Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Houses of the Holy: Andy Messerschmidt & Max Schollet

Andy Messerschmidt: Merry Krishnas at Fox Tax Gallery & Max Schollet: Journey to the Surface of the Earth at the MAEP Gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

“Matter matters.” –Carl Andre

The two sets of work could not be more different, the way an ornate golden reliquary is totally at odds with the bone fragment or wood chip it houses. The consideration of both can be a jarring experience and one full of questions as to the nature of worship, meditation, work and creation. So it is with two vastly different shows that inhabit the same conceptual space: Merry Krishnas by Andy Messerschmidt at Fox Tax Gallery and the work of Max Schollet in Journey to the Surface of the Earth at the MAEP Gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Andy Messeschmidt produces large scale collage/paintings that incorporate doilies, cut stencils, magazine images and paper Christmas ornaments among other items. Occasionally jumping from the picture plane to the third dimension, the works are a measured explosion of color and pattern that are carefully balanced, symmetrical. Messerschmidt writes in his Artist Statement, “My goal is to stop the viewing at confounding confrontation, just sheer, unfamiliar, reverent confrontation- a grizzly on two legs in the middle of the trail.”

But the materials are recognizable and this is not confounding unfamiliarity, this is comfortable rearrangement. The titles are not reverent- It Freaked Out and Became a Jehovah’s Witness, The Meth-Heads Saw Their Lab Aflame as the Burning Bush of Ascensional Morphology and That’s All- these seem to be over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, deliberately performative, a non sequitur one-liner. It is conceptual baroque on a five-and-dime scale. Messeschmidt goes on to say, “I am more interested in the deification of painting by objectifying reverence.” What is true about the pieces is that their layered intricacy do provide a titillating aesthetic experience, much like the Assume Vivid Astro Focus project is doing in the contemporary art scene. The difference is that Assume Vivid Astro Focus wholly embraces their surface play and silliness, whereas Messerschmidt’s uncomfortable relationship between his stated desire for reverence and the construct of the object is unresolved and undercut ground. The work pushes joyous wild mystic visions, abandon and worship, but pulls back into formal, static trope. The Abstract Expressionists that Messerschmidt notes as feeling kinship with in his artist statement (Fontana, Newman and Pollock) created art that never had an easy relationship with the viewer, and the challenge made people return to them for viewing and firther meaning. By contrast, the ready identifiability of the material and theatricality of Messerschmidt's work make for easy access that approaches a designed experience as opposed to organic reverence.

Max Schollet uses the least possible material in his work, and the objects are all everyday. That word’s connotation can be dismissive, but the everyday has been the subject of art from Vermeer’s serving girls to Duchamp’s urinal and beyond. Schollet work extends, quite literally, the object. Cub Food bags laid out in rows to pair up the black logo against the fleshy tones of the aged plastic, a single sheet of yellow legal paper cut to a single continuous line, a roll of masking tape unrolled into ox-bow bends, forming a snaking glyph on the gallery wall. Of Schollet’s production, critic Tamatha Sopinski Perlman writes in her catalogue essay that “Each repetitive action, each act of transformation makes the landscape of our everyday existence into a work of art.”

Unlike the excoriation that critic Michael Fried leveled against minimalism- that it was only activated by the presence of the viewer and therefore dependent upon a simple special relationship to function, Schollet inverts that criticism. Yes, there is an object that you would recognize, and yes, it has a spacial relationship to the viewer, but the object (and especially, as a quotidian object, the idea of the object) precedes the viewers presence and will continue past the viewer leaving. Schollet’s interventions set the stage for the transformative process that can be revisited by the viewer to changing ends. Schollet makes mendicant art, you can see the marks of construction repeated to an almost absurd breaking point- this is the process of mantra-recitation and koan study that push to Buddhist enlightenment and Shinto prayer. There is a reverence in using the thing as it is, but the austerity of it’s creation opens up the matter to the thing as it could be- furrows, bones, intestinal tracts, lotuses, cell diagrams, ideals, a change in perspective- that gives the work it’s pared down beauty.

Both shows could be expanded, and high promise is held in both. Mass can be experienced through the pageantry, robes, chants, incense, but also in silence, and reflection the direction of life. Whether the experience is catholic or liturgical, the matter is all in the viewing.

“Journey to the Surface of the Earth: Margaret Pezalla-Granlund and Max Schollet”
WHERE: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis 55404
WHEN: Nov. 14, 2008 – Jan. 4, 2009

“Merry Krishnas: Andy Messerschmidt”
WHERE: The Gallery at Fox Tax, 503 First Av. NE Minneapolis 55413
WHEN: Nov. 29, 2008 – Jan. 9, 2009

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Cherry on Top ...of 2008

No one really likes making "Top 10" lists, do they? I gave my team the option of making a list for 2008. Top 5, top 10, recommended, etc. and here's what we came up with. You'll notice there's not much overlap, and to me that's a good thing. We like variety. Hopefully you'll find something on these lists you haven't heard yet and can now go check out. It's not rocket science, and it doesn't count for much, but here are CakeIn15 staffer's top picks for the year that was (and is... for another 6 days anyway).


1.The Dodos, Visiter
Ridiculous trash can drums, excellent bleeding-finger guitars, and wonderful songs make this my top album of 2008. No matter how many times I put it on, I'm thrilled by the intricacies and emotion in this album.

2.Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Fabulous vocals that bring me back to groups like The Tolkens, Four Freshman, and Jan & Dean. An album any age can enjoy. Also a memorable live show with haunting reminders of the past.

3.Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight
Continues my love of music from Scotland. Hell, I wrote about these guys back in June of 2007 here too. Since then they've only grown in their song-writing, and 2008 brought their best album yet. Well done boys.

4.Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
You're lying if you say you don't like this album. It's summer wrapped up and rolled into a digital file.

5.Mates of State, Re-Arrange Us
Awesome harmonies from a husband and wife team who've only gotten better as they continue to create music. One of my favorite sing-a-long records of 2008.

6.Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes)
Fucking fantastic new stuff from one of my fav locals. Check out "Journey of the Featherless" or "Story of the Grandson of Jesus " if you don't believe me.

7.Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps, Backyard Tent Set
My best new local music find this year. Old-timey without overdoing it. Every time I've played this at work, someone's picked up the album. No joke. Plus, her live show will pack them in and leave you sighing with pleasure.

8.Jeremy Messersmith - The Silver City
Messersmith again proves he's one of the better singer-songwriters out there. Put that together with super producer Dan Wilson, and you have one hell of an album about Minneapolis.

9.City On the Make - $1,000,000 EP
"Chicks on, chicks on, chicks on bikes" was my anthem for the summer as my girlfriends and I sang it repeatedly biking around the city. Lead poet Mike Massey is as fun to watch as he is to listen to, and with new bionic knees to keep him bouncing, I can't wait for the new material that's promised to come soon.

10.The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
Admittedly, John Darnelle has a voice that only a mother could love. Ok, that's not 100% true, but it's close. You either love him or hate him, but you can't touch Darnelle's dark lyrics mixed with lovely guitar rhythms and the driving force of his will.

*Side Note: While I would definitely put Bon Iver into my top 10, I owned the album in 2007, and so can't put it in without feeling strange about doing it. Justin, I love ya, but last year was your year. xo

Dan O.

1.Cloud Cult, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-partying Through Tornadoes)
Having returned to this album again and again, it's the rare album that never grows old - it always feels like you're listening to it for the third time (the time when you finally decided that you really really liked it.)

2.Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
Of Montreal's new album (as I reviewed previously) continues to confound me at times, but I re-visit it almost weekly - It's ambition and scope place it in my Top 10 this year.

3.Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
I wasn't actually sure if this album was released in 2008 - something made me feel as though it had been released earlier, but the back of the CD credits it as a 2008 release, so here it is! The buzz has faded, but it's still an entirely interesting album - reminds me a lot of Paul Simon's Graceland.

4.Grand Archives, The Grand Archives
What first brought me to this album was its Band of Horses side-project status, but it's much much more - One of the most consistent and enjoyable pop albums of the year.

5. R.E.M., Accelerate
As any R.E.M. fan will attest - thank god they're back to making relevant music. So long as it's R.E.M. and even half-way decent, it'll get on my top 10.

6.The Magnetic Fields, Distortion
I have heard murmurings that there are those who didn't enjoy this album, but I find it to be the most listenable Magnetic Fields album yet - made up of equal parts shimmery distortion and odd-shorn lyrics, it's a perfect summer album for a winter morning.

7.Liam Finn, I'll Be Lightning
Son of Neil Finn (Crowded House), Liam's debut album is a sort of Beatles hybrid that occasionally sounds like Elliott Smith. It's raw and pretty at the time. More importantly, I bought it eight months ago and still listen to it - rare longevity for a shot in the dark.

8.Sigur Ros, Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust
Nothing different than before, but still - really frickin' pretty.

9.Dosh, Wolves and Wishes
Andrew Bird didn't release an album in 2008, so I'll toss the orchestral sound-pop tiara to the handsomely bearded Dosh, whose album is always good to wind down to after work with a beer.

10. Spiritualized, Songs in A & E
Written during and after a death-defying bout with pneumonia, this album is a great for late nights and headphones - makes you feel happy to be alive.


The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
Chuck Ragan - Feast or Famine
I realize this came out in '07 but I didn't discover it until '08, have listened the sh*t out of it, so IT'S '08 FOR ME!
Langhorne Slim - Langhorne Slim
Parts & Labor - Receivers
Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal

(In no particular order)

TV on the Radio, Dear Science
Sonically, I still hold that Return to Cookie Mountain is a better disc, and if you think "Wolf Like Me" isn't dance track, then you're not trying hard enough. But Dear Science does for dance-pop what OK Computer did for rock and roll- inverted, electrified and re-invigorated it. Give it up for the band with the big ideas and the adventuresome spirit to follow. Live review here.

The Hold Steady, Stay Positive
We will, and we get jams that, even though they leave our fair state and Craig Finn's familiar stomping ground, just get bigger and more brash. "Lord I'm Discouraged" is "How a Resurrection Really Feels" told from the other guy's perspective, and that's a great way to grow up without losing your edge. Bonus points for dirty jokes and double necked guitars. Live review here.

City On the Make, $1,000,000 EP
It's easy to fall for chicks on bikes, as the grinding opening jam proved this summer. But it's even better when we get into the disc- it is a million bucks, one hundred percent, and when he wails "Poor Mike Massey's got eyes for your daughter" and Mischa Kegan tears the licks down behind him, it might as well be a lament for Savannah girls in their Nehi skirts walkin' walkin' walkin' down the block. Ain't they got no respect? Live review here.

Jeremy Messersmith, The Silver City
An exquisite journey through the the pop sounds of days of yore, deftly produced by Dan Wilson. It twinkles and shimmers, the starlight sharper for the darker underpinnings of Messersmith's razor-sharp storytelling. This is a great disc to give to people when they ask you where you live and what it's like. Interview here.

Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit, A Larum
An out-of-left field surprise for me that has become one of my most-listened-to discs this year. Comforting Irish vox, pop-folk with some rock heft and strings, writing that is both sharp, funny and poignant. From "The Wrote & the Writ": "They're taking pictures of the man from God/let's hope his cassock's clean./The burden of being a holy fellow/is your halo better gleam, better gleam." Kick up your heels and reel in your friends.

Kristoff Krane, This Will Work For Now
The earnestness, the fierce drive to make art work for the artists, to make it function, the need to make it and survive. This disc burns with it. Sometimes it over-extends, but it is always true to the artist as necessary creator- the disc runs from braggadocio to doubt and sincerity. And radio-friendly tunes like "Paul Still Loves His Daughter" and "Miracle" are the stuff of silver screen soundtracks. Review here.

Cecil Otter, Rebel Yellow
The poised counterpoint to Krane's manic spin, this disc is just-as-if-not-more dark, introspective and driven. In a banner year for Doomtree, Cecil's produced and written some of the most professional, honest and polished material. Plus, he played the Clapperclaw Festival. So he's the shit.

The Dodos, Visiter
From start to finish, this is one of those records that long-play vinyl was made for. The manic drumming that keeps the base shifting, bending folk guitars layered on top of eachother to make them San Francisco punk, the duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber work their asses off to make one of the fastest moving, most satisfyingly layered discs of the year. Live review here.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
It is one of the continuing miracles of music that it always comes back around. Is it because of the moon, or the connection to orbiting planets? Or because sound is a wave, a sine and cosine along an axis that form perfect circles, whole, enveloping, harmonizing, sustaining circles? With the debut Sun Giant EP and the self-titled LP release in the same year, the Pacific Northwest bellows with beauty again.

Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall
Nonesuch Records sent me back to my first concert with this disc, to a moment when the world opened up to pulsing sound, unstoppable rhythm and pure joy. I think that every other concert-going experience is measured by that yard-stick for me, and it's a tall order. When something measures up, it's worth it. These records and the concerts given by these performers this year (among others) have made it a great 2008. Thank you.

Plus: These Singles Rock
Esau Mwamwaya, "Tengazako"- I defy you not to dance, I defy you to not believe in the power of globalization.
Blitzen Trapper, "Furr"- Turns stock animal noises into proto-mythical creation stories, makes you sing along.
Vampire Weekend, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"- "Do you want to fuck/like I know you do?" I do.
Atmosphere, "You"- Performed on Letterman wearing an Obama shirt, mid-July. Bless.
Diplo, "Reckoner Remix"- Breaks it all apart, bends in Beirut, kicks it to the dancefloor. Thom Yorke should be proud.
Santogold, "L.E.S. Artistes"- Watch it, Santogold is out there and she is coming for your ass.
Plastic Chord, "Thang Goin' On"- A live staple put down for the groove-bustin' record.
Cloud Cult, "The Grandson of Jesus"- Because you could be one of those billion saviors.
Mates of State, "The Re-Arranger"- For you and your lover to mix it up and get down, indie-rock style.
The Black Keys, "Psychotic Girl"- Buzzing like the underwater universe of your broken head.
MGMT, "Time To Pretend"- Distills the hubris of youth to it's ebullient core.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, "Buriedfed"- He's said if he had had his success at 19 instead of at 25, he'd be dead. It's good to be alive.

And now for something completely different...

....the meaning of Christmas:

-Hey Kiefer, you're a pirate, man.
-That would explain everything.



Yesss!! Finally! My lengthy period of antsy-pants waiting will soon cease. Thank you, thank you Mr. Perkins. I am indebted to you for the happiness washing over me at this moment. Come by Minneapolis soon, won't you?

Songs to stream:
"Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville"
"Doomsday" (the rollickin' way he performs it live).

Check out streams of NEW SONGS by Elvis Perkins here!!

In other Rumorville news,Cin15 favs City on the Make are gonna be back in studio sooner rather than later. Gosh, lotsa good news today!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Crunkmas Afterparties!

Yeah, 'tis the season to jolly and once the belts are loosened it makes it easier to shake the pants off. So in the interests of keeping your spirits high, here are some kick-ass shows to make you forget all about your family gatherings and get down with the get-downs.

Friday the 26th:
Minneapolis Kids Have More Fun presents Crunkmas 2008 at the Nomad World Pub
This was a hot mess of a sloppy dancefest last year (check it out here) and you should definitely hit it up for it's 2008 incarnation:
TAPE JAYS (oh damn)
and a very special BROWN MOSES reunion
$5 9pm 21+

Saturday the 27th: presents Big Quarters, Kristoff Krane, Carnage, Hyder Ali, El Guante at 7th St Entry
To celebrate the release of their first official print edition, presents some of the top names in local hip-hop:
Big Quarters w/Benzilla
Kristoff Krane
Carnage the Executioner
Hyder Ali
El Guante and See More Perspective
and introducing Simply Us and the 2 Sides of We
$5 presale / $7 door 8pm 18+

Jenny Dalton at the Kitty Kat Club
Fresh off her 2nd full length Rusalka's Umbrella, Jenny is joined by some of her good friends at the Kitty Kat Club, for a show that promises to be a beautiful way to lounge around and let your cares get soaked up in lush melodies.
Jenny Dalton
Luke Redfield
James Apollo
Free 10pm 21+

Dosh at the Cedar Cultural Center
An ambient night of creativity that should send sparks shooting off the eardrums and open up giant hallucinogenic portals into textured lightshows climbing up your leg and rubbing underneath the chin and.....sorry, carried away. The noise is good.
Dark Dark Dark
DJ Odd Nosdam
$12 presale / $15 door 8pm AA

Yeah. DOOOOOOOOIT. Merry Fuckin' Xmas, kids.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm Hopeful

2008 may be marked to go down in history for many reasons, but let's not forget those important in the local music world. One such event to remember is the release of "Now Playing at the One-Seat Theatre" by pop favorites The Hopefuls. Their last album, "The Fuses Refuse to Burn" spun relentlessly in my car and home CD players for months on end. You could see me anytime on the street humming to "Pretty Bigmouth" or "Holiday." I couldn't help it. It was my crack.

This new album merges old with new, as long-time audience favorites like "On the Edge" and "Idaho" finally become imprinted in a physical format. We can take it home with us instead of just trying to hum the tunes in our heads. New songs like "Virgin Wood" and "Stacey" (yeah, they must've misspelled it... what's with the 'e' guys?) will also give you an earworm you might not be able to get rid of. I can tell you though that the band is already working on album number three, so the wait can't be nearly as painful and long as the last.
You'll get your chance to see The Hopefuls this Saturday (hey, that's tomorrow!) at First Avenue for the band's CD release show. Doors are at 6pm and One for the Team and Chris Koza open. You can pick up tickets at The Electric Fetus or the door. See you there! Oh, and for those who wonder, I have it on good authority that Rupert will be hanging out too.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This week in the economy... not so good. The fallout from Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme is projected at about a $300 million hit to the Twin Cities. A lot of that hit goes to businesses and individual investors, but charities, non-profits and aid organizations are going to take it on the chin. The belt that was tightening is going to need a couple new holes to cinch in.

Intermedia Arts is the latest arts organization taking a big hit. This the 30-year old organization whose graffiti covered building on 28th and Lyndale is unmistakable. They put on the B-Girl Be Festival, the Naked Stages Performance Series and some of the most community involved arts and performance events in the Twin Cities. Now, much of their operational budget has dried up or been delayed, and like so many precarious but vital small-arts organization, they simply don't have the capital to sustain though. They will be shuttering the gallery and poetry library effective January 9th, moving staff to hourly and contract work. But they are fighting back, and need your help. From the Intermedia Arts website:

"Intermedia Arts can survive this economy. We can even come out on the other side stronger and more sustainable than ever before. But in order to do that, we need you to take action now—today.

This is what we need you to do:

1. RSVP now. We need you here at Intermedia Arts’ Community Townhall: Rally the People! at 5:30PM on Friday, December 19th. We are asking you to make it a priority to be here, in person. You will hear from artists, community leaders, Intermedia Arts’ staff and board. You will have a chance to ask questions and offer suggestions. You will find out what you can do to keep Intermedia Arts alive. We need to see you here: show your support by showing up. Free childcare available! RSVP right now!

2. Make a donation. Supporting Intermedia Arts is critical right now, and every dollar counts. We need your support to help us with our general operating expenses as we implement our plan for long-term sustainability. This isn’t about keeping Intermedia Arts open for another month; this is about keeping Intermedia Arts in our community for the long-term. Right now, that future depends on you. We need you to make a donation today.

3. Email us. We need to hear from you. We need to hear your encouragement, your ideas, your commitment of support, your suggestions and feelings. Send us your questions, tell us what you think, and look to our website for updates, responses, community FAQs and news each and every step of the way.

4. Rent our space for your next performance, event, meeting or exhibition. Our building is a valuable asset to the arts community and we want it to continue to stay active and alive.

Now is time for each and every one of us to draw on our passion and our conviction, and play our part. This is a rallying cry. Together, we will meet this challenge and lead our community forward. Because Intermedia Arts matters. Because your voice matters. Because Intermedia Arts is YOU."


The Little Skeleton That Could Not- An Essay

Cake in 15 imagines itself as a "culture blog". Yeah, there is a good dose of music, but we are all omnivores here, with wide and variegated interests. As writers, photographers, actors, critics, commentators and god-knows-what-else, we are not just content to let culture happen around us, but attempt to be an active part of the discourse and agents of our own change. In that vein, and full of shameless self-promotion, I offer up an essay that I wrote following The Little Skeleton That Could Not by Lamb Lays with Lion, the theater company of which Cake in 15 contributors c.a.s. and Dan O. are members. It's not your usual blog fare, and if you don't like it skip it. Just 'cause you're in Blockbuster doesn't mean you have to rent a movie.

The Little Skeleton That Could Not by Lamb Lays with Lion 11/20/2008, The Hexagon Bar

What just happened on stage? Nervous laughter is good, a punctuating belly laugh is better, seasoned, confounded silence is best. As one reviewer put it, “It all would have been in rather poor taste if it hadn't actually been quite funny.”

The Little Skeleton That Could Not, the latest group work by Lamb Lays with Lion played out like this at the Hexagon Bar on November 20th, 2008. It is a triptych of short scenes, each one growing with misplaced enthusiasm and senses of well-being.

In the first vignette, LLwL company member Jayne Deis takes the stage, obviously not in the best of health, hiding behind her notebook from the harsh illumination provided by the single handheld spotlight and proceeds to tell us that she is going to tell us about the 12 Steps of alcoholism. Instead, though, of reading from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program, she haltingly starts off on a list of her own creation that has darker, more personal overtones; “Number One. If you look into the mirror and find you have nothing to live for, you might be an alcoholic.” Pitiable down the list, she re-visits points until she is interrupted by Ashley Smith and Julia Mae Fairbanks Thompson, dressed in matching black pant and white t-shirts who inform her that this was last week’s performance, that she missed because she was “passed out at Memory Lanes.”

Debauched Identity Theatrics after the Jump

Smith and Thompson, having dispatched Deis, proceed into “an informative talk” about “an important subject”: AIDS. You can see the parenthetical quotes around their dialogue, the vernacular spins off from PSAs and After School Specials and Fairbanks one-ups Smith with biological details about the functioning of the HIV retrovirus. The discussion of transmission, a serious topic, devolves into scatological repetition of bodily fluids as the flustered twosome try to keep their place. Their scene is abruptly ended by the appearance of a skeleton onstage.

The skeleton (Melissa Anne Murphy) smiles and has an upbeat, sunny, if flip disposition. She, too, is here with an important message. She is here to talk about anorexia, and how it may be right for you. Look at the wonders it has done for her. She talks of becoming a role model for other anorexics, her temptations and the support her community brings her. If she were talking about recovery from alcoholism it would be a downright heartwarming scene. But she is not, the crowd is uncomfortable, heckles a bit and then the skeleton is interrupted by Thompson and Smith who charge back on stage with “AI” and “DS” scrawled on their shirts and skull make-up smeared on. Look at what they’ll do to pull attention back to themselves. There is a back and forth, dramatically lit, of heavy breathing, statistics that are patently false, upbeat non-sequiturs of encouragement, building until the band that has amassed quietly behind them tears into a howling rock-blues number. “Die Die Die” goes the band and the trio onstage galvanize into a goofy show-tunes dance offstage right. Deis charges back on only to be chased away by the skeleton. The band keeps playing and goes into their regular set.

What just happened here?

The closest extant category that Skeleton could be dropped in to, and was in post-show discussion, would be agit-prop. But this is no cardboard cut-out protest with a single-minded end of revolution. If Skeleton is to be considered agit-prop, it must be considered so in newer and more subtle terms. Jan Cohen-Cruz outlines these terms in the introduction to her collection of essays entitled Radical Street Performance:

“Notwithstanding,… agit-prop is possible in ‘culturally pluralistic’ societies, but with these caveats: 1. as social contexts become more complex, agit-prop may serve a an educational function around a specific issue, not necessarily advocating general revolution; 2. the actors must believe that they know a solution to a compelling social problem and be prepared to take the same steps they are urging upon audiences.”

Vaguely, the work of Lamb Lays with Lion could be considered within these parameters, but subverts them both. There is an “educational function” implicit in the use of data: you now know that 1-800-CDC-INFO is the number to call and are resources about disease control. Jayne Deis serves as an apropos discourse on alcoholism, given the locale of the performance. Even so, Skeleton, is more about the conflict of datas, the falsity and truths of abutting statements and their uncomfortable relationships. The Skeleton character builds up a positive community taken directly from support sites by and for anorexics to keep them anorexic, but this is not disclosed to the audience, nor is it presented at face value- she is a skeleton! A happy, smiling, fulfilled skeleton telling you how great anorexia can be. No wonder there are uncomfortable laughs; even if it doesn’t fall into the category, Lamb Lays with Lion is surely trafficking in agitation.

Nor Lamb Lays with Lion does not posit a solution or bring down a moral judgment with which they exhort the audience. The show starts out identifiably strange and plunges into absurdity, and this keys into how the performers identify themselves. Jayne Deis’ “Jayne Deis” might just be a hungover Jayne, a slight abstraction- you know that girl. Therein lies some of the original humor. Telling stories of drinking cigarette butts the morning after appeals to a base-level gross out humor, but also, for the young bar crowd assembled, contains a mote of self-identification. If you haven’t done it, you probably know someone who has. Thompson and Smith’s “Julia” and “Ashley” step up that distance, transforming themselves into an empty sounding board from where their research and the data they hear echoes forth. The Skeleton is familiar in tone, but so far afield in content that it makes conscious and exposes that this is a performance, and not a testimonial. The malleability of our own identity and our desire to hear information that conforms to expected conventions is toyed with and exposed in subtle, disturbing ways. The sources of information are untrustworthy, what we identify with may be further away than we think, we should be able to describe that disconnect.

So again, what is it? It is rock and roll; self-indulgent and generous, it is theatre; playing with shifting identity and information, scripted and spontaneous and not what one would expect at a bar. The words you heard had come out of a process of discussion, research and play. The scene’s absurdity comes from our own senses and the barrage of information, all of them untrustworthy in their own way. As artist Jenny Holzer’s proposed in her series “Truisms”: “Description is more valuable than metaphor”. Lamb Lays with Lion is here to describe, channel and filter the world around you, not to make it easier for you to understand.

* De Young, David “Lamb Lays with Lion w/Plastic Chord video from the Hexagon” (How Was The Show Blog,
** Cohen-Cruz, Jan Radical Street Perfomance, (London: Routledge Publishing, 1998) 14
*** Holzer, Jenny The Venice Installation, (Buffalo, NY: The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 1990) 3

Also at the Lamb Lays with Lion website:

The Little Skeleton That Could Not will be presented at the Bedlam Theatre January 16-18 in conjunction with Paint the Town by Insurgent Theatre from Milwaukee and musical performance by To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie.

New Jersey? Really?

Bands are hard to keep together and long-standing Minneapolis punky-country group Chokecherry find them selves in a break-up way. Bassist Bob, often times Sound-Guy-for-the-Hex Bob is moving to New Jersey- you'll have to ask him what greener pastures he sees there. The farewell shindig is this Friday the 19th at the Hex, with a grip of sounds and friends in Luther the Devil, the Nightinghales and Marvelle. As always, the Hex is free, and buy your drinks from the back bar, that gets split among the bands.

Sorry about the cut off poster, Blogger is apparently face down in the egg-nog right now.

Today in Awesome: Ms.Pacman

I went in to Blacklist Vintage on 27th & Nicollet to find a present for my aunt, instead I found Ms. Pacman. The beautiful old sit-down, cocktail table style game with bleeps and flashing embedded screen. So I played. And played and played. I felt guilty, here I am, in the someone else's store, in the season of giving and here I am indulging my own desires, doing just what I want. I make Baby Jesus cry. But if Baby Jesus was here, he would play Ms. Pacman with me. That is all. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cinema Revolution+Dance+Music=ArtyPants Awesomeness

Speaking of local institutions, the ever-struggling, ever-triumphant, most wonderful goddamn video-collection-having folks at Cinema Revolution are throwing themselves a 5th anniversary party over at Intermedia Arts. In anticipation, owner John Koch put out a call for collaborations between dancers and film-makers last April and the resulting efforts read like a who's who of the local dance and film scenes. You gotta love hybridization like this, cross-pollination and growth. I mean, just get a taste of these fun arty-party people who got together: Mad King Thomas and Katinka Galanos, Vanessa Voskuil and John Koch, Justin Jones and Kevin Obsatz, Laurie Van Wieren , Sally Rousse of James Sewell Ballet, Anna Marie Shogren, Charles Campbell of Skewed Visions, Kristin Van Loon of Hijack and Elliott Durko-Lynch...

...among others.

Yeah. And even if you don't make it out, go over to Cinema Revolution's NEW location at 2431 Lyndale Ave South. They're open late, so open an account, put a dollar in the tip jar, then go home and let your mind go celluloid lovely.

Cinema Revolution's Dance Film Project
December 12th and December 13th 7PM
To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie play December 13

@ Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
$8-12 (pay-what-you-choose)

Photo credit: Image from "throne/thrown" by Vanessa Voskuil and John Koch

Buy Locally, Think Stylishly

If you're looking for something to put a twinkle in your eye and a sparkle in your step this holiday, head over to the Gaviidae Commons II in downtown MPLS this holiday season for "Rare Affections", a holiday pop-up store featuring all local designers and crafters. Local fashion stalwarts Jahna Peloquin of Eclecticoiffeur and and Emma Berg, who runs the indispensable MPLSART website have curated a collection of unique holiday dresses from local designers and they can be yours or someone special's for the keeping. Designers include Cake In 15 faves Calpurnia Peach, Anna Lee (of Voltage) for Ruby3, Max Lohrbach, Laura Fulk and many others. As with food, bands, artists and institutions, get local fashion and help it grow.

MNFashion holiday store hours:
Monday through Saturday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday noon – 5:00 pm
Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed Christmas and New Year’s Day

Gaviidae Common II, 555 Nicollet Mall, 2nd floor, Dowtown Minneapolis. Brought to you by MNFashion

Photo Credits: White rabbit fur strapless mini-dress by Veronica del Carmen Gomez Whitney / Image by Nic Marshall / Styling by Eclecticoiffeur / Modeled by Kate Fuller

Also, while you're down at Gaviidae, I have to put a pitch in for STYLEDLIFE, a boutique featuring an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage jewelry, accessories and accoutrements. A pricier stocking stuffer, but a decidedly cultivated one.

Plastic Chord to release "Electric Tendrils" EP this Saturday

As many bands hunker down for winter hibernation and creation time, arty rock ensemble Plastic Chord are out releasing a new EP to keep the winter blues away. Frontman Orion Treon says that the 5 track disc is poppier than some previous releases as it is comprised mainly of previously unrecorded live staples. Expect the danceability of their big clattering noise to get kicked up a notch, especially with tracks like "Thang Goin' On", so come on out and get down like all those mischievous skeletons in your winter closet.

Saturday December 13 2008, 10pm at the Hex. FREE. 21+

With party-rockers The Guystorm, This Machine and The Hasbeen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dance Band's Holiday Shakedown!

Everyone's favorite booty-shakin' Minneapolitans are generously giving away FREE holiday tracks to celebrate the season. The tracks are the product of an alum, The Perfect Beat, who moved to Duluth for a job earlier this year. Our thanks to The Perfect Beat and everyone in Dance Band for the killer tracks. Now go shake some ass!

Get it here.

Oh, Noel and Liam...

I remember when I first heard (What's the Story) Morning Glory? On bootleg tape in my friend Alex Watson's bedroom- a chubby, beady-eyed Brit who hated everything about living overseas and who smoked cigarettes and drank- perfect for introducing me to the Brothers Gallagher. The bickering, the blasphemy, the beautiful roaring guitars. Go back to Definitely Maybe and the lure of sex and drugs an alcohol, the idea of escape and and those epic, self-indulgent lyrics: "I'm gonna start a revolution from my bed/'Cause you said the brains I had went to my head." I took fiercely partisan sides in the Oasis/Blur debate, tried to learn enough guitar to try and twang out "Wonderwall and "All Round The World". "Wonderwall" is still the only song I know the chords to. Anyway, years past, I moved stateside, I couldn't stomach anything from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants except for "Fucking in the Bushes" which was on the Snatch soundtrack. So it goes. But rockers die hard, especially ones with nation-sized egos and aspirations of Beatlesesque grandeur, not to mention some goddamn talent. So they come roaring back, and now they come roaring into town.

I suppose it is too much, since they are on tour with Ryan Adams, for some sort of giant cluster-fuck epic rock and roll meltdown. No, the boys made nice, Ryan Adams has put out the juggernaut disc he's always been promising, and everyone seems to be even keel to rock stardom and longevity. The Rolling Stones will needs a replacement on the aging rock circuit, and as Noel has reportedly said, "Who wants to be a drug addict at 40?" Keep the fights down, the spirits high, live forever. Here's some good old Oasis, live on Jools Holland, 2000:

Oasis with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals at the Target Center, December 10, 7:00pm.

(Oh, and who knew the Target Center had a blog?)

UPDATE: Via NME: Oasis are set to release an iTunes exclusive EP on the 9th, basically an "I'm Outta Time" single with some demo material and re-mixes. Sweet.

UPDATE UPDATE: Walking home Tuesday night and Liam Gallagher was smoking outside Ping's, talking to some of his entourage. Not so much worse for the wear, he looks pretty good, definitely not in Keith Richards territory. I did a double take, and kept on going.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Nada Surf Cures the Common Cold at the Fine Line

On the day after Thanksgiving, (I believe it to be known as Black Friday) I was tired and felt like a major cold was about to consume me. I had been in the car for 4 hours and was tired. What I needed was to go home, get in my p-jams, and down some Alka Seltzer Cold & Flu. What I got was--Plop, plop, fizz, fizz—a great set from Nada Surf at a semi-packed Fine Line Music Café.

I have been waiting to see Nada Surf since 2003, when they dropped their 3rd album, Let Go. (My schedule never matched up with theirs, until now.) It was worth the wait. Matthew Caws, Ira Elliot, and Daniel Lorcahe all hit the stage with great energy and excitement for the crowd assembled. (Matthew later declared The Fine Line as one of their favorite places to play.) I gladly followed the boys as their set ebbed and flowed through their melancholy softer tunes, like "Inside Of Love" and "Your Legs Grow" into their rocking melodic pop songs such as, "Whose Authority" and "Do It Again." Of course, a highlight for me was when they played their mid-90’s hit, "Popular." I was immediately taken back to my pubescent years in high school — a good visit down memory lane, but I’m glad I don’t have to go back. It is definitely not my favorite song in their library of tunes, but one I’m glad I got to hear live. The boys kept their momentum all the way through to the end when they finished their encore with "Blankest Year" — a song that was my anthem for a better part of a year in college.

It is always a bit of a gamble when you see a favorite band for the first time. Will they live up to what you expect, or will they disappoint? Luckily, Nada Surf didn’t let me down. They are an excellent live band who enjoys what they do. Ira even threw some comical comments out to us from behind his drum set, showing his enjoyment of the show. I’ve never really seen that from a drummer. Unfortunately, Matthew and Daniel didn’t really interact with each other. Was Life on the road getting to them or did one of them hog all the stuffing the day before? Who knows? Either way, they played a great show and I am very glad that I wasn’t a pansy who stayed home to nurse my approaching illness. In fact, Nada Surf was just what the doctor ordered (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). The next morning I felt great, as if the boys and their infectious music had cured me. Thank you Nada Surf for saving me a trip to the medicine isle at Walgreens.

As a side note, I unfortunately missed the first opening band, The Jealous Girlfriends. I did, however, catch Delta Spirit, the second in the line up, and I highly recommend this group from California. You should definitely check out their album Ode to Sunshine.

Review by guest writer Jake Lindgren.

Download mp3s by Nada Surf:
See These Bones
Do It Again
Blankest Year
Blonde on Blonde

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Alarmists Hit the Studio

Check out this update from Tony Najm, bass player for local Minneapolis band The Alarmists:

Hello Everyone, it has been a while since we last chatted. We hope you've all recovered from Thanksgiving week, and being back at work isn't wearing you down too much. A lot has happened in Alarmists camp since we last spoke. Back in August, we were still looking for a producer, a studio to record in and all that stuff that comes with making a new record.

Through the powers of the internet we met Producer extraordinaire Andrew Lynch. Andrew expressed interest in working with us, and we were dumbfounded since his catalog includes producing the latest Earlimart record 'Hymn & Her'. So that was a pretty easy choice as we're all HUGE fans of Earlimart, and you should be too. As for what studio to record in? We contacted our longtime trusty friend Producer/Engineer Adam Krinsky, and he said 'you should definitely head straight down to Flyte Tyme, and grab a case of beers on your way.' As some of you may know Flyte Tyme has now become the great Masters Recording Institute, and it's where hundreds of pop records from the likes of Janet Jackson, Usher, Mariah Carey, and even Michael Jackson were made.

So into the Studio we headed for 10 days, we got all the music done on 12 FRESH tracks as they say :) The new record should be out early summer, a lot more updates and pictures will be coming your way. Thanks for reading.

The Alarmists

Please enjoy a slideshow of photos I took over a series of three days in studio with the boys. After hearing the few tracks I was privileged enough to be in the studio for, I can honestly say I can't wait for the new album. Enjoy!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Music at the Walker Art Center

The Walker just sent out their monthly music email, which included details for shows this spring. Shows start at 8pm and vary in cost. The Dean & Britta performance, slated for February 28, looks the most interesting, as it accompanies silent film portraits shot by Andy Warhol.

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips
February 28

Singer/guitarist /composer Dean Wareham (formerly of Galaxie 500 and Luna) was commissioned by The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to compose music to accompany some of Warhol’s rarely seen silent-film portraits, which the artist called Screen Tests. These extraordinary documents of the 1960s New York art scene constitute a voluminous portrait gallery of well-known celebrities, Factory superstars, and anonymous teenagers. Wareham’s wistful tenor and languorous songs and Britta Phillips’ dreamy harmonies make the perfect live sound track for Warhol’s technically simple yet transfixing films.

Preshow celebrity-portrait gallery tour at 7 pm (free with event ticket).

Dirty Projectors
March 6

Premiering music from his upcoming CD.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
March 19

Get tickets and more information on the performances here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Feelin' Crafty?

The No Coast Craft-o-Rama is a craft event that began in December 2005 as a way to feature a variety of designers, artists, crafters and other talented creators of unique handmade goods. It's a great way to support local artists and get some great holiday gifts!

It’s coming up on December 5th (3 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and 6th (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at the Midtown Global Exchange building.

Some of my favorite vendors participating in the sale include poster god Adam Turman, Owly Shadow Puppets (I have the Yetti), and i like you minneapolis.

A full list of vendors is available here. Let the shopping begin!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Western Fifth - CD review & interview

Listening to Western Fifth’s recent release Stand Like a Thief is a little like dancing that achingly fleeting slow dance with the girl (or guy, depending) that you almost but never quite asked out in high school. This is not to say by any means that the music itself evokes high school – it feels more like the late nights spent on porches across America at the end of a party where those remaining are a little too drunk to get home and so sit, smoke cigarettes and wait for sobriety or dawn, whichever comes first. Add those two (somewhat disparate) elements together and you’ll get a basic approximation of this encompassing and enjoyable debut offering.

When put onto I-Tunes, the Genre listed is “Country,” which lead me to wonder who makes the determination of the genre. Does the band get to decide what their genre is? If asked to pick a genre for Western Fifth, I’d probably offer up some strange hybrid like post-country shoe-gaze indie rock, which doesn’t fit in the genre box on I-Tunes, so it’s probably best that no one asked me. The band has an interesting and rewarding way of reminding the listener of a different band with every listening. Upon repeat visits, I have uncovered sounds and songs influenced or reminiscent of Wilco, The Walkmen (see below for why this isn’t an influence), Okkervil River, and surprisingly upon my most recent listen – a dose of early Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers. Listen to the burst of organ on the their third track “In the End I Went Away” and see if you can disagree.

Cake in 15 was lucky enough to secure an exclusive email interview with Western Fifth’s singer/guitar player Ryan Holweger! While the fact that the questions are mostly longer than the answers might call into question my journalistic abilities, I will respond by saying that a) I’m a writer, not a journalist, and b) think of it as an interactive interview/review and you’ll be just fine. Enjoy!

Cake in 15: The first time I listened to the new album all the way through, I was driving between Chicago & Minneapolis, having dropped my fiancée off at the airport to fly off to New York, leaving me on my own for three long weeks. My Ipod got in a fight with the car stereo system and froze. I had brought the "Stand Like A Thief" album along to see how it felt on the road, and due to the sudden loss of Ipod (at 10 am, I might add - Two hours into a six hour drive) I put it in and sped through the Madison area. Would you consider this the best way to listen to the album? If you could chose, when & where would you recommend a listening party for maximum aesthetic & emotional impact?

Ryan Holweger: Although I think listening while driving is a good way to hear this record, it might be better suited for a dimly lit room, a couch, some liquor, and a good set of headphones. I think a good place for a listening party would be a small, cozy dive-bar, or maybe in the living room of an old house.

C15: Do you hate being compared to other bands? For instance, if I said that upon first listen I was instantly reminded of Okkervil River's *Down the River of Golden Dreams*, would you be annoyed or pleased? Would you rather be compared to The Walkmen?

RH: I’d be very pleased with a comparison to Okkervil River (one of my favorite bands). I’ve never heard the Walkmen, so I guess I’m not sure about that. I don’t think I’d ever be annoyed with comparisons to other bands, as long as it holds some merit. I feel that it’s a very effective way to give a reader a good idea on how a band might sound.

C15: Name one band you'd love to be mentioned in the same breath with, as well as one that you'd rather never be compared to again.

RH: I’m not sure if there is one single band I want to be compared to the most, but we are pleased with the different comparisons we’ve had so far (Wilco, Band of Horses, The Replacements, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Okkervil River, etc). As far as a band we’d never want to be compared to again, I’m not sure I can answer that. I suppose we’d have to be compared to a band that we don’t like before we can hope it never happens again. That being said, I hope no one ever compares us to The Eagles.

C15: The air of melancholia pervades the album - Seeps through the cracks, and many of the lyrics deal with death, love, defiance, or a combination of all three. As artists, do you find that writing in a certain mood helps to articulate your work?

RH: I find that for the most part, the mood definitely has an effect on the writing, in that I typically don’t write unless I’m in a certain mood. If I’m not in that certain mood, then the songwriting doesn’t happen. I rarely just decide to sit down and try write a song – it usually only happens after an idea comes first. That’s not always the case, but generally that’s the way it is.

C15: Do you seek to immerse your listener in the world that you've built, or is it enough to simply offer up a song for the listener to react to however he or she chooses?

RH: I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about like that. For the most part, we just hope the listener will take the time to enjoy the music, and hopefully get something out of it if they choose to – if they become immersed in the song, or the album as a whole, that is even better.

C15: What's next? Where can the Cake in 15 readers find Western Fifth in the near future?

RH: Well, we’ll be playing out around the Twin Cities as usual, hopefully getting some people interested in the new album. We’re also promoting it a bit in Europe and getting some airplay, so we hope to build on that as well, maybe sell some records over there. We’ll probably do another tour sometime next year. This past summer we hit a bunch of Midwestern & southern states (Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Missouri) so hopefully we can go back to those places, and maybe to the East Coast, too.

C15: Thank you! Readers can access the band’s Myspace page here and the album is out and available and highly recommended.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cloud Cult: Feed the Living

Cloud Cult at The Whole 11/21/2008“…We’re very happy to be back in Minneapolis- it’s been a long time- in Minneapolis- since we’ve played for such an intimate setting, so this is pretty cool. Thanks for being here.” Craig Minowa smiled out at the crowd, sleep-mask askew on his forehead, one bare foot tapping. The band tuned between songs, the painters- Craig’s wife Connie and Scott West- at work producing rainbow-mixed birds and tragically sad women. And then came another song, another rush of noise, another uplift into escape.

Cloud Cult had come back from tour to play one last show before their winter hiatus, and had crammed themselves onto the tiny stage at the Whole. The room in the basement of the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union is best described by the removal of the “w” from its’ name; a long, low cave of a room. The assembled crowd had sat in patient anticipation, semi-circled like kindergarteners, through the opening set by Jelloslave. The four-piece of two cellos, Indian tables and a drums had played a warm opening set that had people clapping and swaying with occasional burst of surprise and recognition. Even though their regular drummer Greg Schutte was away, he was more than capably subbed by JT Bates, indisputably one of the best and most affable kit-men in Minneapolis. Tripping through mixes and medleys that swung between ragas and covers of the Beatles, Joy Division and closed with a bang with Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.

It’s not hard to give love at a Cloud Cult show, in fact, it is a prime motivation of the band. Unlike some feel-good jam band that their name would seem to imply, this is a serious rock band whose core- Craig and his wife Connie- have traveled through darkness and back into light. It was the sudden death of the Minowa’s 2-year old son in 2002 that galvanized Craig’s songwriting and dedication to the music- working through grief. 2007’s Meaning of 8 was so titled because that would have been the age of the lost boy. It would seem morbid, near exploitative to hold tragedy that close, but without it the escape, the honesty of sharing and hope that so embodies the canon of Cloud Cult would be nowhere near as sublime.

Standing pressed up against the stage with the bass amp by my feet the music literally vibrates against my body, and when I am told that everybody here is a cloud I look around and see other people around me, all intangibly happy and our mouths form the same worlds together and purpose is not something that we need to worry about now. Now we are all together and we know the darkest places of ourselves are not so dark with other people there with you. No, it is not a cult; it is transcendental meditation, Plato’s creation myth of being divided halves looking for our other part, it is meteorological metaphors for turbulent times. It is crystalline sense of purpose, womb of sound, it is rock and roll music. To cop another local band made good, it won’t save you but it can bring you to a place where you can save yourself.

Minowa looked sheepishly out into the audience and apologized- the band is all sick, he said- we have been on tour and passed the same cold back and forth. But, he promises, “we are going to put on the best show possible for you.” From the crowd, someone yells, “You always do!” And we cheer, and they smile, because they love us and we love them.

No One said It Would Be Easy into Chemicals Collide:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

File under "Things White People Like"

Cities97 released it's Sampler Volume 20 today, and here a couple fuzzy phone shots of the crowd at the downtown Target:
It's a good thing the proceeds go to charity, because I would hate to think of all these people lining through the skyways for exclusive Jason Mraz and Matchbox 20 tracks. (To be fair, the Sampler also has locals like Jeremy Messersmith and the Glad Version on it, so that's great. I just think a lot of white people in awkward crowds is funny.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weekend To-Do and Ticket Giveaway!!!

A nice mix of shameless self promotion and give-aways, here are some of our recommended events this weekend:

Thursday: Fort Wilson Riot with Plastic Chord & Speed's the Name at the Hexagon- PLUS Lamb Lays with Lion Premieres "The Little Skeleton That Could Not"Starts at 9pm, best of all, it's FREE!

Friday: The Absent Arch CD Release with A Paper Cup Band, the Glad Version and the Chord and the Fawn at the Triple Rock Social ClubCakeIn15 is proud to co-sponsor this show, so we have two pairs of tickets to give away to you lucky dogs! Message us at or tell us in the comments that you want 'em and why!

Saturday: A Benefit for Andromeda at the 331 Club
Host Alexei Caselle (Kill The Vultures, Roma di Luna) just added a new child to his family- so congratulate him- and is reaching out to the music scene to help a family member and mother who is afflicted with lukemia. Great bands and the 331 is always free, so spend that money in helping out another human being. Then go lobby for universal health care.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Party to Live: Rock + Roll Means Well Tour

The Hold Steady + Drive-By Truckers at First Ave 11/16/2008I tell you this - and I use the first person preposition because this post will be disgustingly self-serving and totally devoid of journalistic objectivity - that the Hold Steady can save a life. Yeah, yeah, the Hold Steady almost killed me... the killer parties almost killed me and when I was done trying to die the music was still there, talking to me about the syntax of trying - we won't save you, but we'll get you to a place where you can save yourself. Nothing's a fake fight when it's against yourself. I'll roll when I'm ready.

It's foolish 'cause I want it, want to feel a part of it and smiling kids are always screaming for more. There is a hard-bit sweetness for the scene before it got druggy, cutting our baby teeth and saving us from fangs. I say it, but I don't really want to be 17 forever...but I do like the warm feeling - bundling up against the wind coming off the Mississippi, carrying salt, cliques and hisses, the whole chorus of city kids trying to stay alive, stay real high.

Don't die! Any night they play half of Separation Sunday is a good night for absolution, and Craig Finn says it every time, every time and I go back to hear it. Need it so much so that I've stolen it for my own ends. I use this ending to a monologue I've been working out, stories about telling stories, trying to get the honesty ingrained in me so that it becomes reflexive but rock and roll. Rock and roll means well, but it can't help but tell boys lies. But hey, he gave it to me, right?

...And I'm trying to understand America,
to get it through a bar band and I still can't comprehend
why the Hold Steady need day jobs and night jobs as bar backs,
and how the acclaim doesn't mean they sell records.
There's something wrong with that.
Each song is like a benediction
to a country of half-hearted Christians
and backstabbing best friends,
kids are human beings and it says;
We see you, you're here and we are too.
Craig Finn, his arms flailing like busted wings
grabs the microphone and beams and twists
and screams, that he always says it,
he always does, he always does:
Is so much Joy!
In what they do onstage
And thank you, we love you,
Minneapolis/Saint Paul.

I suppose it doesn't even matter. I love you too, I love me too, it doesn't matter which city because we have gone out to find America, you and I. We have gone out to find America, you and I, and found ourselves in bars and reststops and schools and malls and found ourselves.
Oh yeah, the Drive-By Truckers were there too - see what I mean about lack of journalistic objectivity, they co-headline for crissakes - but I have never been a huge fan of theirs. I have dismissively said that their lineage is Lynyrd Skynyrd and not all that much else - and I still stand by that. But they have a good time. The Hold Steady guys seem to have a good time with them, and they played the two songs of theirs that I really do like, "Dead Drunk and Naked," and, as an encore, "Let There Be Rock." A damn fine story about fucking up and turning out alright. Now that's a benediction, and I've been doing just fine, thank you very much.

"Stay Positive" into "Stevie Nix":

"Constructive Summer" into "Stuck Between Stations":

Saturday, November 15, 2008

RocknRollCupcake: 11/13/2008

Gabriel Kahane at the 400 BarRunning over Gabriel Kahane's biography begs the question- What is he doing at the 400 Bar? The venerable rock n' roll hole doesn't often play host to acts endorsed by Brad Mehldau or whose previous projects include a "country-infused retelling of the story of the Prophet Mohammed". It was in fact, that incongrous mix that was the draw to the 400, especially the promise of hearing Kahane's Craigslistlieder, a cycle of songs based on random Craigslist posts. Kahane played two of the 8 songs, one as an encore, and his confident, light piano playing well accompanied his cabaret-inflected baritone to create songs that were absurd, powerful and human.

Touring in support of his self titled debut album, Kahane spent most of the time playing with his band of multi-instrumentalists and they worked best with songs like "Underberg" whose plaintive arrangement beautifully encapsulated the collapse and love in the lyrics. The backing group, sounding like Sufjan Stevens' orchestra (with whom Kahane has worked) or locally, Spaghetti Western String Company, were so obviously talented that the orchestration often out-shone Kahane as the band leader and overtook the astute lyrics. After the show, when asked about his musical background, Kahane was vague, saying he had studied at Brown and his father was a classical musician- there is no doubt that he is talented- but, he said conspiratorially, "Some of the ringers in the band, they, they've got some serious classical music chops." Keep it all in balance and watch this pop composer to make a mark, by himself and with others.

Gabriel Kahane is available now on iTunes, Amie Street, and eMusic.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Losing Some, Going on to Win Anyway: Milk

"I'm Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you!" is the line that gay activist and icon Harvey Milk would use to open his stump speeches. Milk, his advocacy, election to San Francisco City Supervisor- making him the first openly gay elected official- and subsequent assassination are the subject of Gus van Sant's biopic Milk, opening nationwide November 26th. After a sneak peak this week, the timeliness of this movie cannot be overstated. The same day that we moved against prejudice on one front by electing the nations' first black president, we fell back on another front as bans on gay marriage such as California's Proposition 8 were passed.

Sean Penn is all the center of attention in Van Sant's well-paced film, bringing to life Milk's charisma and drive, as well as his own balancing act between ego and sense of alientation. Milk also includes standout performances from James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and Diego Luna, and Van Sant effectively uses archive footage of news reports and Christian morals crusader Anita Bryant to dramatize the struggle against Proposition 6, an initiative that would have outlawed homosexuals and those who supported them from being teachers. Instead of hiding behind vague human rights language to fight the Proposition, Milk advocated a campaign of coming out and acknowledgment, arguing that it is more openness would fight demonization. Go for the history, stay for the story, leave feeling challenged, refreshed and hopeful.

Take to the streets this Saturday. For more info, head to

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Acting in the Times: Shadowlands and Dying City

It is a historic moment in America. It is a moment that is made historic by the confluence of past and present contexts- the immediacy of war and economic crisis, a history of division and an act of coming together. Times like these, days like November 4th, 2008, are days that will marked in grand narratives of nations and culture, they are days too that will be remembered by individuals- we will tell where we were, what we are doing, like we have done since. PostSecret, the ongoing project where people anonymously mail in their deepest secrets to share had an aptly succinct illustration of this confluence of personal and social narrative this week: a letter was sent that read, "November 4th, 2008 will be the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. Barack Obama is our 44th President and I finally caught my cheating/abusive boyfriend red-handed."

Narrative brings me to theatre, which is also where history will have me- seeing two plays this historic week. On the 4th, the night of nights, I went to escape the built up tension (after performing my civic duties of voting, encouraging others to vote and engaging in Starbucks’ illegal coffee-for-votes scheme) at the Guthrie in order to preview Shadowlands. Shadowlands is the story of C.S. Lewis (played by Simon Jones) and the opening of his life as he falls in love with Joy Gresham (Charity Jones), an opinionated American divorcee. It is a love story, set against the backdrop of Lewis' comfortable mid-50s Oxford existence; erudite, clad in tweed, sherries and old boy’s discussions, a wholly safe and neutered space.

The play opens with Lewis at a lectern delivering a speech about the love of god for humanity, a subject that Lewis addressed in many of his writings, from the interventions of Aslan in the Narnia stories to the correspondences of the devil Screwtape. The context of faith and pain is brought forth from the beginning,and as Joy struggles through illness and the love develops and deepens, the refrain that "the happiness then is worth the pain now"- and it's inversion- resonates deeply. The story is one of disruption of a settled life, of pain and reconciliation- a strong universally accessible theme which is reached through the easy and assured presentation. The story is fixed in a time period but is so comfortable in it that we can dissolve that context in favor of the over-arching narrative, and find currently applicable identification.

Parallels, Modern Times after the Jump

Across the river, The Bottling Company, a talented young group of University of Minnesota/ Guthrie Program BFAs (boot camp for Guthrie-aspiring actors, for better or for worse) were closing up their run of Dying City. Penned by Obie-award winning playwright Christopher Shinn and first produced in London in 2006, Dying City is also a play that is also fixed in a specific time and place, but unlike Shadowlands, never manages to transcend that context. Set on two nights and moving fluidly between the two, we see the final night discussion of Craig (Ian Holcomb) and his wife Kelly (Kate Durand) before Craig ships off to Iraq, and the visit of Craig’s gay identical twin Peter (also Holcomb) a year later, during which time, Craig has died. The temporal shift lends itself to some nifty shifts by Ian Holcomb and the terse staging and direction say as much about the discourse around relationships in war as the text does itself.

Dying City purports to be a study of dissolution, betrayal and invasion, but as I type that, I feel like I should be writing a blurb for Days of Our Lives. The plot hinges upon events that have occurred in the not distant memory- upon events in which we are still embroiled- but it never brings itself about to create a narrative critique or build any analytic inferences from events in the context of the world to the story of the play. If we are to believe that play is occurring at a specific point in history, as Iraq, references to Jon Stewart, Tivo and “Law & Order” force us to, then there is precious little space to give themes space to breathe. Shinn does the text no favors by trying to pack in themes- sexual violence is mentioned, but not explored, infidelity, homophobic slurs, suicide, drug abuse, all these things swirl darkly in a play that says that it needs to expands the discourse but condescends to doing so. It is a theatrical trick that comes off as formally executed anger at 2004.

Returning home, I turned to MPR, and there was Dick Gordon wrapping up “The Story”. In response to a listener’s rhetorical query as to why the media was always surprised about the decency of everyday people, Gordon editorialized to the crux of the difference between these two examinations. He said, “in times like these, people’s true stories are what the country needs.” The heart of analysis and criticism is always coming back to the questions- Why This, and Why Now? To make a theme dependent upon context is to weaken it's staying power, but to articulate the story independent of context can make it work in any time and place, and make the moment critical again.

Shadowlands runs November 1 - December 21, 2008 (Opening November 07) on the McGuire Proscenium Stage.

Dying City has closed, but check for future Bottling Company productions.

Random Arcana: Simon Jones as Arthur Dent in the BBC's production of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I thought that C.S. Lewis seemed familiar!