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'First couple of the banjo' make very homey companions in St. Paul

Posted by: Jon Bream under Music, Local TV and radio Updated: February 26, 2015 - 3:58 AM

A few thoughts after seeing Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, the first couple of the banjo, in concert Wednesday at the O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul.

  • Calling Fleck a virtuoso doesn’t do him justice. His technique and expressiveness in a variety of styles – from bluegrass to Malian to hair-band rock – were stunning.
  • Washburn is a gifted banjo picker, too, and the way their instruments interweaved seemed effortless but was obviously meticulously and smartly conceived.
  • The repartee between husband and wife was priceless. Washburn, an Edina High School grad, was a chatty charmer, infusing the evening with all kinds of Minnesota references to choirs, weather and her grandma from Sanborn, Minn. Fleck, a native New Yorker, was a wonderful counterpoint, adding a dry (or sarcastic) quip here and there. After she complained about some little thing in her early life, Fleck gave her flak: “It must have been tough growing up in Edina.” Her earned a fist-bump from his wife for that zinger.
  • Washburn manifested striking versatility as a singer, covering everything from spirituals and old-time to murder ballads (loved her original “Shotgun Blues”) and a Chinese tune. She also did some nifty clog dancing.
  • The banjo players offered several instrumentals, including fiddle tunes on banjos, blues from Mali and Tanzania, and “The Final Countdown,” the 1980s hair-band classic by a band known simply as Europe. For said cover, Washburn got into the spirit by putting on a headband and Fleck donned a shaggy blond wig that could have qualified him for the fourth runner-up in a Dee Snider look-alike contest. 
    (See below)
  • Although on the surface the concert threatened to be heavy on bluegrass and old-time music (as heard on this year's self-titled joint album), Fleck and Washburn deserve a "Bravo" for the diversity in the repertoire. Who knew so many special sounds would be shared with just two banjos?
  • Given the chemistry, spontaneity, humor, and killer musical chops between the two stars (not to mention Washburn’s deep understanding of Minnesota essences), the two-hour, two-set concert could be taken for an audition for Fleck and Washburn to become the new host of “A Prairie Home Companion” if Garrison Keillor decides to retire soon. The idea of replacing him with a married couple would certainly avoid comparisons between him and a singular new host – and he’d probably be flattered that it took two people to fill his shoes.  

Who is Kevin Garnett's biggest fan? Is it our little Prince?

Posted by: Jon Bream under Music, Celebrities, Minnesota musicians Updated: February 25, 2015 - 5:34 PM


Prince showing his purple pride at a T'Wolves game with Larry Graham in 2000./ Star Tribune file photo

Prince showing his purple pride at a T'Wolves game with Larry Graham in 2000./ Star Tribune file photo


Prince didn’t bow down to Kevin Garnett at the homecoming press conference. He isn’t expected to show up at KG’s return to Target Center on Wednesday night. And he isn’t going to take to social media to show his support. (He's not participating in social media anymore.)

But a source close to Prince wanted it known that the Purple One -- who is as gifted on the basketball court as he is with a ping pong paddle -- is thrilled that KG is back with the Timberwolves.

Prince plans to attend future Wolves games. No word on whether he’ll play a concert at Target Center. Maybe KG will ask him.

Kanye West taps St. Paul rapper Allan Kingdom for new single

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Minnesota musicians Updated: February 25, 2015 - 4:31 PM
Allan Kingdom, left, posted this photo on his Facebook page from the Brit Awards earlier today.

Allan Kingdom, right, posted this photo on his Facebook page from the Brit Awards earlier today.

Looks like Allan Kingdom’s big break has come in the United Kingdom. The St. Paul rapper was prominently featured on stage with Kanye West at the Brit Awards in London on Wednesday night (mid-day our time), and he also is a guest star in the new single West debuted at the show, “All Day.”

The real-life Allan Kyariga -- a 21-year-old Woodbury High grad also known from the local quartet the Stnd4rd -- delivered two verses in “All Day” during the Brits, which RollingStone.com wrote up as the standout moment of the show under a re-stream of the entire telecast (West’s performance starts at the 1:47:50 mark). Here's the Ye clip off Vimeo.


Kanye West - All Day Live from The BRIT Awards 2015 from Gabby on Vimeo.

In the clip, you get a good glimpse of Allan delivering the refrain, “At the moment I disperse,” with a giant flamethrower going off behind him and footage of West’s new BFF Taylor Swift dancing along in the crowd at the 02 Arena. Conicidentally, New York singer/rapper Thelophious London is also featured in the performance, which explains why he cancelled Tuesday night's Minneapolis gig at the Fine Line.

Hype for West’s new single has been pretty strong since an early version of it “leaked” a few weeks ago. It’s not yet clear when it will be formally released. His young protégé in the song has surprisingly kept mum about the collaboration in the meantime, and he didn’t even provide any hint he was headed to London today. He finally posted the above photo on his Facebook page this afternoon acknowledging the big gig.

While he’s earned his local buzz mostly on his own -- including his win of City Pages’ Picked to Click poll last year -- Allan has made a lot of friends outside the Cities who’ve given him a leg up. He’s managed by Kid Cudi producer/cohort Plain Pat and worked on the Stand4rd record with Doc McKinney, producer for the Weeknd. He probably came to the attention of West via Ye’s “creative director” Virgil Abloh, who was also already known to be in Allan’s corner.

Click here for our cover profile on Kid Kingdom from a year ago. Raised mostly on the east side of the Twin Cities by his Tanzania immigrant mother, Kingdom stands out with his jittery, nervous rapping style and lyrics that show more insecurities than rap’s usual braggadocio. He said in our interview, “I want to get all my secrets out right away so people know who I am and what I’m about right upfront.”

TC buzz band Hippo Campus signs with NYC label Grand Jury

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, SXSW music festival, Minnesota musicians Updated: February 24, 2015 - 2:25 PM
Hippo Campus signed with Trampled by Turtles' and Lizzo's management team last summer and just landed another deal with New York label Grand Jury. / Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

Hippo Campus signed with Trampled by Turtles' and Lizzo's management team last summer and just landed another deal with New York label Grand Jury. / Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

It looked as if Hippo Campus would be heading into next month’s South by Southwest Music Conference with ample record labels trying to woo them to their roster, as used to be the guiding m.o. of SXSW. Instead, the young but clearly ready-for-prime-time Twin Cities rockers will be going into Austin’s big hype-building festival as the newest signing by Grand Jury, the burgeoning New York label that’s also home to Chicago’s breaking fuzz-rockers Twin Peaks as well as Elliott Moss and Avid Dancer.

The deal was revealed by Grand Jury today along with a new video for the song “Souls” and a rather impressive list of six gigs Hippo Campus has booked during SXSW. One of their Austin gigs, for instance, is a party for the AV Club that has them sandiwched between the Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser and Real Estate in the lineup.

Grand Jury will re-release the quartet’s Alan Sparhawk-produced EP, “Bashful Creatures,” on May 5 (“Souls” is one of its six tracks). Another EP will soon follow, which the lads recorded last month under the same circumstances as the first, with Sparhawk at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls.

Several of the new EP’s songs made big impressions at the group’s pair of well-received First Ave appearances in January for 89.3 the Current’s birthday bashes and the club’s Best New Bands showcase.

All still in the 19-20 age range and mostly just a year out of high school (click here for our November profile of them), Hippo Campus’ members will hit the road for their first tour right after SXSW, a month-long trek with California’s fun co-ed ensemble the Mowgli’s (coming April 3 to the Varsity). Before SXSW, they’re playing what is no doubt a well-paying promotional gig for Lagunitas Brewery at Aria Event Center on March 12, tickets for which can be obtained via Eventbrite.

Tedeschi Trucks, Jones & Dap Kings pairing up June 19 in Somerset

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Concert news Updated: February 23, 2015 - 11:35 AM
Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks went over big at the Minnesota Zoo in 2011. / Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks went over big at the Minnesota Zoo in 2011. / Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

A weekend already rife with Rock the Garden and the Luke Bryan/Florida Georgia Line stadium double-header for outdoor music offerings, June 19-21 will also now see a fun co-headlining concert with the Tedeschi-Trucks Band and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings at Somerset Amphitheater in Somerset, Wis., on that Friday night, June 19.

Tickets go on sale Friday at noon for $25-$65 via eTix.com or the Electric Fetus (“early bird prices” available only until March 15). Camping packages will be available via the amphitheater’s website.

Renovated and reopened in 2011 on the old Float-Rite Park grounds, Somerset Amphitheater has seen more upgrades since then, including construction of an on-site “saloon.” The amphitheater is also playing host to the Northern Invasion metal fest with Slipknot on June 9, the Sonshine Christian music festival July 16-18 in addition to the annual Summer Set dance/hip-hop/psychedelica marathon  Aug. 14-16.

With the dissolution of the Allman Brothers Band – and not to mention the budding family he and wife Susan Tedeschi have to raise together -- Derek Trucks will presumably be dedicating himself more full-time to the ever-growing Tedeschi Trucks Band, up to 11 members now. Jones and the Dap Kings have been standouts at both Rock the Garden and the Basilica Block Party in prior summers but have only played a theater gig since their frontwoman’s bout with cancer in 2013. Texas great Doyle Bramhall II is listed on other dates on their tour but won’t make the Somerset show. However, another act of note will reportedly be announced soon.


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