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Replacements play Coachella

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: April 13, 2014 - 10:43 AM

Tommy Stinson, at left, and Paul Westerberg of the Replacements played outdoors beneath palm trees at the Coachella music festival April 11. Photo by Claude Peck

PALM SPRINGS, CA. -- For those of us, myself included, who remember weaving through icy Minneapolis streets to see the Replacements at the black-painted urban bus depot called First Avenue in the 1980s, the setting of their show last night was a stark contrast.

Twenty-three years after the band split up, and half a year after performing three reunion shows at RiotFest, the band played on the smaller of two outdoor stages at Coachella, the giant annual music fest located on a vast grassy polo grounds in Indio, California.The night was balmy, pot smoke perfumed the dry desert air and colored uplights bathed swaying palm trees in lurid glows of purple, red, green and citron. The total crowd was said to be about 75,000.

A giant spaceman hovered over normal-sized concertgoers at Coachella music festival in Indio, California. Photo by Claude Peck.

Despite 9 p.m. temperatures that remained in the mid-80s, Paul Westerberg came onstage in a white shirt with cufflinks, a bowtie and a sportcoat, looking more like a well-scrubbed algebra teacher on a parent conference night than the legendary lead singer of an influential post-punk band.

His bandmates included one other original Replacement, bassist Tommy Stinson, plus fast-and-furious drummer Josh Freese and perpetual-motion guitarist Dave Minehan.

Speaking of fast and furious, no-longer-young Westerberg unleashed tons of punky energy from the get-go, with three of the first four songs (“Takin’ a Ride,” “I’m in Trouble,” and “Hangin’ Downtown”) coming from their first album, 1981’s “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.” Westerberg let out a full-throated rocker howl in “Trouble.”

The Coachella show had 18 songs, including the two encore songs (“Alex Chilton” and “Bastards of Young,” which had the mixed-age crowd in full sing-along mode). Last fall’s RiotFest shows included about 24 songs.

Mid-set at Coachella, the band inserted “Nowhere Is My Home,” a B-side that had not been played at any of the RiotFest gigs. Another rarity, “Psychopharmacology,” showed up near the end of the set.

Westerberg, who eventually removed his tie and jacket, was in a chatty and gregarious, occasionally ornery mood. “We once made a record called ‘Stink,’ “ he said. “The new CD is called ‘Feculent.’”

Later, he announced to the throng, “I’m looking for a girl who’s never used the word ‘awesome.’ Still looking.”

Westerberg needed start-agains on a couple songs, including such anthems as “Androgynous” and “Achin’ to Be.”

The crowd for the Replacements concert, while not sparse, was quite a bit smaller than for Chromeo, Ellie Gouldling, AFI, Girl Talk and closer Outkast, all of which took place on the bigger Coachella stage. On Friday, other music at the Outdoor Theatre, where the Replacements played, included a cool sunset set by Neko Case, and sets by Broken Bells and the Knife.

Neko Case, at left, performed at Coachella on Friday. Photo by Claude Peck

I did not hear OutKast, but Janelle Monae was a guest at their reunion gig, and Prince reportedly was backstage, but did not appear. After not playing or recording together since 2006, OutKast’s Andre 3000 and Bigboi launched a 40-festival 2014 tour with their show at Coachella. Here's their Coachella set listSome reviewers found the set disappointing.

The Replacements play again at Coachella on April 18, and they have more festival dates this summer, including at Shaky Knees in Atlanta (May 10) and Forecastle in Louisville, Kentucky (July 20). To the dismay of hometown fans, a Twin Cities concert is not scheduled.

Other acts at Coachella this year include Arcade Fire, Beck, Lorde, Pet Shop Boys, Skrillex, Queens of the Stone Age, Foster the People and the Pixies.

The Replacements’ Coachella set list: Takin’ a Ride / I’m In Trouble / Favorite Thing / Hangin’ Downtown / Color Me Impressed  / Nowhere Is My Home / Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Achin’ to Be / Androgynous / Love Ya Till Friday / Left of the Dial / I’ll Be You / White and Lazy / Psychopharmacology / Alex Chilton / Cant’ Hardly Wait (encore) / Bastards of Young (encore)

Baraka to be toasted in the Twin Cities on Saturday

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: April 10, 2014 - 6:20 PM

The works, memory and achievements of Amiri Baraka, the influential poet, playwright, essayist and cultural theorist who died Jan. 9 at 79, will be celebrated Saturday in the Twin Cities, a place where he had tremendous influence.

"Dutchman," Baraka's landmark play that was turned into a film, was the first work produced at Mixed Blood when the theater was founded by Jack Reuler in 1976. It was directed by Lou Bellamy, who would go on to found Penumbra Theatre.

Baraka gave frequent readings in the Twin Cities, often travelling with family members.

"Spirit Reach," as the tribute is titled, will be hosted by novelist, professor and educational theorist Alexs Pate, and Arleta Little, arts program officer at the McKnight Foundation.

The slate of performers includes multi-instrumentalist and composer Douglas Ewart, rapper Toki Wright, actor Sha Cage and dancer Leah Nelson.

The free event also will feature performances by such pre-eminent spoken word artists as Bao Phi, Tish Jones,  J. Otis Powell, E.G. Bailey, Truthmaze, Andrea Jenkins and veteran poet Louis Alemayehu.

2-4 p.m. Sat., Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway, Mpls. 612-822-0015 or online. Admission is free.

Large-scale dance work ponders big questions

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: April 4, 2014 - 11:09 AM
Photo by Grant Halvorson.


Vanessa Voskuil’s “The Student” premiered Thursday night at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University. The evening-length work makes an impression, not only for its cast of over 150 dancers and singers but also for its strong conceptual vision, albeit one that is only partly realized. The thematic connections are both brilliant and tenuous. There are spellbinding moments of visual and kinetic harmony. And while ultimately “The Student” loses its way over the course of two hours, it still shows a fascinating journey through its creator’s mind.

This ritual-like work is built around the massing of groups of people engaged in repetitive movement and idiosyncratic breaks. As the performers enter the auditorium walking backwards they move with a sense of gravitas, slowly and purposefully, determined to maintain a respectful order. Their neutral-colored costumes and spare environment suggest a stark futuristic society, one in which emotions are stripped down and repurposed.

And that is an important point – Voskuil actually delves into an array of human states in “The Student” and yet they are not dramatic. The work, set to sternum stirring compositions from Janika Vandervelde and sound designer Jesse Whitney, is about the process of learning and, consequently, the process of becoming through learning. This evolution is deliberate, marked by visual and textual tableaux. We see hints of pioneering avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson’s influence here. Voskuil’s peeling back of layer upon layer of meaning from subtle sources reflects a shared approach.

“The Student” stands out for its intelligence and questioning spirit. Both Paul Herwig and Chris Conry ponder the existential quandaries Voskuil poses, but they also add wit and wordplay to the mix. There’s black humor in the recurring appearance of a hanging noose, complete with a cardboard cutout of Voskuil. The performers sit and scribble in the air around them, rote learners eventually overwhelmed by the task. A gorgeous sense of flow unfolds as movement ripples through the crowds onstage, especially as the performers roll from the back of the stage and fall into the orchestra pit, as if controlled by a force far bigger than them. And they are – Voskuil, despite her slight frame, is a powerful presence with a command of how to move large groups of people for her creative ends.

But the work has diminishing returns, despite an injection of impressive voice work from members of the Perpich Center for Arts Education Chorale Ensemble, Hamline University Women’s Chorale and St. Catherine’s University Women’s Choir. The questioning grows weary in its circularity and the work struggles to find an ending. The themes become repetitive and less interesting, too self-involved. In some respects one could argue this is the moment of mastery, when everyone in the piece (and watching it, too) finds an answer. But Voskuil’s intentions are not that pat. The process of learning often reveals nothing more than the need to continue searching.

“The Student” will be performed again Friday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. For information go to http://oshag.stkate.edu.

Dance world honors (and roasts) Sally Rousse

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: April 1, 2014 - 1:44 PM
Sally Rousse / Star Tribune photo by Richard Tsong-Taatarii

Fans filled the seats at the Cowles Center on Sunday night to celebrate James Sewell Ballet co-founder Sally Rousse. “Sally Jubilee!” marked the dancer/choreographer’s 50th birthday and the end of an era as she is moving on from the company after 24 years. So it was only fitting that the evening began with a tongue-in-cheek eulogy from animator Bill Burnett, who created the cartoon "Tutu the Superina" for Nickelodeon with Rousse.

“She who danced has gone on to join the other late greats in ballet heaven,” he intoned. “Suzanne Farrell, Gelsey Kirkland, Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Travolta.” Of course the joke is that none of these folks have passed on but people react to career changes like they are a sort of death.

Video of Rousse and Sewell working out moves early in their partnership showed two young innovators with a lot of creative chutzpah. When they stepped onstage Sunday night to perform the beautiful duet “Tryst” each showed that the passage of life events – including their marriage, two children and divorce – can deepen an onstage bond.

While there were many tender moments including the return of former Sewell members Christian Burns and Brittany Fridenstine-Keefe the evening was also filled with plenty of fond jokes at Rousse’s expense. According to Sewell her studio nickname is “tree frog” because of an uncanny ability to climb around on other dancers’ bodies. Dancer/choreographer Penelope Freeh, a Sewell Ballet member for 17 years, recalled how Rousse hopped into the cab of an idling beer truck blocking an alleyway in order to move it so they load up their car for a tour. “The driver was dumbstruck,” said Freeh, “But it got the job done.”

And speaking of making things happen, Patrick Scully, who introduced contact improvisation to the Sewell Ballet, described Rousse’s activist spirit by recounting how the petite ballerina stood up to the Cowles Center architects who were entertaining the notion of having the dancers use the same bathrooms as the patrons.

Perhaps the funniest scene of the night, however, belonged to the performance trio Mad King Thomas (Theresa Madaus, Tara King and Monica Thomas) wearing tutus and toe shoes, assuming ballet poses while reciting a list of  wild rumors about why Rousse was leaving Sewell Ballet. “She was fired,” they hissed. “She was hit by a bus! She slept with the boss! She’s moving to a cattle ranch in Australia where the cattle are in dances narrated by Hugh Jackman! She had Hugh Jackman’s baby! She quit and tore up all the costumes! It was a frenzy of tulle!” It was a brilliant send-up of the dance scene’s catty side.

Many expressions of appreciation for Rousse came from the heart. Freeh described Rousse’s willingness to share her roles with other dancers. Longtime friend, the poet Heid Erdrich, called her “intrepid not tepid.” All of the evening’s performers waltzed with Rousse while wearing costumes from her roles (including Sewell modeling Rousse’s hamburger tutu and French-fry headpiece from 2011’s “Le Dance Off”). Former Sewell and current Minnesota Dance Theatre member Justin Leaf serenaded Rousse with a sweet rendition of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

The show concluded with Rousse and Noah Bremer of Live Action Set dancing an excerpt from a work they are developing for the American Swedish Institute. “What’s next?” he asked Rousse. “It’s in the lobby!” she exclaimed, while being carried off funeral-style by her fellow dancers. The Brass Messengers struck up a festive march.It was time for birthday cupcakes.  

Barkhad Abdi jumps aboard Judd Apatow's 'Trainwreck'

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: April 1, 2014 - 12:37 PM


Barkhad Abdi. Photo: AP

Barkhad Abdi. Photo: AP

Barkhad Abdi will test his comedy chops in Judd Apatow’s next directorial effort, “Trainwreck,” according to the entertainment trade magazine Variety.

Amy Schumer, who wrote the script will play the lead role. Plot details are scarce, but according to the website Slashfilm, it concerns "a basket case (Schumer) trying to regain control of her life. Other key characters in the film include the woman's boyfriend, her best friend/co-worker, and her parent."

His “Trainwreck” part is Abdi’s first major role since earning an Oscar nomination for “Captain Phillips,” where he played young Somali hijacker Muse. His performance in the film won the BAFTA best supporting actor award.

If the rest of the desired cast signs on, this could have of the oddest ensembles in years. Among those eyeing roles are Tilda Swinton, pro wrestler John Cena, standup comedian Mike Birbiglia and Bill Hader. Let’s hope Abdi ends up as the romantic foil for Swinton. That would be very Apatowian.




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