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Jack Johnson/ Wade Payne Associated Press Invision
Monday brings a slew of new concert announcements:
*Jack Johnson Oct. 7 at the State Theatre. For this rare intimate show, tickets, priced at $69.90, will go on sale via a lottery at www.jackjohnsonmusic.com.
* Saves the Day Sept. 13 at Mill City Nights. Tickets, priced at $16, will go on sale Thursday.
* Fifth annual Global Roots Festival Sept. 24-25 at the Cedar featuring Finland’s Kardemimmit and Ethiopia’s Debo Band.
* Toad the Wet Sprocket Nov. 23 at Mill city Nights. Ticekts, priced at $30, will go on sale Friday.
Announced earlier today were Drake on Oct. 5 at Target Center and Raphael Saadiq at Basilica Block Party on July 13, replacing Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.
Raphael Saadiq/ Photo by Tony Nelson
The Basilica Block Party is sticking with vintage soul for the slot vacated by the cancellation of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings on July 13. Oakland R&B star Raphael Saadiq will headline the Church Stage on Saturday night.
The energetic Grammy winner has released four solo albums since Lucy Pearl dissolved. Before that, he was a member of Tony! Toni! Tone! He accompanied Mick Jagger on the Grammy Awards in 2011 in a tribute to Solomon Burke.
On June 3, Jones and Dap-Kings postponed the release of their new album and called off their tour because she is being treated for cancer.
Their van hadn’t even made it back to Duluth on Saturday night, and Alan Sparhawk was already well aware of the high amount of speculation, confusion, anger and/or admiration he and his Low bandmates caused with their highly unusual set that afternoon at Rock the Garden.
“We weren’t really trying to do anything ‘punk’ or pull one over on people,” Sparhawk insisted, talking by cell from his van just after the concert wrapped at 10 p.m. Adding one of several lighthearted comments on the matter, he said, “We tried but couldn’t get Prince to come out and play guitar on ‘On My Own,’ so we came up with other plans.”
Playing to possibly their biggest crowd ever in Minnesota, the trio churned out possibly their most divisive and daring set ever Saturday. As is recounted in the review from the concert -- and reflected in the reader comments underneath -- they played a sparse, slow, droning, extended version of their already sparse, slow and lengthy 1996 tune “Do You Know How to Waltz?,” stretching it to almost 30 minutes with long, echoy hums and dissonant guitar noise here and there. That was it. That was their set.
Sparhawk punctuated the performance by blurting out at the end, “Drone, not drones,” referring to -- for the people who need it spelled out -- drone music and the unmanned mini-airplanes (drones) that have been known to drop bombs on innocent victims alongside enemy targets in Middle East military campaigns. The band’s frontman insists the set wasn’t any kind of subversive act, however.
“It was a combo of things,” he explained, recounting how the heavy rain factored into their decision to play it that way, as did the fact that opener Dan Deacon had moved his performance into the garage. “It was just kind of a weird atmosphere, people coming in during the rain, not really knowing where to go. And then we found out our set had to be a little shorter than planned, to get the schedule on track. So we decided to try to do something beautiful.”
Reaction to the set on Twitter was mostly ugly. Backstage, Current staffers marveled over the fact that the entire half-hour droneathon had been broadcast live on the air (as was every RTG set), no doubt baffling a good portion of the listening audience. The Current’s program director Jim McGuinn declined to comment. Watching from the wings, Twin Cities music vet John Munson only offered a one-word reaction when asked: “Wow.” Silversun Pickups frontman Brian Aubert even stopped to comment later during his band's set: "Low is insane," he said, while noting his love of the band.
Sparhawk offered a little more context: “How many times have a lot of the people there seen us perform?” he asked (indeed, the band did just play a conventional concert for Current listeners back in March at the Fitzgerald Theater, soon after its latest album “The Invisible Way” came out).
“It was a big show, so we wanted to do something big and different. If I was there in the audience, that’s the kind of think I’d like to see a band do.”
As for the “drone, not drones” comment, Sparhawk had this simple explanation: “I got it off a friend’s bumper-sticker, and thought it was fitting.”
Saturday's showing was possibly a fitting precursor to Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival, a three-day event heavy with experimental music, where Low’s Chicago pals invited them to perform this upcoming weekend in Massachusetts.
The first time around, at Bunker’s in 2011, Fitz & the Tantrums were a blast of spirited, self-penned vintage soul. Next time around, at the Basilica Block Party in 2012, Fitz & company were a pretty exciting party band.
On Sunday, at the sold-out Varsity Theater, Fitz & the Tantrums were somehow less exciting. Was it the muddy sound (it was difficult to decipher the lyrics)? The slickness of frontman Michael Fitzgerald? The inferior material on the L.A. group’s just-released second album?
On their 2010 debut, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” Fitz & the Tantrums were like a soulful, modern-day Hall & Oates. Last month’s release, “More Than Just a Dream,” is dripping in 1980s pop influences, from new-wave to synth-pop.
Sunday’s 80-minute show – the first of two sold-out nights at the Varsity this week – was as disappointing as the new album. Performing in dim light, Fitz didn’t seem particularly into his songs. He came across like a faux soul man who would rather be part of a vintage synth pop ensemble like, say, Human League.
Tantrums sidekick Noelle Scaggs is a more soulful singer and graceful dancer (Ftiz is energetic but not a fancy dancer compared to her) but she seem relegated to being a hype-woman with occasional backup vocals. Watching this play out felt like watching Hall & Oates wherein John Oates was the dominant singer.
Nonetheless, Fitz & the Tantrums still managed to charm their burgeoning fan base, most of whom (by show of hands) had not seen them before. The group knows how to make synth-pop for club kids who like to dance. There were many winnings moments: “6 AM” with its intensity and tension, the snakey soul of “Dear Mr. President, the inspiring “L.O.V.” and the spare, infectious radio hit “MoneyGrabber.”
Here is Sunday’s set list:
Keepin Our Eyes Out/ Don’t Gotta Work It Out/ Winds of Change/ ??/ Breaking the Chains of Love/ ???/ Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics) / Out of My League/ ???/ 6 AM/ Dear Mr. President/ Tighter/ L.O.V. ENCORE MoneyGrabber/ The Walker/ Pickin Up the Pieces
“I’m sure Minneapolis, you’re thinking: What the hell is he doing? We already have Prairie Home Companion," John C. Reilly, who was in the 2006 movie “A Prairie Home Companion,” said on Saturday night in Minneapolis. “What the hell do we need him for?”
The actor, known for “Boogie Nights,” “Chicago” and “The Aviator,” then explained that you shouldn’t let people tell you who you are, “if you’ve got a short story in you, or a painting,” do it.
So he put together John C. Reilly & Friends, a modest acoustic show that frankly was more Grand Ole Opry than “A Prairie Home Companion.” For 1 ¾ hours in front of maybe 200 people at the Woman’s Club, he and his pals offered old-timey music, vintage country, folk, bluegrass and spirituals – songs associated with George Jones, Phil Ochs, the Delmore Brothers, the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Ray Price and others.
The amiable and gently funny Reilly proved to be a capable low-key vocalist but his friends – Becky Stark, Tom Brosseau, Dan Bern and Willie Watson (of Old Crow Medicine Show)—were accomplished vocalists. (Sebastian Steinberg of Soul Coughing fame played upright bass.) They sang in different combinations and permutations, filling the Woman’s Club with harmonies, humor and homespun truths.
Watson, on banjo and acoustic guitar, was the only bona fide picker but all were strong lead vocalists and skillful harmony singers. The wonderful Stark, who sings with the Lavender Diamond,, seemed to connect with Reilly’s funny bone, both with their between-song patter (they duetted on Gogi Grant’s “Wayward Wind,” Faron Young’s “Step Aside,” Porter & Dolly’s “Making Plans,” Jones’ “Don’t Go”) and her facial gestures.
Brosseau, who is from Grand Forks, N.D., showed a choir-boy voice and some quick humor (example: “My grandma said: Come back to North Dakota. There’s a girl behind every tree.” There are no trees in North Dakota”).
Bern, known for his witty and topical songs in his cult-loved solo career, wrote much of the material for Reilly’s 2007 movie, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” which was a parody of a Johnny Cash-like country singer. In fact, Reilly introduced him as “the man behind Dewey Cox.” But they didn’t do any Dewey Cox songs Saturday. Watson offered the night’s only original number, which he even admitted sounded old.
That old-timey sound was what John C. Reilly & Friends were all about -- from Dolly Parton’s “My Blue Tears” to the closing 1-2 punch of “Rock Island Line” and “Goodnight Irene.”