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:

Record Store Day 2018 – 11.5 record stores in 6 hours across the Twin Cities

It’s one of our favorite traditions – chasing down record store day and trying to beat our best score of record shop sin a day. We failed miserably this year but we have some good excuses. Aine had a class until 10:30 and I have a party at Paisley Park at 6:00. But between those hours we hit 11 record stores that were open and did a drive-by of one that shut in the last year. Super bonus – it was gorgeous today – unlike one week ago when it snowed almost a foot.

So here was our agenda –

Stop One

Agharta Records – St. Paul
2512 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55114
Free chocolate cake! And it was tasty. Aine pointed out that she knew she was growing up because the cake tasted better to her than the frosting. Luckily, I’m not that grown up; I ate the frosting. They have a good mix of new and used albums.

Stop Two

11:00 Hymie’s Vintage Records – Minneapolis
3820 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406
We timed this especially to see Charlie Parr perform on the outdoor stage. It felt like summer for the first time in long time. Hymies has music indoor and out all day long. They actually manage a whole block party. All they need is about 3 more doors in and out to handle the crowd. Bonus – they have free records for the taking.

Stop Three

Solid State Vinyl – Minneapolis
4022 E 46th St, Minneapolis, MN 55406
I don’t think we had been here before. The folks at Solid State were very friendly and the place is bright and feels new. Bonus you don’t find in all records store – no special smell.

Stop Four

Dead Media Records – Minneapolis
1828 E 35th St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Music out in the back, a ping pong table, a spin wheel of prizes from Radio K and two floors of music. We bought 5 cassettes because Aine was so enthralled with them. Luckily my car plays tapes. SO now we have a homemade Led Zeppelin, Patty Smyth, David Bowie and some other hot 80s options. It was a good opportunity to learn about how tapes work and how they were a game changer for musicians in that it made it possible for a band to produce a piece of music to sell. That idea was pretty foreign to Aine.

Stop Five

Roadrunner Records – Minneapolis
4304 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409
It’s a pretty serious record store. You can get some rare treats and it’s not too expense. The big treat for us? Running into Dale T Nelson. OK< a bigger treat for one of us than the other.

Stop Six

Extreme Noise – Minneapolis
407 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Extreme Noise actually sells a lot of obscure bands and fringe genres that I really like. But to be fair, as soon as we pulled up Aine said – oh I remember that smell. They had bands play in the back.

Stop Six and a half

Treehouse Records – sadly they closed but we were in the neighborhood so I thought we’d at least drive by.

Stop Seven

Fifth Element – Minneapolis
2411 Hennepin Ave S. Minneapolis, MN 55405
They feature a lot of rap, hip hop and some of the nicest staff around. There’s some great art and they sell a lot more than music, including art, clothing and books. We just missed the music.

Stop Eight

HiFi Records
1637 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
You can get a rock and roll haircut or by an album HiFi has everything. And they even had a very delicious lemony donut. HiFi is always a fun visit, they have a lot of great regalia around the shop.

Stop Nine

Electric Fetus – Minneapolis
2000 4th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55404
Electric Fetus is always one of my favorite stops with bands all day and special Record Store Day sale and specials. But it was packed, so packed despite the construction all around. This was a good year for me since I did not drop $70 on a dress this year there – but I’m not saying that I won’t go back later this week.

Stop Ten

Barely Brothers Records – St. Paul
783 Raymond Ave, St Paul, MN 55114
This is another stop that we actually timed to see Erik Koskinen and Becky Kapell play. We used to see Erik Koskinen play once a month at the Real Phonic Radio show at JJ Hill Library. Aine pointed out to me that she has not seen him play  in years. He started playing “Six Pack of Beer” and her response was – oh fifth grade. I think she meant the song.

Stop Eleven

Caydence Records and Coffee – St. Paul
900 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130
This was a first time for us to visit this record store and coffee shop. We liked it. I was a little bummed out that we really missed the music – especially the Bad Man who started after we left

So that’s us. Only 364 days until the next Record Store Day.

Songs for Juliet, a celebration of unicorn moms for Katy Vernon’s CD early preview at the Hook and Ladder

Katy Vernon celebrated her birthday with a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society called Songs for Juliet, a tribute to her mother. She was kind enough to invite everyone. It was also a sneak preview of her upcoming CD, which was a treat.

Vernon’s catch phrase is “sad songs on a happy instrument”; the show last night was a demonstration of that marriage of opposites. She has a very upbeat persona, slightly self-deprecating, wears light-up shoes and plays the ukulele, while her songs pull hard at the heart strings. I heard this especially in Heart is in Your Hands, a song for her daughters Lily and Daisy; it’s a sweet slower song with an added emotional aspiration in her voice last night. Very touching.

Somebody’s Daughter is apparently a song in progress, written for the powerful women in her family. It showcases her clear voice highlighted with slight modulation. Vernon has a strong, very pretty voice. The deceptively upbeat nature complements the dark humor of a song like Five O’clock – a song about her own battle with alcohol, which she is wining. Taking the old phrase – it’s 5:00 somewhere – a phrase that usually conjures a gregarious image of folks on vacation or in the pub together and putting it on the face of a young mother at home is realistic look at what motherhood and life with alcohol can look like. There’s an important backdoor to feminism in the song; an example of women in art owning the things that are hard for women today.

It was great to see her with the full band. The band gives a range of genres that one instrument just can’t do. Look to the Sea has a bold festive feel, Undertow has a twang and some songs have a feel of old radio shows. The horn especially is a great counter to her voice – both loud and strong but different. I loved the keyboard in Lily, it sounded like a xylophone. Lily, about Vernon’s daughter, was a song that caught my ear because my oldest daughter is named Lily, after Pictures of Lily. But I think I’m going to tell my Lily that I named her after this song, it’s much more mom-approved.

The night began with Home Fires, a duet of Vicky Emerson and Sarah Morris. I think it was Morris who used a phrase that captured a theme for the night. She mentioned how glad she was to meet other moms who were musicians – a creature to her that seemed as rare as unicorns. So they sang for the unicorn moms. That feeling isn’t restricted to musician moms.

The Home Fires sounded great. Their voices blend well together. If theirs voices were a painting Emerson would be the green of the grass with Morris the blue of the sky and together the picture is richer. It’s tough not to like a songs like Front Porch about kindness and wine. Ad added bonus was ABBA-solutely, Vernon’s ABBA cover band. Nothing will take you back to be 10 years old faster than an ABBA song.

The Long Odds play to a full house at Mortimer’s

I got a sneak preview of The Long Odds a couple weeks ago at the Rock Your Rights NARAL concert at the Icehouse. So I was excited to get a chance to see them play their CD release (Level Ground) party at Mortimer’s. I have to say, I liked them even more there. It was a full room, cozy feel and a Americana-loving crowd.

The band filled the stage: Tim Heinlein on guitar, Missy Heinlein on keyboard and vocals, Jonas Lader on drums and vocals, Jason Streitz on guitar and vocals, Mike Fruncillo on bass and vocals and a special appearance from Jimmy Rogers on bass.

The music is easy to listen too, a nice twang with beat that keeps in interesting. I love the keyboard, which seemed to Hammond organ sound at times. I’m sure I heard a mandolin pop out and pretty sure I heard a cowbell too. The variety of instruments add an interest to the music.

One of my favorite songs was Paper Made. It’s slower, moodier than some of their other toe-tapping tunes. But it particularly showcases the combined vocals and I’m a sucker for a song that tells a good story. Throughout the show, each musician gets a chance to be the star, to highlight their talent, but with Paper Made I feel like everyone really comes together in a cohesive way.

River High at O’Gara’s – dark, pop, 80s appeal

The last band in the back room at O’Gara’s had a 1980s sound – no wait – it was the 1980s. So I’m not sure how much that memory infused my take on River High but I was definitely getting some 80s sensibilities out of the band.

There’s a dark undercurrent to the music – the last album is entitled Blood and Darkness and they sing about blood quite a bit so there’s truth in the advertising. But there’s an underpinning to the sound as well – a drudging beat that moves the songs forward and a drone that gives it a pleasant finish. The dark gives the music a depth.

They play rock with a catchy chorus. There are four in the band – Joe Masanz (bass), Jason Anderson (drums), Justin Law (guitar and vocals) and Rena Rasmussen (vocals). I think they’re at their best when Law and Rasmussen harmonize. Their voices blend really well together. Rasmussen has an I-won’t-take-crap attitude on the stage that makes her fun to watch and a powerful voice. Masanz looks the part, he’s fun to watch as a performer and Anderson keeps the songs going with a strong beat.

It is hard to pin down the genre. It’s  high energy with catchy chorus. Some songs (like Red Canary) are very danceable, while some are more like ballads. Then there’s that 80s feel, which I think is a quirkiness that gives over to rock. It’s hard not to like a band with a song called K.I.S.S.

Anahata Collaboration – nice place for a show

I love going to see new venues. I’m partial to bars but open to other places. Tonight I went to another place – the Anahata Collaborative. I went for their Living Room Series showcasing Singer-Songwriters. Sadly I was only able to stay for part of the show (Joyann Parker was great!) but it was enough time to get a good vibe for the space.

The venue is across the parking lot from the Egg and I. Ever-late I was worried about parking but – and this is important – you can park in the lot behind the Egg and I. So easy.

The curb appeal doesn’t do the space justice. It’s well situated between bars and restaurants but again potentially tough parking and in a basement. But it’s not really a basement. It’s high-ceiling, white-wall, window-garage-door-overlook to the Greenway space once you get there. It has the potential to be a truly awesome space in the summer if they can open those doors.

It’s cozy but open. I’d say it would seat 50 pretty comfortably – hold more without chairs. It’s a quiet space where you can really concentrate on the music but not so quiet you’re afraid to sneeze. We got there just in time but were welcomed and immediately shuffled to the cupcakes, which are included in the price of admission. And were super tasty. Then we were able to find comfortable seats.

With high ceilings and lots of open space, the sound is good. And the performer we saw (Joyann Parker) seemed very comfortable. She had a nice balance of talk and music. I learned things about her I hadn’t learned seeing her before and I thought she sounded even better in the setting where I had seen her before.

Allen Ruppersberg at the Walker: dark but funny and very book forward

The art of Allen Ruppersberg is an arty librarian’s dream – art and books, books and art. The collection includes books and words as regalia and as something to be organized. He pulls the dark but funny out of mundane of life and words.

One of the bigger pieces was Al’s Café. Ruppersberg created a cafe and invited guests to come in like a restaurant debut. The trick was that the café didn’t serve food. But it did serve up plates with odd pairings of objects. It reminded me of the dinner party game where you invite guests to order their own meal – including silverware, cups, food – but all in a language that hopefully no one speaks. I like the idea. The exhibit was interesting in the same way a Richard Scarry or Eye Spy book is. So much to see. (And I had to sing Alice’s Restaurant the whole time we were in the room. Mandatory.)

The theme of big picture, lots of details, carried through many of the works. There was the wall of posters. Upon first look they all just look like carnival posters but once you look at each poster you’ll see that some are carnival-type posts but maybe have semi-phonetic  messages. There’s also a wall of book titles, authors and quotes. The one that caught my eye? “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” It’s a quote from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

There’s a darker section, Still Life that includes morose stories of murders on the walls surrounding a smattering of severed concrete heads. The work is from 1982 but the heads look like cartoon heads from heads in 40s. There’s blood dripping from the posters and Still Life written in blood. It’s creepy but cartoonish.

A special treat for me was the simple drawings of a home library with different instructions for organizing the books. My favorite? “Honey, I rearranged the collection according to two categories: Nice and not nice.” It’s very close to how I organize people.

A special treat for Aine was finding an article about and picture of her favorite Chuck Close in a room full of pictures of Ruppersberg objects.

Pussy Riot brings post punk feminism to the Turf Club

The show sold out quickly and apparently everyone with a permanent guest pass showed up for Pussy Riot at the Turf Club.

I think most folks (who remember Pussy Riot) remember when they were arrested and detained for staging a protest performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. They were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and at two of the members spent two years in jail.

I had no idea of what I might be walking into when I showed up. The night started with an interview with one of the members – Nadya. She talked about why the members do what they do and introduced their media channel – Media Zonna. It was interesting to hear about what it’s like to want to bring the news to Russia and other places where the government wants to control every message. In short, she said that all of their partners have decided that they are at peace with whatever should happen to them should they be detained for their work. Frightening and inspiring.

Nadya recognized that art can amplify a message. She didn’t use the word apathy but called people back to a time – the 1960s and 1970s – when people were more political. Art and music will make politics cool again. They are tools we can use to engage people.

Nadya asked what was the call to action for everyone attending? A pointed question. And the answer was to invite everyone to get engaged in politics and bring a friend. It was an invitation to go to the Capitol, to talk to legislators – not just during protests but on regular days to tell them how you feel. It was a good suggestion. Politicians who want to stay in office listen to voters. They try to represent their constituents. But they need to hear from all voters to do that.

The second set was music – techno pop, super energetic pounding beats. It is what I used to heard in discos in Catalonia back in the 1990s. But that music is fun. Some songs were in English; some in Russian (with subtitles).

Art is My Weapon at Homewood Studios: the brutality of fragility of gun violence

I didn’t go to the opening of Art is My Weapon (Part 2) last night with the intention of writing about it but I saw two works that struck me so much I just have to talk about them. The show is a collective of artists creating pieces on gun violence.  There were works made out of guns, artistic representations of guns, a welcome to America sign created from shot gun shells and statistics on gun violence. Something for everyone.

I was drawn to Tha Boys by Rikki V. Heck and then I had the good fortune to meet the artist. I was drawn to the work because it reminded me of a mural I saw in Belfast 10 years ago. (I will include a super shaky video I took below.) It was of a masked gunman; as you walked by the work, the gun followed you. Now that I see the video again I see the similarities in the work but realize that I remembered the mural differently; I remembered more of what Rikki had in her work.

There is a brutal vulnerability to her work. The terror and tears in the eye. The swirl of smoking gun. The real gold chain (not painted) around the neck. It’s someone dressing up for a part that they may not want. Rikki said she did the piece for her brothers. They are young black men who may also be put into a position to play a part that they do not want to play. But as she says, what do you do when you can’t get a job because of the way you look – yet you still want to eat? People get pushed into roles.

It’s a wake up call to those of us who push people into those roles. There is something scary in the human condition where we lose sight of the role that the “dominant culture” plays in forcing a role onto others and the ramifications of those actions. I wish this picture could be placed as prominently as the Belfast mural to remind us all of the roles we play and how those roles are chosen.

Just around the corner from her work was Untitled (An Elegy to Sandy Hook) by John Ilg. There are 26 delicate white butterflies representing the 20 students and 6 teachers that were killed in the Elementary School in Connecticut. They are so beautiful, so fragile, so ethereal. There’s always something wrong about beautiful butterflies suspended and dead. It makes me uneasy because they should be fluttering – much like the 26 people in Sandy Hook should be doing what they did before the shooting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet this artist but Rikki was able to answer a few questions for me. Apparently, the artist ordered them online. “Like some people order guns online?” I asked. That was apparently part of the point. And she told me that Ilg learned that you can’t order a gun replica in Minnesota but you can order a real gun. (I did a little searching to verify this info – seems like replicas are OK with they are antique but modern replicas are not OK.)

The work as it stands is beautiful; the story behind it makes it even more meaningful.

These were two pieces that struck me last night. There’s a gallery full of others that might easily strike me another night and the show is open.