Holly Near and John McCutcheon performing together September 23 for Chile fundraiser

Near and McCutcheon join for benefit concert to support Educación Popular en Chile (EPES) a Community Health Initiative in Chile

Date/Time: Saturday September 23, 2017, 7:00 pm
Location: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 9185 Lexington Avenue North, Circle Pines, MN

Additional Information:
On Saturday September 23, 2017 Educación Popular En Salud (EPES) is celebrating their 35th anniversary with a benefit concert featuring musicians Holly Near and John McCutcheon. The concert will take place at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Circle Pines. Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door. Order online http://epes35.brownpapertickets.com/.

Folk musicians John McCutcheon and Holly Near will be playing a show. Multi-instrumentalist McCutcheon is regarded as a master of the hammered dulcimer; he writes from the heart highlighting social injustice all over the world. From Broadway to protest march, Near’s award-winning work speaks a message of equality and peace. She has spent time in Chile collaborating with EPES.

Near says, “Through dictatorship, fire, earthquake and poverty EPES has survived, always there in solidarity with those who get hit hardest by life’s challenges. I have visited Chile three times at the invitation of EPES. I have always been inspired.”

EPES was created in 1982 to promote health with dignity for the poor through empowerment, mobilization and collective action. It began as a program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH) and maintains close ties nationally and internationally with the Lutheran church and is an ELCA Global Mission supported ministry. EPES works with community members to advocate, train and assist with community health in the face of both natural disaster and in support of ongoing wellness especially for women and children.

Since 2010, 150 people from 19 countries have participated in International Course on Popular Education in Health, (fondly referred to as la Escuela). Those students bring their knowledge home teaching others and improving community health where they live. The impact echoes. Earlier this year EPES helped Chile deal with ramparts fires that destroyed 1,151 homes and left 6,162 people with precarious housing.

The benefit will help support their continued efforts. The concert is hosted by EPES and Action for Health in the Americas (AHA), the US counterpart to EPES. Please visit the AHA website for more information on EPES and the upcoming concert. http://actionforhealth.org/

Sheep shagging and more at family day at The Walker

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone but I accidentally took Aine to see sheep porn at the Walker. It was awesome!

It’s First Saturday. (Free in and lots of kid-centric activities.) Some months it’s a melancholy reminder that Aine isn’t a kid – she’s a teen. (The big girls quit going years ago; they have been teens for longer.) This month it was a celebration that Aine is a teen. It is a gorgeous day so most activities were happening in the still-pretty-new sculpture garden – including Les Moutons (the sheep) from CORPUS, a Toronto-based troupe. The premise is four actors dressed as sheep, a shepherd and (spoiler alert!) a brief cameo from a wolf!

It’s a day in the life of sheep. They are corralled into a fenced area. There’s a ram that gets kicked out for being … um … too amorous. The sheep are shorn and fed. They are milked and one pees. (Yup – super interesting costuming going on here!) The ram breaks away from his “naughty corner” and has his way with a ewe. The wolf comes. The sheep escape. The shepherd leads them out. That is the story. It was probably 40 minutes long. It’s pretty interactive. Kids get to feed the sheep lettuce and one brave kid drank the newly extracted sheep’s milk.

My favorite and often overheard comment from the kids in the crowd – Look mom it’s a cow. Not sure if we need to work on French or science in the schools. The faces of the sheep-actors were amazing. They were blank and distant. They all did body-breathing like sheep do. (I’m pretty knowledgeable about sheep after a trip to the State Fair last week!) And then there’s the whole part about sheep doing what comes naturally. Every sophomoric adult (and semi-adult) in the crowd was shocked and laughing. It was done in good taste – but it was done! It was like an old school Rocky and Bullwinkle moment where (city) kids wouldn’t have a clue about the Easter egg hidden for the teens and older. We loved it!

The Suburbs sell out First Ave playing new and old music

Friday night First Avenue turned into a time machine. The Suburbs on stage and happy crowd bursting the seams. There may have been a more pounds and more wrinkles than 1986 but there were also fewer curfews and fake IDs. Yup the crowd that has been enjoying the band for decades was in their rightful place at the foot of the stage.

But the crowd was open to new songs – and the band started with Lovers off their latest release Hey Muse! People were happy enough for the new. Followed up with Hobnobbin from In Combo, released in 1980. But it was the third song – Waiting that really got the join jumping.

The band too is a mix of original and new flavors, including founding members keyboardist and singer Chan Poling and drummer Hugo Klaers. Saxophonists Max Ray (who played with The Wallets back in the day) joined the band years ago. And there were some newer folks including Stevie Brantseg and Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitars, Steve Price on bass, Janey Winterbauer on backup vocals, Rochelle Becker on Bari Sax and Stephen Kung on horns and keys.

A great blend of Minnesota musicians!

Show highlights include the tried and true favorites: Life is Like and Love is the Law – the de facto anthem for marriage equality. But toes were tapping for some of the newer songs too – Hey Muse! and Turn the Radio On.

Opening for The Suburbs was Ryan and Pony. I just caught the tail end of their set but it was fun and upbeat. Just a little bit hippie in a good way!

Greenway Glow – arty things happening on the urban bike trail

I admit, I only cruise the Midtown Greenway when something fun is going on – but I’m not a biker and I don’t live in Minneapolis. So I’m glad that I get a chance to check it out every now and again. Last night we popped in for the Greenway Glow.

It’s a festival from 7 pm to midnight on the Greenway, which is a rehabbed train track intended for bikers and walkers. (I’m going to say mostly bikers.) There were 20 or so stops I made it to a few:

Big Bubble

You walk through. Someone said it was like being born again. Maybe but a lot dustier with way more static cling!

What Makes a Heart Grow

Poetry on the outside – Life Jeanie’s bottle on the inside!!

Flamenco Dancing

Hot Metal Pour

Seemed very cool and kind of dangerous

Reactionary Cubes

Rainbow Generator

Ghost Pictures

I’ll have to add that picture later – it was an opportunity for us to create slow motion light-up photographs, which was pretty cool.

As intended I left feeling like I should make more of an effort to walk or run the Greenway. I’m just a little suspect of the walking friendliness of a trail that really is unabashedly bikers first.

Grand Oak Opry sprouts a new branch for The Pines

Want to catch a glimpse at the heart of St Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood? Then check out at the Grand Oak Opry. It is the ultimate house concert location. Sean and Tim open up their backyard (and bathroom) to guests to enjoy local music. Sounds pretty mundane but it’s a pre-civil war house with a double lot, shaded under a 200 year old oak tree (hence the name) and we’re not talking 20 people!

While it was started in one backyard, the whole neighborhood has adopted the regular event. Neighbors are taking money ($10/person donation all going to the band). Neighbors are selling t-shirts, giving directions and watching the show. This has been going on for years and they have never had a call to the police! (Maybe having the Mayor in attendance helps – but I don’t think that’s the reason.)

Want to catch the heart swooning? Come when The Pines are playing. It’s as if the music is coming from the wind at times. Last year, The Pines brought in 300+ guests. That was a record breaker. They blew that away last night with 525+. The crowd was so big that the neighbor next door opened up his backyard too!

While I’ve loved The Pines in several location (News Years at the Icehouse comes to mind), the Grand Oak Opry was really made for them and them for it! The moment they started the crowd hushed to hear Benson Ramey’s aspirated voice, smooth sounds of David Huckfelt and Alex Ramsey on the keyboard. There’s something wintery and ethereal about the songs that feel so refreshing on a summer day – like a breeze finally coming across crowd.

They played for an hour – old songs, new songs, borrowed songs. Folks of all ages sat on blankets and folded chairs, eating and drinking picnic goodies they packed themselves. Kids stood up, sat down, stood up, dragged parents to the bathroom – again. Benson talked about rabbits and a squirrel ran across the powerline above him in jealousy. David observed that despite today’s politics – this is what it’s really about – power in the people in a community. And fireflies flew past. I’m not even making that part up. I haven’t seen a firefly in years but it seems everyone wanted in on the show of the summer.

It’s a tough act to follow but the Grand Oak Opry is going to try with three more shows scheduled: Lady Midnight (Aug 5), Jayanthi Kyle (Aug 12) and Frankie Lee (Sep 2).

Leslie Rich rocking the Whiskey Junction with Rocket Soul Choir

Thursday night Leslie Rich played at the Whiskey Junction. My only regret is that it wasn’t a later show – one where folks might get up and dance. Leslie Rich plays fun, super dance-able rock music. By the end of the show there were a few folks on out on the floor, which is pretty impressive for an early gig on a school night. But two hours later, we have all been up there.

Originally from Belfast, Rich moved to the US in 2004 and makes Minneapolis his home. Previously he had played with several bands in Belfast and a few in Minnesota, including Hounds of Finn, which as you might surmise from the name pulls strongly from his Irish roots. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his new setup. Turns out it’s there’s not a lot of traditional Irish music to be found; it’s just straight up rock.

There are hints of punk (which I guess you could say was like Stiff Little Fingers) and bits of folk (easy comparison would be Van Morrison and while I’m sure there’s an influence the musical similarities aren’t direct) but it’s really rock.

There’s often a slow build to the songs (as in Kidder’s Son) that sets the story of the song then the rest of the band hops on and we’re off to the races. He plays with Pete Boulger on the drums and Jason Wahl on bass. They have been performing as Rocket Soul Choir since 1997. The experience shows. The music weaves like an intricate tapestry, each member with a colored thread creating its own design that comes together to make the experience more interesting for the audience.

Sculpture Garden Opens, Northern Spark lights up the night

June 10 is a day that will live on in Twin Cities art infamy. We flexed our art muscles, mopped up our sweaty brow and saw how art and politics mix – sometimes unintentionally.

The day started with the grand re-opening of the Walker Sculpture Garden. The garden kept some of the old (Spoon and Cherry) and brought in some new (Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock). I love her Blue Rooster and I’d love it twice as much if it were twice as big. (It’s 25 feet tall.)

Fritsch’s work is interesting – deep colors, everyday items. The Walker is showing her work inside right now too in a show called Multiples. It includes a creepy work of matte black rats in a circle with their tails tied in a monkey knot. The Rooster is a nod to feminism but also a playful addition to the garden.

The gardens are much more open. Like a good friend getting a haircut, it’s hard to pinpoint all of the differences but a lot of trees are gone or severely trimmed. The greenhouse (former home of the Frank Gehry Fish) has lost its walls. It’s more of a patio now.

The walkway up the side of the Gallery has some real potential. The sprinklers might be the best part of a visit – when it’s 95 degrees. Right now there’s a lot of no-go space as the flora fills in. The garden feels less like a secret now – but more like a part of the city.

What was missing was any trace of The Scaffold, the gallows turn jungle gym that bore an unfortunate resemblance to the gallows of the 1862 Dakota execution. The structure was completed a month ago and torn down a week ago after mediation between the Walker and Dakota community. New sod lives where the structure was.

If the Dakota community asked that the work be entirely erased, I respect that. If the plan is to replace that piece with something that celebrates the Dakota or other culture, I applaud it. The visual silence wasn’t deafening – but it was heard.

Just hours after the garden party Northern Spark started – a night of art. This year the art took place up and down the Green Line (train from St Paul to Minneapolis). One of my favorite nights of the year.

We started in Minneapolis at the opening ceremony. In the shadow of the US Bank stadium, we arted it up in the park. One of our favorites – the Night Library was there but sadly a 2-hour wait. But we caught a little bit of the cardboard drive-in, saw wonderful birdhouse art and learned that if we don’t’ clean up our act chocolate could be extinct by 2030!!

We also saw an IRL string-art infographic. You chose a color of string based on your age and wove that string through the art based on your survey responses. Love the idea of using interactive art like that to show results.

Next stop – Cedar Riverside. We saw some markets, a Ramadan meal but mostly people bustling about. I love that art brought people to a community that might be new to them. I think that’s the best part of Northern Spark – bringing people to communities. Cedar Riverside can be a little rough – but people live there. Families live there. They take walks. They play soccer. They speak 100 languages (collectively – not just one smarty). A lot of Somalis live in the area now. It’s been a home to new Americans since the 40s – it will be interesting to see who is living there in 10 years – and selfishly what culinary traditions they will bring!

We hit the Weisman next. Perhaps my favorite exhibit of the night was the Un:heard Resonance. It was real time creation of music and video based on interaction with nature. Somehow touch turns to electronic music. Very cool.

Little Africa was next – just off Snelling. There was a super cool VR thing you could try on the train. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to download that in time to use it. I wonder if it works after the event. We also saw a sad movie on what happens to the computers you throw out. People in poverty tearing apart computers for whatever copper or metal could be sold. Tearing apart include the toxic burning away of plastic. It hurt my lungs to watch it on screen! (Gotta plug my buddies at PCs for People if you need to donate your old computers!!)

Then we ran into a hiccup. We were going to take the train to the next stop but there was a 28 minute wait. I love the train. I loved the idea of taking the train stop to stop BUT at 2 am – a 28 minutes wait can be a buzz kill. It would have been nice to have more trains throughout the night. And speaking of trains – I enjoyed seeing the trains but just like it was interesting to get people to Cedar Riverside at night – being on the train reminded me of our neighbors who ride the train at night for shelter. (My friend Monica has been cataloging that journey.)

Finally we landed in Lowertown – by car. We caught the tail end of a Native storyteller and saw some spectacular nature superimposed on buildings and painted on the street.

I say finally but we have some hopes of visiting the Mekong Night Market tonight. Always another summer favorite that was combined with Northern Spark this year.

We took some breaks to meet new people and see old friends, which means we didn’t see everything but we saw a lot. I love the idea of art between the Cities. I love the idea of getting people out and about to see the different corners of the Cities. While I’m a supporter of raising awareness of climate change. I sort of miss the days when the focus on Northern Spark was art and community. I understand the teachable moment – but art and community seem like pretty good lessons too!!

What do you tell a kid about gallows in the sculpture garden?

Aine and I took a trip to the Walker today to get a sneak preview of the new sculpture garden to be unveiled in a week. We have been trying to get sneak peeks for weeks – months really. We have been so excited and anxiously awaiting the new garden. Sadly that’s wasn’t the main reason we went today. We went to see the Scaffold – the work by Sam Durant that was intended to be a commentary on capital punishment but turned out to be a commentary on cultural insensitivity.

The work comprises elements of seven different hangings in US history; most notable for Minnesotans, it includes “elements” of the execution of 38 Dakota men following the US-Dakota war in 1862. The largest one-day execution in American history. (Elements is really a Minnesota understatement – from a distance is looks like the pictures of the scaffold used. A few weeks ago, while scoping out a sneak preview from the bridge by the garden, a friend called it for what it was immediately.)

I won’t go into the details of the war – but there are many questions about the hangings. Native Americans arrested at the end of the war were tried without representation and without knowing the process or procedure of military tribunals. Originally 303 prisoners were convicted of murder and rape and sentenced to death. President Lincoln stepped in to review the cases individually and lowered that number to 38 based on which convictions appeared to be for war crimes versus attacks on civilians. He did so knowing there was great controversy. Minnesota Bishop Henry Whipple asked for leniency. Minnesota Senator Morton Wilkinson warned that many were opposed to leniency.

The men were hanged. They were buried in a mass grave by the riverbank. Rumor has it someone removed skin from some of the men and sold it in Mankato. As if that weren’t bad enough, the grave was robbed and bodies were used for research by local doctors – including William Mayo. (He apparently kept the skeleton in his home. Those remains and other have since been returned to the Dakota Tribe.)

It’s an ugly part of American and Minnesotan history. These men have earned the right to rest in peace and their families need no public reminders of the horrendous acts. We should never forget the atrocity but how we remember is very important. As the protests said – it’s not Durant’s story. It’s not the Walker’s story. It’s certainly not my story.

So it was with some trepidation that Aine and I went – especially since Aine didn’t know the story and I didn’t know all of the details. We showed up and saw the protests signs and the list of 38 names. We heard the drums and got closer to see the drum circle.

Aine had so many questions – mostly why? Why did they want to put gallows in the same garden as Spoon and Cherry and the new Blue Rooster? Why did they think children should play on something so dangerous? (She worried about kids falling; I worried about kids getting desensitized to the structure and the idea of its use.) Why didn’t anyone think about how hurtful it would be the families and tribal communities of the men hanged? Why didn’t they get the Native community involved?

It was hard not to ask all of these questions and not remember the recent Take Over of Twin Cities art by Guerrilla Girls – a reminder to include women and other voices. Or the recent work of Jim Bear Jacobs and others to get legislators to rethink art and imagery of Native Americans at the Capitol. When and how can we learn to consider the importance of our words, actions and art on striving to be our best selves by including everyone?

The Walker is clearly asking some of these questions themselves. They have postponed the opening of the sculpture garden for a week. The Walker worked with the Dakota community to come up with a plan. A native company will remove the structure Friday afternoon. It will be burned ceremoniously by the tribe near Fort Snelling area. The Walker with commission a work by Native artist.

I love the Walker. I believe everyone makes mistakes, it’s just a matter of how you recover from them. I’m hoping to see recovery used as a tool to help shine light on all of Minnesota’s stories – in the first person.

Corey Palmer Heartache is released and the heart is regained at the Icehouse

It’s fun to see a full band at the Icehouse -and Saturday night Cory Palmer brought a posse with him to release his latest album Heartache – guitars, basses, drums, three keyboards, a tambourine and just when I thought I’d counted them all, someone whipped out another instrument. It was a reunion of sorts. Palmer took some time away from music for happy reasons (family) and hard reasons (car accident and depression) but he has reconnected with his bandmates for the new work.

The band, talented with many members playing multiple instruments and with long stories of their own, includes Adrian Suarez (of Adam Meckler Orchestra and Vicious Vicious), Nick Tveitbakk (of These Modern Socks and from Pachyderm Studios), Jeff Marcovis (with Al Church and Tyte Jeff), Park Evans (of Fireball and Enormous Quartet), Katie Marshall (of Parts for All Makes and Katie Marshall Three-O), and Scott McVeigh (with Mark Mallman and of Speed’s The Name).

The new album and the show remind me of Chicago (the city), which to me means it’s funky and somehow reminds me of the 70s. The 70s connection might just be the conceptual album. Heartache plays like one long song – no breaks. Perhaps you could slice it into songs but there are themes are twist in and out, like an opera. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And the opera is the story of Palmer’s recent history. The sound is funky and poppy, the lyrics run dark but show a resilience that is catchy.

Palmer has an easy voice that is soothing and balances with the dark lyrics. There’s a great use of repetition and aural motifs in the music that bear out the sense of history of being in a dark place the idea of doing the same thing, expecting a difference answer but somehow the music does find a different answer, eventually. Marshall’s voice adds a dimension. The keyboards keep up the funk and the repetition. The advantage of three keyboards is effect of conflicting tunes in a small space – but not in a cacophonous way. In their raw honesty, the words can be hard to listen to – the music never is.

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.