stage. Lizzy Ellison has a mesmerizing voice.

What I love about both bands’ music is how the use of very specific details, makes the lyrics more universal. I’ve never played Super Mario but I understand the love-hate ambivalence of trying to conquer the top levels of a challenging game.

Rainbow Road, from Carioid, was maybe my favorite song. Written about that vexing level of a Super Mario but also written about when you love someone but they don’t want to be happy so they sabotage the relationship. I have to admit that I’m not sure if that’s universal or a primarily female take on a relationship, but I get it.

And I love the straight-forward, style of Fantasy Metal. Strong voices, unapologetically wide ranges, a nuanced approach to an almost family genre.

I went to the show with almost no knowledge of the bands and left ready to change the soundtrack of my year!


Little bit country, little bit rock ‘n roll – Margot EP release at the Icehouse

I went to see Margot at the Icehouse on Thursday because on the recording I thought the lead singer (Hunter Baugh) sounded like Eddie Vedder. Live he doesn’t sound as much like him, but that’s not a bad thing at all. His voice is as compelling. The band maintains a festival level passion and enthusiasm throughout the show. It’s a really enjoyable combination.

The band is folksy – kind of rocking and kind of country. Baugh noted their “terrible transitions” but if you like rock and country, they’re kind of awesome. They started strong with a very folksy build up with strong, exciting drums, like storm about to hit. The violin lends an almost Irish sound, although that may speak as much about my misspent youth at Irish Fairs than anything else. (Sixteen, off the latest album, is a good example of the musical Celtic brogue.)

There were three vocalists on stage Thursday night, which I think help sustain the high energy. There’s an imploring energy in the songs. Baugh announced that Margot will be releasing a new, acoustic EP on July 8. We got a sneak preview of some of those songs too. They are, as you might expect, leaning more country than rock but a nice balance.

Annie Fitzgerald – You, Me and the Sun release at the Hook and Ladder

From the stage, Annie Fitzgerald described her album in one word – summer. It is light but deep, easy but complex. The music, the melody is generally upbeat cheerful but the stories she tells are life lessons, such as Oh Caroline about her grandmother. One sweet story was the connection between the song and a story she read to her son called The Invisible String.

Fitzgerald has a lovely Irish sounding voice with the just this side of comfortable, almost falsetto high tones in a song like Be Like a Tree. Then she turns around with the raspy aspirations of the Rest of Me.

The songs have a pop sound but within that she touches on different genres. Goodbye Now is a slower song with a bluesier feel. Maybe deeper blues played live than on the album but with an imploring twang either way. It’s a nice balance to the refreshing breeziness of the rest of the album.

It was fun to see fellow musicians Sarah Morris, Matthew French and Jen Bluhm share the stage with her – bother in supporting bands but also singing her songs with her on stage. I love when  Twin Cities musicians share the love!

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.

Weekend of Prince – second anniversary of his death a view from a super fan seat

Prince is undeniably a genius. His legacy to music and Minneapolis left much richer than he found them. I have been lucky enough to see him and get to attend some special events and have been privy to inside information. But I’m not a super fan – so it was fun to hang out with some super fans.

Also listening to various stories I learned that the right person can push you to quality that you could never have imagined – and maybe you could be that person for yourself. Clearly many of the people who had worked for Prince have been able to do this. And whatever you do, do with confidence.

On Wednesday, I attended a panel of Paisley Park Alumni at the University of Minnesota. It was fun to hear various stories. I happened to go with someone who was also an alum, so it was fun to hear a quiet interpretation too. The story that struck me was from hairdresser Kim Berry. It sounds like she started very young and stayed with him until the end. It was touching to hear how she worked with him. He was known to fall asleep in her chair – one of the few places/times where he would sleep. As she said – he’d say how long so I have to be under the dryer. She’d say 10 minutes. He’d fall asleep for an hour, wake up and ask how long he’d been there. Ten minutes, she’d say. Fun to hear the trust and how people work together.

Then there were just a few comments/lesson that people noted they have learned from Prince –
• If I don’t love it, I don’t do it – from Mayte Garcia
• Never show up empty handed, always do the best you can. Sometimes creativity is s blessing and sometimes it’s a curse – can’t remember who said it
• Like all geniuses, #Prince would make you do what you think you could not do – from Scottie Baldwin

On Thursday I attended Paisley Park 2018 Prince Celebration. Through some awesome connections, I was able to get a ticket to the event. A ticket with parking, which started my day off well. I drove in, gave my name, smiled very nicely and eventually they just let me in!

I got in just in time to see the last portion of the Sheila E talk and in for the tour. One very frustrating thing is that they make you lock up your phone. So I wasn’t able to take pictures or notes. So I just have to go by memory.

It is fun to see the phases of Prince – some of which has been added to the Paisley Park since his death, but going on a limb, I think most of it was there before. There’s a wall of inspiration, a mural that features Prince in the middle with the artists that have influenced Prince flanking one side and artists that Price has influence on the other. There’s a hall with pictures (paintings really) from 1978 to 1996 featuring the many looks of Prince on one side of the hall and various awards on the other.

We got to tour Studios A and B. That was fun. Fun to think of the various artists that have recorded work there. And there’s an Oscar you can hold.

The furniture throughout is pretty awesome. There’s a Schimmel Pegasus Grand Piano – which is a black, fiberglass piano that looks like it’s floating in air. The seating and artifacts are fun. They still look fairly modern, although I’m sure many are decades old. There’s a feel like eventually it may feel like Graceland, which is very much a testament to a time and place.

But Paisley Park is different in that there are the studios and huge performance spaces. It’s fun to hear the stories of the spaces. And there are more museum-like rooms dedicated to his three movies (Purple Rain, Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge) and various albums with motorcycles, video clips and costumes. The tour guides were very good but if I ruled the world, I might get former staff and friends to give the tours for things like the annual celebrations. I’ve heard some of those stories and they are kind of amazing.

The final session of the day was a performance by Sheila E. She is an extraordinary drummer! It was fun to see her and the rest of the musicians. She played all of the songs you’d expect (Glamorous Life, Erotic City, Holly Rock) and several I didn’t know. She took time out to ask attendees to remember the most important word – love. She said noted that love could change the world. Then she asked everyone to turn to a stranger and talk about love. It was could have felt hokey but absolutely perfect for the crowd.

The crowd was my favorite part. These people know more things about Prince than I remember about my own life! I have never seen more Prince t-shirts, shoes, jackets, tattoos – you name it! People cried at various rooms. Everyone had a story and looked for an opportunity to share it – much like upper division college literature classes. (“As I recall when I attended the very exclusive event on March 3, 2014 – that drawer was blue. Do you know when they painted it?) It was great – so great to see the enthusiasm and to know that these people are having one of the best days of their lives!

Of the various video clips we say – I was struck my one thing Prince said (and I paraphrase) – I’m not intimidated by anything, let myself be inspired. Great advice – I mean think of the things we did and wore and it’s just amazing to see what inspiration can do!

Thursday night we went out to the hotel closest to Paisley Park. Total bonus? It was karaoke night! Turns out lots of people playing at Paisley Park hang out there. We met four nice kids who told us they were the horn section for Prince – Prince liked to hire horn players that could dance and these guys could dance. We learned that just because you can play a horn really, does’t mean you can sing. One got up to sing. And he was better than I might be – but he really shone once his buddies got up and they all started the boys band dance. Impressive!

Friday was a shorter day at Paisley Park. We saw some photographers who had worked with Prince. One had a storehouse with hundreds of thousands of actual film she had shot. One had followed a Jessie Jackson campaign before Prince called her. The other was a dancer who took up photography. She was the most frank in her answers. Like how did you get that shadow in picture X? Oh, it was the just. But it was fun to hear about how Prince really pursued these women to work with him. He saw what he wanted and went for it.

One of them noted that Prince worked with and mentored a lot of women. She asked why he surrounded himself with women. Because women get me – he answered.

Next was a panel of dancers. It was fun to hear about their work as well. One noted that what she learned from Prince was to go into any project with full confidence. You might be learning, you might more onto any project but go into it with confidence.

Prince Celebration at Target Center

Thanks to Rick and Omarr we were in the second row for the Prince video/live tour. They show videos of Prince and live musicians play along. Our karaoke friends in the horn section featured highly. It’s very high energy show. They play at least parts of most of the hits. I guess we’d be there a full day if they played them all. There were a few songs that were new to me. The interaction or video and live worked really well. A feat of amazing technology and direction I can imagine.

My favorite part was when a team of super fans – many of whom I recognized from the events at Paisley Park – were brought up on stage to dance. Nothing better than knowing you are watching someone’s best day unfold in front of them.

The Thursday surprise was seeing our friends form the horn section again playing the big room And I was sitting by Jerome Benton, of fDeluxe (and The Family); the band that originally recorder Nothing Compares 2 U. They played on Friday.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished for my camera this weekend – but here are the various pictures I did get: