Sign Spinners at The Walker

One of the best things about the Twin Cities is the huge number of fantastic things that happen nearly every night! Thursday I enjoyed bike night at the MIA and then Thursday at The Walker. Spoiled!

At The Walker I was introduced to Sign Spinners. They are street level advertisers/performers that spin or dance with marketing signs. Apparently I’m driving down the wrong streets because I had never seen them. So it was super fun to see them at The Walker with the gorgeous background!

And just FYI – apparently sign spinners can earn $15-20/hour or more!

Body Cartography Part 3: Action Movie – one-on-one dance performance

Me before the performance – couldn’t take one during!

I have a crush on an art exhibit – Body Cartography at the Weisman Art Museum. I went to the artists’ talk (with Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad) , the terrifying, yet awesome, felt room and earlier this week I went to action movie. It was a personal dance performance. A perfect third date.

I signed up in advance and was handed off to a dancer/artist. He walked me around the galleries, often with my eyes closed. He would tell me when to open and close my eyes and led me through the gallery by holding my hand, or gently nudging my back. At times he’s leave me alone, run to a location nearby and tell me to open my eyes and I’d watch and the art, from a distance.

I was a little nervous at the prospect but it wasn’t scary at all. Turns out it’s comforting to give over and let someone else lead you around.

I know the Weisman pretty well. And I had learned about empathetic kinesthesia in the artists’ talk so I had an idea of what to expect. My dancer (Justin) was very kind and explained the process to me and he looked like Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run) back in the day. So what’s not to like there.

It is interesting to have permission to stare at someone at close range. As I remember it, we moved side-by-side at first so by the time I really was in a position to stare there was a comfort level and because it was a performance it felt rude not to watch.

I started off trying to anticipate movement but that dissipated pretty quickly. Soon after, there was a pull at times, especially when Justin was close and the movement was easy, to want to mirror the same action. But my Midwestern shyness prevented any of that. But there was a pull.

It’s awesome and strange to have a short, immersive encounter with one person.

BodyCartography felt room at the Weisman: terrifying, fascinating, philosophical

Sometimes art is a lot of what you bring to it. If your head is in a dark place, you see things differently. But I don’t think it makes it any less legitimate – just more cathartic than you might otherwise find.

Felt room is an immersive performance piece by BodyCartography at the Weisman. (I wrote about the artists’ talk earlier.) It is performed in a sealed room. You sit, stand, lounge where you want; the dancers work around and with you. The performance is three hours long but there’s an open door policy.

I was a little late so I set off alone, down a hall, then choose a door (the other might be locked or go to a closet, I don’t know) that opened into a mini, light-blocking antechamber and pulled back the weighted curtain. Into the darkness.

I could see another patron inches from me. I felt others were around. You could hear shuffling and movement. There was white noise – but the space was pitch black. My eyes never acclimated to it.  It was dark for about 20 minutes. I found it terrifying; so much so I thought about leaving. I stood frozen, afraid to bump into another patron. I wished my eyes to see because I was afraid of dancers milling about. I thought I saw them and I thought there were all much bigger than me. Mostly men. (In truth – five apparent dancers, none much larger than me and seemingly women.)

I felt like people were walking by and nearly touching me (and everyone) but not quite – like nearly poking at your nose or bristling your arm. It occurred to me that it was entirely my imagination but it is what my senses told me. Again terrifying.

Then there were glimmers of light and then a soft red light – bright enough to see but shadowy. I realized we were in a big room. Lots of performers sitting throughout the room. (Although truthfully I spent the whole performance wondering if the only performers were the apparent dancers – or if in moments of darkness some of the patrons were in on the act.)  Back in the red light, a mob of rags and sheaths of cloth start moving in the corner. Dancers under the heap move like one, giant organism. Sometimes the movement was angry and menacing. At other times it moved with less emotion. Eventually the organism oozed into the patrons’ space – at least a few and it was interesting to watch that interaction.

Mostly I was thankful that I could see. Thankful that I wasn’t scared.

The performance had segments based on action of the dancers. Stage of darkness. Stage of organism. Stage of whirling dervishes. Stage of mime. Stage of reunification but not as the same organism of something higher order but still of one free will. (I’m carefully not saying one mind.)  Between the segments often the darkness fell again. I never got to like the pitch black but I did become more comfortable with it.

If I had been 20 minutes later I would have missed the darkness. My feeling for the show would be entirely different. Less intense, easier but less meaningful.

Jeff Krause CD release Naked and Hardhearted at the Icehouse

Jeff Krause looks like he sounds and that’s a treat. With a winter beard and a black hat and a couple of guitars, he’s the picture of Americana. He has the patience on stage to unfurl his songs like good stories. He gives room for the other band members to weave in their characters (especially the keyboard), which adds a depth to the songs and end of the song comes in its own time. With nice punctuation!

Like the old school country I used to listen to on road trips with my dad (OK, still do), Jeff’s lyrics are lessons to be learned. “How does he treat you when no one else is in the room.” I ought to needlepoint or tattoo that awesome line somewhere obvious.

The slow steady build of Trying to Forget You is one flavor classic country. The keyboard takes a little dance during the song. The drums push it forward and Jeff was joined on stage by Lena Elizabeth. She offsets his voice nicely. Jeff has a gravely, yet young voice. Picture your favorite (male) country singer in his heyday. The chorus is particularly catchy.

Love You this Way is another slow one. It feels like the last song at the high school dance – or maybe the song after last call in the honkytonk. But they aren’t all slow. There are some toe tappers too. There was a new song (for a future CD) Better Shoot Me Now that was a hip shaker with a great guitar interlude.

BodyCartography – step one: the artist talk

I’m excited about a show and experiment at the Weisman – BodyCartography. The friendly guerrilla group has taken over (parts of) the Weisman Art Gallery for a few weeks. I am looking forward to  interactions with them. I was going to wait and write about my experience after the fact but I’ve decide to write as I enjoy.

I started with the artists’ talk. A chance to meet the founders of the BodyCartography Project Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad. (Actually I had met Olive before helping her on a website – but briefly.) The husband and wife team have worked together for at least 20 years. We showed up for the event and were led to a large room with lots of space to sit on the floor. So that made me nervous and glad that I was with a friend.

But the talk was super interesting on the history of BodyCartography. They have done large (and small) scale site specific performances. Think flash mob before the days of flash mob. So they might walk/saunter/dance down main streets of San Francisco. I remember them performing outside the Instinct Gallery in downtown Minneapolis a few years ago. Aine and I were fascinated. The dance was more like movement than say the tango and it seemed to involve purposeful – yet sometimes pained – connections with the setting, including the people nearby.

I learned that’s about empathetic kinesthesia, which seems to be encouraging people to react to your movement. Or at least that’s the case if the performance is a one-on-one deal. (Which I am seeing soon. And yes I’m a little terrified.) I imagine when you’re both dancers that you try to feed of each other – to riff like improvisational jazz but in your bodies.

It was interesting to hear about how movement, surrounding and video was used to create art and performance pieces. I love the different perspective of art when focused on movement above vision. As Olive pointed out in the talk – vision is the last sense we master as babies. And yet is seems the sense we rely on most as we carry out our day.

They also bring in a lot of science. We could see the makings of an embryology project in development. There are also works with connections to environment – which makes sense given how we move around the environment.

So now I’m prepared for my next encounter on Sunday, the felt room…

felt room is an immersive performance installation designed to conjure imagination, speculation, and perception, engaging viewers in a practice of vibrant potentiality. In the darkness of felt room viewers are offered an escape from a world of constant illumination.

Becky Rae Dalton album release Ready or Not at The Hook and Ladder

Walking into the Hook and Ladder I was welcomed by Becky Rae Dalton and her unassuming rock band. Four people on stage – two guitars, bass and drums. There’s a country twang, I heard some great rock strong solos and there’s a thoughtful folk rock sensibility. It’s the kind of music you might pack for a road trip.

Becky’s voice is strong and clear. There’s something comfortable in her voice. My friend insisted that it’s because she sounds Minnesotan. He may be right and I mean that in the best way. There’s some something warm and straight forward about her voice. Listening to older albums I think that her voice has become more naked and strong. She played an older song Thursday night, Blue; there was gypsy feel to the staccato pace of the song and her voice had a lilt. I liked the song and her voice in it but it also drew me to the purity of her voice in other songs.

Ol’ Mississippi is a potential breakout song on this album. It has that country twang. There’s a freedom in the lyrics and the feel of a hot summer day (ironically the name of an entirely other song) to the song – like you’ve been walking a long time and finally sit down. It has an easy but traveled pace.

As a special bonus – it was fun to see that Becky’s video was a the top of the top five City Pages videos of the week!

Weekend of festivals: Northern Spark, Stone Arch and Rock the Garden

Summer in the Twin Cities is crazy. So much fun, so little time. This weekend was like that on steroids. I managed to get to three festivals – to greater and lesser degrees.

Northern Spark is the all night arts festival in Minneapolis. Except this year it was only from 9 pm to 2 am but it went on for two nights. I brought Aine and a friend – then we met up with a friend of mine there. The festival was set up in three parts of downtown Minneapolis: the public library, near the stadium and on Nicollet Ave. Different artists set up stations – most are interactive. And you can meander from one to the next.

Some of our favorite exhibits include the Meme Weaver – a giant interactive machine programmed by Arduino to weave poetry. Then Keith Braveheart worked with the local Native art community to creatively recreate Buffalo Nation – an historical picture of buffalo skulls killed by settlers in an attempt to eradicate Native people. There we created buffalo skulls that they assembled.

We love the library. The trans dance was kind of awesome – people just dancing in a circle. There was a singalong – although much higher brow than I could do. Aine got a chance to ride a virtual reality bike. And we just got to be downtown last at night with hundreds of other people.

I got to take a tour through the Stone Arch Bridge Festival the next morning on a walk. It was so muggy, so hot and it rained for the whole 8 miles! Stone Arch include dozens – if not a hundred artists booths. A highlight was the robot art. And the free sample of brats at the Weber grill booth. And the area around the Stone Arch Bridge is gorgeous.

Finally – thanks to the generosity of a friend – I got to go to Rock the Garden. It’s a full day of music at the Walker Art Center. Three of my favorites were there – Father John Misty, Chastity Brown and Nikki Lane and I got to hear a lot of new music. It was steamy hot but there was a breeze.

Chastity Brown told a sad story about playing in Eau Claire earlier this year. She was in front of the venue when a white supremacist accosted her – yelling and getting in her face. No one around her helped – until a band member happened to walk outside. It has led to many discussion of “what would you do?” I hope it made everyone in the crowd ask – so that we’re all prepared if something like that happens near us.

Yam Haus album release at the Amsterdam – local pop band on the way up

If you can’t stand the heat of a rising boy band – stand in the back and get your ear plugs out when you come to see Yam Haus – because they are bringing it. And to be heard above their admiring fans, they need to be loud!

They opened their sold-out, album release show at the Amsterdam with the title track – Stargazer, much to the delight of all around me. It is synth-pop music, leaning on pop. The songs are catchy and high energy. They are fun to hear live but they are made for radio. The songs are infectious. The message is positive. They are cute. They are just the thing to make a young girl swoon and scream.

Yam stands for [you are me]. It’s quirky but again positive and lets the fans have an inside secret. Not a huge secret but I think for the target audience, a little something the parents don’t understand is a fun thing.

There are four band members: Lars Pruitt on vocals and guitar,  Seth Blum on electric guitar, Zach Beinlich on bass and Jake Felstow on drums. They are charming on stage. All smiles, lots of dancing and even more personality. They are from the Twin Cities and I think they represent us well. They were gracious to Kaleb Lee, who opened for them. The band was also very gracious about the location – the Amsterdam.

Note: First performance was Kaleb Lee is from The Voice. He is unapologetically country, which I thought was a nice balance with Yam Haus. He may have been the piece to connect kids and parents in the crowd – and the crowd was mostly kids in front parents in back. Both groups seemed happy with Lee and Yam Haus.

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!