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.

Maycomb: A Suite for Wind Ensemble and Folk Band April 18 at Ted Mann Concert Hall

The Paper Days, a Minneapolis folk-rock band, have composed a work based on “To Kill a Mockingbird” to be performed with The Northstar Campus Band called – Maycomb. The performance is free. Student musicians from around the state will be attending. It is open to the public!

It is an opportunity for high schools around the state to take on a challenge of a new work that mashes up old and new – both in music and story. The music keeps a foot in classical and and in contemporary camps. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird opens the door to discussion of social issues relevant today and in 1960 when the book was first published.

Maycomb: A Suite for Wind Ensemble and Folk Band 
The Paper Days are premiering an original composition performed in collaboration with The Northstar Campus Band called “Maycomb”

  • On April 18th
  • Ted Mann Concert Hall
  • Time/Duration: 7:30-8:30 Approximately 1 hr, meet and greet to follow in lobby
  • FREE, All Ages, Family Friendly.


Gambler’s Daughter at Can Can Wonderland

You know what a real gambler does? Plays a place as crazy as Can Can Wonderland! I’ve got to set the stage. Can Can Wonderland opened about six weeks ago in St Paul just off University Avenue, West of Midway. It’s a renovated canning company, turned indoor miniature golf and stage and dozens of old school pinball machines and fun drinks for kids and adults.

It’s crazy – but it’s actually crazy good. I wasn’t sure what to expect especially for a show. I brought my favorite 12 year old just in case. We ordered a Fruit Loop malt and set in for a few songs before hitting the machines.

Gambler’s Daughter played before an audience of all ages – a full house. Luckily Jessa Roquet’s voice is robust enough to fill the space. Somehow either due to the band or some excellent sound engineering, the setting feels pretty cozy and the band really becomes the center of attention – a little bit like being in the eye of the storm.

The music straddle s pop and folk. Roquet’s voice is clear and she can hit the high notes. Harmonies with her sister Emily Carlson deepen the music. And watching the two on stage in such a crazy place is worth the price of admission – sort of a good natured how-in-the-heck did we get here wonderment.

She plays with a full band, including a lot of strings and there’s an echo of guitar in a few songs that’s really nice. She played a few somber songs. The inspiration for The Woods was Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. She makes it her own with new imagery but uses many of the famous line (“miles to go before I sleep”) and especially seeing the band with a kid, I appreciate an artist building from past art and giving that art to a new audience.

There was a song that isn’t on her new album. It was perfect for the location with a circus theme about a carousel and watching the world from above it. It gives me something to look forward to on the next album!

The Lowest Pair brings the front porch to the Dakota Jazz Club

Photo credit: Tom Garneau

Photo credit: Tom Garneau

The Lowest Pair brought their front porch sound to the jazzy darkness of the Dakota on Thursday night. The room was full of admirers making the downtown urbane club more down home and cozy.

The Lowest Pair is the duo of singing, banjo playing, guitar playing and at least one harmonica playing song writers. Palmer T. Lee is from Minnesota. Kendl Winter is from Arkansas but has transplanted herself to Olympia, Washington. Their last album was Fern Girl & Ice Man. It seems an apt description of them.

They have an earnest sound. Both have aspirated voices that feel like storytelling. Winter’s voice can bring on a trill – like a more mountain version of early Dolly Pardon. Lee’s voice can become almost aggressive like traditional Irish singer talking about the Brits. And the voices blend well together.

Each has a turn at center stage. Each supports the other. They sing in harmony and at times with a countermelody. They do the same with the instruments. There are times when they play together and times when they play around each other like smoke swirling – either way it works.

They opened with The Sky is Green from Uncertain as it is Uneven – the gullible song! She’s on the banjo, he’s on guitar. She’s singing. It sounds like a summer day. They played new songs too – such as Take What You Can Get, which seems more country, less blue grass to me and Bent Out of Shape, which Palmer introduced as a gospel.

The second set opened with Dock My Boat, which is upbeat. And then one of my favorites – Headed to the River. Tough to beat two banjos played fast. I think that was when I had to quit sitting, which is one of the rare downsides of the Dakota.

They made the whole house happy when they ended the second set (pre-encore) with Rosie – an imploring song that showcases their voices.

Another Voice: finding comfort in the political illustrations of the recent past at MCAD

I find comfort in history – in knowing that people are strong that we have endured. As a society we take steps forward, we get pushed back, we gain strength to move forward again. As individuals we don’t always agree on which steps are forward and what’s a push back. Certainly we don’t move forward at the same pace but we endure.

Right now I’m feeling a lot of push back. So I was excited to check out ANOTHER VOICE: Political Illustration of the Late Twentieth Century at MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design. It is an exhibition of more than 100 artworks by many of the nation’s leading editorial illustrators. Between 1981 and 1999 the illustrations occupied the pages of The Progressive, a magazine committed to fostering advocacy and direct action in the cause of democracy, peace, social justice, and environmental awareness.

I was expecting political cartoons. I found that and more. The works had the acuity and subtle satire of the political cartoon and the gut-punch, heart-string-pull of art of full color, full size art. I had questions: Was this when “America was great”? How did we get into and out of that time? I was hoping for answers. I didn’t get them but I got a lot of reminders and fodder for research.

I went with my favorite 12 year old, which meant I spent a lot of time explaining Reagonomics and she spent some time reminding me of the details of the Louisiana Purchase. (Thank you seventh grade American history!)  It was disheartening to see unresolved issues (protection and ownership of Native American land), issues where progress has been minimal (affirmative action) and most crushing to see issues that had been resolved yet I fear will be reopened (some churches’ stance on women).

I was heartened to see the step forward through art and even more so art distributed through journalism. Unfortunately, a big push back now is the stifling of journalism. Maybe this time around art will be the distribution channel. Jack Kerouac wrote, “Don’t use phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.” Use poetry and use art. This exhibit embodies that advice.

I wanted to comment specifically on Aine’s favorite work below. Her immediate response/explanation – so the man is being killed by his own words? Hmmm? Hmmm!


The show is open until March 5, 2017. There will be a curator’s talk on February 6 (1:00 pm)

Bleed&Burn: Burning flags while we can at the Soap Factory

“Tyranny is good for art, bad for artists,” I heard Grant Hart say at the closing of the Land Speed Record show at The Walker.  The next four years should be good for art and creation has already started. Last night the Soap Factory opened Bleed&Burn, Catalytic Flag Making.

They had 13 artists create 12 flags that will be on display until January 21. After that each artist will burn their flag at a location of the artist’s choosing. The idea is fantastic and will be the subject of an upcoming book.

Each flag, as you might imagine, was different. One had two heads, one with eyes and one with a mouth. Both open. Another read “Apathetic TORPOR” against the backdrop of mountains and a huge buck. Several looked like they would burn well. The meaning for some might become clearer in the burning process.

For the opening night there was also a performance element. Poet Paul Dickinson brought his St Paul sensibilities and humor across the River. His poetry always has a there-but-for-the-grace element that played well in the room and includes keen observations on capriciousness of life.

Writer Jordan Thomas read about being black. He chronicled the death of a nephew, the untimely and irrational death of so many black men and ensuing the fear of not coming home – if not his own fear, his partner’s fear for him.

Performer Gay Henry did a lip synch to a montage of scenes about the internal and external conflict inherent in being different. It was fascinating to watch him capture the tone and emotion of each voice in rapid succession.

Next week we will see the change of guard in the US Administration. Again, a good time for art. I am hoping to attend Another Voice: Political Illustration of the Late Twentieth Century at MCAD, an exhibition of more than 100 artworks by many of the nation’s leading editorial illustrators. A reminder that we’ve been through change before and perhaps an opportunity to learn about art and politics from our past. (The show runs from January 17 to March 5.)

American Wake for Mary Bue with Alan Sparhawk and Molly Maher at the Icehouse

mary-bueTraditionally an American wake was celebrated in Ireland before a loved one boarded the boat for America for foreign futures of unknown adventure. Mary Bue isn’t taking a boat to New Mexico, but she is going for a three-month Artist Residency in New Mexico. Last night was her New Mexico wake at the Icehouse.

Last time I wrote about Mary Bue she had just released Holy Bones,  she held a funeral for her keyboard on the stage of the Turf Club and her website promoted Pop Rock Candy.

I’m glad to see that the keyboard is back and the music is more rock than pop and not so candy. Much as happened in her life since the 2015 show I attended and she seems the better for it.

The keyboard came out for Gorgeous is an older song that almost seems to foretell some of her life’s turmoil – because it provides advice for any young person bound for rocking waters. The cello was a lovely addition added a warm timbre.

Contrast that song with A Million Moths, a song Bue equated with the healing powers of yoga. The song live is more rocking that the recorded version. There’s a catharsis in the guitar and Bue’s plaintive voice.

It will be interesting to see what New Mexico will bring to Bue.

alan-sparkhawkJoining Bue on the bill was Alan Sparkhawk, of Low playing with Erik Koskinen. The musc was dark, the instruments downplay the music. They instruments weren’t ambient but leaning that – maybe ambient with undercurrents. Sparhawk’s voice is charismatic both when amplified and echoed as a radio voice from days gone by and when left clear and unadulterated. It’s unique contrast I find compelling.

molly-maher-2Also on the bill was Molly Maher playing with Koskinen and Paul Bergen. Wall to wall Americana with lots of strings and twangs and room for solos and riffs because they are musicians who play well and play better together. Maher can command a guitar to do what she wants!

Early Christmas gift: The Palace in St Paul sneak previews with the New Standards

A century ago (actually 101 years to the date), The Marx Brothers played on the stage of the Palace Theatre. The theater didn’t officially open until 1916 – but the Marx Brothers played a sneak preview, much like the show hometown heroes The New Standards played Friday night (Dec 16).

The New Standards were great – they played a wide range of music – Suburbs, Christmas carols, Daft Punk. And they came with a star-studded, local entourage – Jeremy Messersmith, Aby Wolf, Cameron Kinghorn, Janey Winterbrauer, Mayor Coleman and more. I am a sucker for Fairytale of New York, always love Bizarre Long Triangle, but Nancy Sinatra’s Boots may have been my favorite song on the night.

The music, a nod to multiple eras and genres, got people dancing in a space that deserves to be appreciated! And really the building was the star; this really was a sneak preview of the Palace.

It’s shabby chic and majestic, charming and elegant all at the same time. The seats were removed from the main floor, leaving space for a dance floor and a couple of bars but the balcony is still raked seating. The décor has been restored to the original and left with a feeling of ASIS. You can see the detail of the original ceiling beams, although the few beams entirely traverse the room now.

The “New Palace Theatre” originally opened in 1916, featuring live acts. In 1922, the name was changed to the Palace-Orpheum, because it became part of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Eventually the name shortened to Orpheum despite the fact that movies replaced live shows. In the 1940s, the theater got a serious face lift and became the RKO Orpheum.

My mom was a frequent visitor to the RKO Orpheum, not in 1940 since that predates her, but by the early 1950s. She didn’t come to the show on Friday night, although based on my pictures, she says the balcony looks just like it did back in the day.

It will be fun to see the impact that the theater has on life downtown. It’s just a block away from the Amsterdam, which has done well for a St Paul live music venue since 2011 and across the street from Vieux Carre, a newer jazz club in the lower level of the Park Square Theater. St Paul is shaping up!