Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.

Toki Wright & Big Cats unveil bold new sound

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Minnesota musicians Updated: April 16, 2014 - 3:28 PM

In the midst of a Midwest tour that brings them Thursday to House of Rock in Eau Claire (with Dessa) and Friday to the Triple Rock in Minneapolis, local hip-hop vets Toki Wright and Big Cats dropped a freaky new track this week that shows off the more psychedelic, neo-soul- and electronic-styled music they’ve been making together over the past year. Titled “Echinacea,” the song finds Wright riffing in a mild but semi-manic tone on the herbal pill of the same name – and our hope for self-improvement in general --  while Big Cats (Spencer Wirth-Davis) lays down an eerie, hypnotic groove.

“Enchinacea” is the first track issued off Wright’s and Big Cat’s upcoming album, “Pangaea.” They debuted more tracks along with a new live format on Atmosphere’s Welcome to MN Tour in late February. Lydia Liza of Bomba de Luz sings backup at the shows, and Eric Mayson of Crunchy Kids is featured on keys. K. Raydio and Shiro Dame -- featuring Sarah White of Traditional Methods -- will also perform at Friday’s Triple Rock show (10 p.m., $10, tickets on sale here). They have shows spread around Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota in the coming weeks leading up to set at the Soundset festival in Shakopee on May 25.

Is 'Fargo' a hit? You betcha!

Posted by: Neal Justin under Behind the scenes, Television Updated: April 16, 2014 - 2:31 PM
Billy Bob Thornton in "Fargo"/photo by Chris Large for FX

Looks like America really did want to return to "Fargo." The Tuesday-night debut of the Minnesota-set series drew 4.5 million viewers, a strong initial number that will only get bigger once time-shifted viewing is counted.

To put it in perspective, the turnout was nearly twice the number that tuned in for the season premiere of "Mad Men" Sunday night.

"We are incredibly pround of the towering creative achievement by Noah Hawley and everyone involved with 'Fargo,'" said FX chief John Landgraf, citing the name of the show's creator. "This is truly one of the best shows we've ever had on the network."

Missed out on all the fun? The first episode will repeat at 11:20 p.m.Wednesday, midnight Thursday and midnight Saturday. A new episode airs next Tuesday at 9 p.m.

In addition to the impressive ratings, "Fargo" was almost universally praised by critics with USA Today (and the Star Tribune, too) giving it four stars.

What did YOU think?

Kill Kancer amps up its efforts with all-star PSA video, Cedar concert

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Minnesota musicians Updated: April 16, 2014 - 11:55 AM
Karl Mueller, left, played with Soul Asylum at the Rock for Karl concert in 2004 while he was being treated for throat cancer. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Karl Mueller, left, played with Soul Asylum at the Rock for Karl concert in 2004 while he was being treated for throat cancer. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Nearly nine years after Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller died of complications from throat cancer, his memory has become the catalyst for a new organization/website, Kill Kancer, intended to help prevent cancer and promote alternative treatments – with the Twin Cities music scene’s support.

A new PSA video (posted below) was released just in time for Friday’s Kill Kancer fundraiser concert at the Cedar Cultural Center. Instead of some of Mueller’s rock-vet pals, though, the so-called “manifesto” video – put together by local videographer Dan Huiting with Rick Fuller and the Martin-Williams advertising agency -- curiously features a younger cast of local hip-hop and R&B stars, including Slug, Toki Wright, P.O.S., Ashley DuBose and No Bird Sing’s Joe Horton. Karl’s widow, Mary Beth Mueller, said this is a sign of the demographics Kill Kancer will initially target.

Mary Beth Mueller. / Star Tribune file

Mary Beth Mueller. / Star Tribune file

“We really want to reach the areas where it’s most preventable,” Mueller said, pointing to inner-city youths who don’t know about or don’t have access to healthier eating and living habits that can avert cancer.

Among Kill Kancer’s plans are planting gardens in urban areas that lack them, stocking food shelves with healthier items and working with Full Cycle to bring free bicycles into low-income neighborhoods (for the exercise benefits). That’s along with many other goals that Mueller has been dreaming up since Karl’s passing. “I just can’t get past this terrible [expletive] beast that is cancer,” she said.

The origins of Kill Kancer go back to the now-legendary 2004 Rock for Karl benefit/tribute concert at the Quest nightclub a year before Mueller’s death, where Soul Asylum, Golden Smog, Bob Mould, Grant Hart, Paul Westerberg and the Gear Daddies all performed. That set up the Karl Fund, which has funded research for new treatments at the University of Minnesota and now will benefit Kill Kancer.

Mary Beth said a friend’s private grant on the eighth anniversary of Karl’s death last year helped ignite the new efforts. So did last year’s inaugural Kill Kancer concert at the Cedar with Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy (one of their last local sets together), Golden Smog, the Magnolias, Curtiss A and Jordan Gatesmith.

Willie Murphy

Willie Murphy

Now comes the second Kill Kancer concert. Pirner is back in town and has put together a special video presentation to go with his performance at Friday’s show. Willie Murphy, Communist Daughter, Silverback Colony (led by 4onthefloor’s Gabriel Douglas) and Taj Raj are also all lined up to play the show, along with the “special guests.” The $25 tickets are still available.

“There are so many civic-minded, responsible musicians in this town, it’s amazing,” said Mueller, who is working with many of Friday’s performers for the first time. She also noted the irony of music being used to, you know, kill cancer.

“The tobacco companies have been using rock ‘n’ roll to sell their product for 30-40 years,” she said. “This is a great way to turn that around.”

Dan Wilson celebrates 2nd solo album with Electric Fetus performance

Posted by: Jon Bream under Music, Minnesota musicians Updated: April 16, 2014 - 12:42 AM
Dan Wilson at the Electric Fetus / Photo by Leslie Plesser

Dan Wilson at the Electric Fetus / Photo by Leslie Plesser

When you’re Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer Dan Wilson, where do you go to celebrate the release of your first solo album in seven years?  Of course, the Electric Fetus.

That’s where Wilson made monthly trips to buy music when in lived in Minneapolis for all those many years. But he moved to Los Angeles nearly four years ago to further his songwriting/producing career, working with the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift and Pink, among others.

Between sessions with all those bold-face names, Wilson managed to complete his “Love Without Fear,” his second solo effort. On Tuesday, he was up early chatting on 89.3 the Current, doing interviews in the afternoon (as well as lunching with his singing brother Matt Wilson) and then singing and signing autographs at the Fetus in the evening.

Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar at the Fetus, the sweet-voiced Wilson performed four songs from the new album (including the title track and the new single "A Song Can Be About Anything") and one number from “Free Life,” his 2007 solo debut. There was nothing from his Semisonic or Trip Shakespeare days – or his Grammy-winning-collaborator-for-hire resume.

Wilson did slip into his “Words and Music” mode – the usual VH1 "Storyteller"-like format of his solo concerts – and talked about his songwriting process and what sparked a couple of songs in particular. He will give full concerts June 4, 5 and 6 at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis – with a different approach each night, though “Words and Music” will be the first show.

At the Fetus, Wilson got about150 people to sing along to “All Kinds,” from his first solo disc. Mid-song, he politely called their singing “super-nice but super-quiet,” which made us wonder if that’s a euphemism for semisonic.

After the half-hour set, Wilson spent an hour posing for photos and signing CDs (the deluxe version contains a hardcover book featuring lyrics that he wrote in calligraphy).

We didn’t stick around to see if Wilson did any shopping but, in a pre-performance interview, he told us he’d transferred his monthly habit of shopping at the Fetus for “a handful of jazz records and new pop releases” to the sprawling indie chain, Amoeba, in Los Angeles.

“I do there what I did at the Fetus – I bought old Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Beck, Sun Kil Moon.” 

Spoon, De La Soul, Guided by Voices top Rock the Garden 2014 lineup

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Concert news Updated: April 15, 2014 - 4:58 PM
Spoon frontman Britt Daniel should appear happier playing Rock the Garden in June than he does in this photo from the Basilica Block Party in 2010. / David Joes, Star Tribune

Spoon frontman Britt Daniel might be happier playing Rock the Garden in June than he appears in this photo from the Basilica Block Party in 2010. / David Joles, Star Tribune

With a two-day music lineup to fill instead of the usual one, this year’s Rock the Garden festival outside Walker Art Center June 21-22 truly will offer a little something for everyone -- or at least everyone who listens to co-sponsoring station 89.3 the Current.

Posdnous of De La Soul at Soundset 2011. / Star Tribune file

Posdnous of De La Soul at Soundset 2011. / Star Tribune file

Two beloved indie-rock bands that have been in steady rotation since the Current took the air nine years ago, Spoon and Guided by Voices, will be paired together for the Sunday RTG lineup along with fellow garage-rocky guitar wielder Kurt Vile and rootsy Tennessee newcomer Valerie June. Saturday, meanwhile, offers the kind of act that organizers have been criticized for not booking more of in the past: Hip-hop. Late-‘80s pioneers De La Soul will top out that day’s show with indie-pop mainstays Best Coast and Matt and Kim. Two hometown favorites, Jeremy Messersmith and Dessa, will also perform one day apiece.

Here’s the full schedule:

SATURDAY, JUNE 20

  • De La Soul
  • Matt and Kim
  • Best Coast
  • Jeremy Messersmith
  • one more opening band TBA (someone with a gig in town between now and June 20)

SUNDAY, JUNE 21

  • Spoon
  • Guided by Voices
  • Dessa
  • Kurt Vile
  • Valerie June

After recent years’ Rock the Gardens all consistently sold out fast, organizers decided to add the second day to welcome more concertgoers -- and to get a better return on their set-up and production costs, which are largely the same whether it’s one or two days. Money raised from the event go toward both the Walker and the Current’s parent, Minnesota Public Radio, each nonprofit organizations.

Dessa with Doomtree at RTG 2012. / Star Tribune file

Dessa with Doomtree at RTG 2012. / Star Tribune file

As usual, tickets will go on sale first to Walker or MPR members starting Thursday at 11 a.m. via eTix.com. If not sold out by Saturday, they will be available to non-members Saturday at 11 a.m. Two-day general-admission passes are being sold for $100, or single-day tickets will also be available for $59. Different VIP options are also available ranging from $100-$225/day or $175-$400/two-day.

A certain type of Big Star/Cheap Trick-loving indie-rock fans will gobble up the Saturday lineup with Spoon and GBV, which also happens to be both bands’ first Twin Cities gig in more than three years (after many years of seeing them annually). Spoon has been teasing fans with news of its first record since 2010’s “Transference,” due sometime this summer on Merge Records. GBV has put out somewhere between four and 14 albums in that time but only played here once since first reuniting (First Avenue in 2010).

De La Soul, on the other hand, has been no stranger around these parts. The Long Island trio of “Me, Myself & I” fame was part of the (poorly attended) Kings of the Mic Tour stop at Target Center last year as well as the Soundset festival at Canterbury Park in 2011. They were damn entertaining both times, too. The only other hip-hop act booked in prior years of RTG was Doomtree in 2012.

While no stranger to Current-branded events – in fact, they played the station’s first MN-Music-on-a-Stick concert together at the State Fair in 2012 – neither Messersmith nor Dessa has performed their own sets before at Rock the Garden (Dessa, of course, did take the stage as part of Doomtree in 2012).

Today’s RTG news was preceded by another big fest’s initial lineup announcement, Somerset’s third annual Summer Set Music & Camping Festival. Look for the Basilica Block Party to reveal its band names on April 24.

As for that long-awaited Replacements hometown gig – which many fans were bogusly thinking would be RTG (nope, having a sister on staff at the Current doesn’t get you that big a discount on a performance fee!) – look for an announcement soon on a mid-September gig at an outdoor venue that should give new meaning to “Swingin’ Party.”

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