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, Aimee Blanchette, 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.
While it’s only a footnote in a storied career that included one of Woodstock’s most memorable performances, many Twin Cities rock fans will remember Joe Cocker as the guy who opened Minnesota’s most legendary nightclub, First Avenue.
The raspy-voiced, soul-inspired British singer -- whose death at age 70 was confirmed today -- came to Minneapolis to play two sets in one night on April 3, 1970, the night First Avenue opened as the Depot (so named because the building was previously Minneapolis’ Greyhound bus station).
Cocker was something of a coup for the new venue at the time. The Minneapolis date came just a week after the “Woodstock” movie hit theaters featuring Cocker’s career-making, body-coiling version of the Beatles’ “A Little Help from My Friends” -- later spoofed by John Belushi and used as the theme song to “The Wonder Years.” He followed up Woodstock in 1970 with his Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, a fabled/notorious outing that included around 30 musicians and, yes, actual dogs on stage.
“Everyone was buzzing; the air was filled," Minneapolis music scenester Marilyn Percansky remembered in a 2005 Star Tribune article about that opening gig. "It was like a circus. Kids and animals on stage."
“The place was so full that you literally couldn't see the floor," recalled photographer Mike Barich, who covered the Twin Cities rock scene in the `60s and `70s. "It was certainly the most exciting thing they ever had there. That night it seemed intimate, even though the place was packed."
A 1970 write-up in the Minneapolis Tribune, recently uncovered by City Pages, described the night this way: “Not since the truck drivers' strike of 1934 is it likely that there has been such excitement, such chaos, such congestion, such noise just off Hennepin Av. as there was Friday night.” It listed tickets as $4 for general-admission and $10 for a table and went on to refer to Cocker ‘singing like a black man’ and dancing ‘like a spastic.’”
Cocker return to the club one more time when it was called First Avenue in 1994, the same year he played the 25th anniversary Woodstock festival. However, he could not remember the 1970 gig nor the venue when Jon Bream interviewed him in 2009 before what would be his last Twin Cities area performance, at Mystic Lake Casino. He said, “"The Depot? I'll have to run it by Chris Stainton [his longtime keyboardist]. It doesn't ring a bell at all to me.”
First Avenue certainly remembers him, though. The club’s general manager Nate Kranz said Monday, “It’s been almost 45 years, and I still hear often from people who were there that night and remember it well. He holds a special place at this club, that’s for sure – almost right up there with Prince.”
Unlike all of Prince's lock-and-keyed video footage, we can actually see Cocker’s legendary performance at the club thanks to YouTube. This clip below of him singing the Box Tops’ “The Letter” – which would later be a hit for Cocker – features footage from the Depot that was filmed as part of a documentary on the tour. As the cameras span the crowd at the very end, you can see the same two-tier layout that the club still has today. Throughout, you can also prominently see Cocker’s MVP sidemen at the time, including Leon Russell on piano and Bobby Keys on sax, the latter of whom just died earlier this month.
Allen Christian surveys which art to put up for sale this weekend in his crowded House of Balls before moving the studio to a larger space.
The House of Balls is rolling down the road to a new and bigger home, so owner Allen Christian is having a moving sale this weekend. After 28 years in the North Loop (current studio location is 212 Third Ave. N., across from the Monte Carlo), the artist/ oracle-on-demand is setting up shop just off the Cedar/Riverside LRT station in a much higher-profile spot, a 2,800-square foot building, most recently home to the underground music club Medusa, that features twice the space he currently has plus a 1/3-acre outdoor plot for larger-scale work.
To habitues of the Warehouse District, the House of Balls has been much more than your average gallery or studio. Opening hours were random, but you could push buttons on the door that would light up figures inside and allow passersby to record messages or hear Christian's answers to life's knottiest questions.
Christian, whose signature carved bowling balls have expanded to all sorts of sculpture and multimedia works made with recycled everything, said he sees the move as a way to “just let everything go and re-create myself.” The sale is noon- 8p.m. Fri. and Sat. p.m. ,with more than 120 artworks plus art materials priced between $30 and $3,000.
Over the years, the House of Balls has attracted curious people of all stripes — most recently, with the addition of Target Field and sports bars to the neighborhood, people looking to buy baseballs and footballs, a trend likely to skyrocket when the new Vikings stadium, from which the new House of Balls site is visible, is finished. No worries, says Christian. “Once you get them across the threshold, you’ve got a chance to start conversations about everything from repurposing all the stuff that’s around them to what they’re doing with their lives,” Christian said. “If they’ve got the balls.” If they don’t, he’s got some to spare.
The conference site, the Elmer Anderson library on the west bank, is literally a stone's throw from the spot where the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, who suffered from alcoholism and depression, leapt to his death from the Washington Avenue bridge.
At a late-afternoon event, more than 100 people showed up for a reading by actor/writer/director Ben Kreilkamp and poets Jim Moore, Joyce Sutphen, Michael Dennis Browne, Peter Campion, Ray Gonzalez and Wang Ping.
Kreilkamp put an actor's topspin on five of Berryman's Dream Songs, including the powerful #384, which opens, "I stand above my father's grave with rage."
Moore remembered taking a class from Berryman and read "The Ball Poem" and "The Traveler."
Sutphen recalled once seeing Berryman walking out of Walter LIbrary, "talking wildly to himself." She regretted not following him to hear one of his famed lectures. Sutphen read her own poem "Berryman's Hands," as well as a Shakespeare sonnet.
Browne, who has taught at the university for 39 years, read an elegy Berryman wrote for his good friend, poet Randall Jarrell, as well as some of Berryman's favorite lines from Shakespeare.
Campion movingly read a section from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," as well as his own poem "Blood Brook" and Dream Song #75.
Gonzalez read from a biography of Berryman, plus several Dream Songs and his own prose poem, "John Berryman and Robert Lowell Switch Hospitals."
Wang Ping, who teaches at Macalester, read one of her poems from her new book, "10,000 Waves," and the famous Dream Song #14 ("Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.")
Full conference schedule here.
The Hard Rock Cafe, that institution known for music memorabilia and souvenir T-shirts, had its grand opening at Mall of America Wednesday night starring a Minnesota institution, Morris Day & the Time.
Looking dapper as always in a bright yellow suit, Day did his part, including the ceremonial smashing of a guitar and an entertaining 80-minute set filled with such hits as “Cool,” “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”
However, this Hard Rock ain’t built for live music. With so many hard surfaces in the sprawling two-story building in the midst of Nickelodeon Universe theme park, the sound recalled that of a rock concert in a high-school gym. And that’s not a good thing.
Luckily, the Hard Rock served up tasty food (granted they were appetizer portions) and alluring memorabilia.
Minnesota is well represented with an autographed Replacements guitar, a polka-dot Jesse Johnson guitar (he's no longer in the Time) and three articles of Prince clothing – a gauzy black shirt/blouse, a sparkly purple trench coat and an orange suit with “Minneapolis” sewn on the left sleeve (he wore it on the “Sign o’ the Times” Tour).
All kinds of musical eras are represented. There are a 1964 contract for bluesman Jimmy Reed, a Carl Perkins guitar, a James Brown jacket and a backstage photo of Elvis Presley in his underwear (briefs, for inquiring minds). There’s memorabilia from Jimmy Page, the Clash, the Knack, Bush and Soundgarden, and tour jackets from the Rolling Stones, Wings, Ozzy Osbourne, the Eagles and Bruce Springsteen.
Displayed in cases are outfits worn by Madonna, Linda Ronstadt, Paula Abdul, Alanis Morissette and Rihanna (her skimpy getup isn’t as impressive on a headless manikin.)
And you wanted the best, then you get an autographed Gene Simmons Kramer axe bass, number 142 out of 1,000. How rare is that?
The highlight, though, is something very contemporary. The sinks in the rest room have a touch-
free faucet that has two touch-free dryer blowers connected to it.
"Reds, Virginia, Minnesota, 1985" by James Crnkovich
Former Minnesota photographer James Crnkovich returns to his home state for a five-day tour to launch a sweet book of his photos. Starting with a signing at the Saint Paul Saints game on July 1, the tour will include additional stops in St. Paul, Aurora, Gilbert, Virginia and Mountain Iron.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Crnkovich has been featured on CBS's Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, has his work in the collection of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and has exhibited around the world. Locally he's best known for his 1980s photos of the Iron Range which were included in the exhibition "At a Close Range," which traveled to colleges, universities and historical societies throughout the Midwest.
His new paperback, "Authentic Americana: The Art of Social Documentary," reprints about 50 of his color and black-and-white images dating from 1980 to the present. Taken in Minnesota, New York, Boston, Phoenix, Chicago and elsewhere, they capture the American scene in all its gaudy vulgarity, latent violence, decay, cornball nonsense, and good humor. His commentary about the images is as insightful as the pictures themselves. There's a certain tenderness and big hearted acceptance of human frailty and loneliness that makes his photos very special.
Now a resident of Mesa, Arizona, Crnkovich will be back home in Minnesota to promote the book at the following events. The book also is available through: Naciketas Press, 715 E. McPherson, Kirksville, MO 63501.
July 1: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Saint Paul Saints "Christmas in July" game, Midway Stadium, 1771 Energy Park Dr., St. Paul.
July 2: 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Common Good Books, Snelling at Grand, St. Paul.
July 3: 6 p.m., Aurora; 7 p.m., Gilbert. Patriotic Parades.
July 4: 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Aurora Public Library. 6 p.m. Virginia 4th of July parade.
July 5: 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Mac's Bar, 8881 Main St., Mountain Iron.
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