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Sort of a reboot of last year’s unique Bayfront double-bill with Atmosphere and the previous summer’s Rock the Garden lineup, Trampled by Turtles will pair up with Doomtree for another unlikely melding of bluegrassy acoustic folk-rock and spazzy electronic hip-hop at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth on June 28. Hometown favorites Low and Haley Bonar, who got her start in the Twin Ports music scene, will also perform at the outdoor show. Tickets go on sale Friday at noon for $25 via eTix.com, or in person at First Avenue outlets.
Last year’s First Avenue-promoted Bayfront gig with Atmosphere and Trampled (on the same weekend as this year’s) was a smash success, drawing 9,000 fans – the biggest crowd either of the Minnesota groups has played to in Duluth. By comparison, the big Americanarama bill with Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket that came a couple weeks later to Bayfront only drew about 7,000.
Trampled and Doomtree also performed together on the all-Minnesota-rooted Rock the Garden lineup in 2012, and fans didn’t seem to suffer any sort of musical whiplash transitioning from “Bangarang” to “Wait So Long.” The show will serve as a hometown release party of sorts for TBT’s latest album, “Wild Animals,” which arrives July 15. They’re not scheduled to play in Minnesota after that until their big Palomino Festival at Canterbury Park in Shakopee on Sept. 20.
On the Doomtree front, the Bayfront show and a Moorhead gig a night earlier (also with Trampled) will be the group’s first gigs since December’s Blowout shows, and possibly P.O.S.’ first performance since his kidney transplant in February.
Our favorite outdoor venue in Minnesota, the harborside Bayfront Park amphitheater only has one other big show confirmed on the summer calendar so far, the 26th annual Bayfront Blues Festival Aug. 8-10 with Robert Randolph & the Family Band and Los Lonely Boys.
Fans excited about taking light-rail to the Turf Club when the Green Line opens in June are going to have to wait another couple months to do so. St. Paul’s most beloved rock venue will be closed during much of the summer for renovations. Plans call for the doors to shut starting June 1 and remain closed through probably at least the end of July – although, not literally closed, since new front doors are actually part of the vast array of upgrades that will be done in that time.
“We’ll be doing a kitchen installation, installing the fire suppression system, repairing the bars, putting a new roof on, replacing all of the HVAC, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting,” First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz listed off. First Avenue took over the club in October and formally bought it just before Christmas.
The kitchen instillation -- in the big part of the basement not used for the Clown Lounge – will be the most dramatic change for the Turf. After its success with the Depot Tavern, First Ave will similarly pair food service with its usual rock ‘n’ roll business, keeping customers there longer and bringing in non-rocking patrons, too. Kranz said the staff will hold a “soft opening” for a few weeks upon reopening to get the restaurant side in shape, followed by a grand reopening celebration, probably in early September.
Besides the kitchen, many of the other improvements – some of which are already under way – are mostly just structural renovations that won’t alter the club’s great character, something the First Ave crew (Turf patrons themselves) promised when they took over. In other words, it’s mostly just the kind of stuff that will keep the place standing for another 70 years, and maybe even another five or six more Mark Mallman Marathons.
As for the two-plus months when the club goes dark, look for more First Ave-promoted shows at the Cedar Cultural Center and Triple Rock. The Triple Rock, for instance, already has a couple shows on the summer calendar that otherwise might have gone to the Turf, including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on June 11 and a Felice Brothers/Robert Ellis co-bill on July 1.
Maxwell and Michael McDonald, soul men of divergent styles, are coming back to the Twin Cities this summer.
Maxwell will return June 15 to the State Theatre, as part of his 35-city Summer Solstice Tour that is skipping such major markets as New York, Miami, Philly and Dallas. The neo-soul singer hasn’t released an album since 2009. Tickets, priced from $35.50-$125, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at the State box office and hennepintheatretrust.org.
McDonald, known for hits with the Doobie Brothers as well as his interpretations of Motown classics, will perform June 29 at the Mystic Lake Casino showroom. Tickets, priced at $31 and $39, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ticketmaster.com and 952-445-9000.
In other concert news, Broken Bells – the indie-rock duo of Danger Mouse and James Mercer – will return Aug. 3 at the State Theatre. The group kicked off its winter tour in February with a sold-out show at First Avenue. Tickets, priced at $37.50, will go on sale at 11 a.m. Friday at the State box office, 800-745-3000 and Ticketmaster outlets.
The Replacements haven’t announced a Twin Cities date – yet. But word came today that, after playing Coachella for two weekends, the ‘Mats will play the Austin City Limits Festival in October in Texas – along with Eminem, OutKast, Pearl Jam, Skrillex, Beck, Lorde and many others.
The Mats also have scheduled performances at the Shaky Knees festival in Atlanta on May 10 and Forecastle fest in Louisville on July 20.
Ragamala Dance Theatre founder Ranee Ramaswamy (right, photo by Ed Bock) was in Banana Republic at the Mall of America when she got the call that she had been awarded $275,000 from the Doris Duke Foundation in New York.
Choreographer Emily Johnson, who founded Catalyst Dance, was just about to give her dog a bath when she, too, got a similar call.
“I cried,” said Johnson, 38. “I was just stunned.”
Ramaswamy 62, had a similar reaction. “I walked out of the store and sat on a bench for God knows how long,” she said. “You know, you do your work out of love, and then a blessing like that comes.”
The Twin Cities scored big in the Doris Duke performing arts awards, announced Tuesday. In addition to Johnson and Ramaswamy, Twin Cities puppet-maker Michael Sommers was awarded $80,000 from the Duke Foundation, named for the famous arts loving philanthropist and tobacco heiress.
Golden Valley-bred composer and pianist Craig Taborn, who now lives in New York, also was awarded $275,000.
The Twin Cities-connected performers were part of a national roster of 39 artists in theater, dance and jazz who were honored this year. Choreographers Bill T. Jones, Joanna Haigood and John Jasperse were also named winners alongside playwrights David Henry Hwang, Lisa Kron and Tarell Alvin McCraney as well as jazz greats Roscoe Mitchell and Randy Weston.
In the past three years, the Duke foundation has given out more than $18 million to artists, funds that are delivered over years and that include a portion for retirement savings.
Ramaswamy who founded Ragamala 22 years ago, is in Philadelphia, where she was on a panel for the Pew Charitable Trusts. She was, with daughter Aparna, the Star Tribune’s Artist of the Year in 2011. In 2012, President Obama appointed her to the National Arts Council.
“You know, as an artist, you’re working your little thread,” said Ramaswamy. “When it gets noticed, that gives you encouragement to continue doing what you do. This is a gift like that. And to be mentioned in the same breath with Bill T. Jones, that’s a high honor.”
Jose James knows how to strike a balance.
A balance between hometown folksiness and passionate professionalism, between new and old material, between rehearsed and improvised – and most of all between styles, blending jazz, soul, hip-hop and rock into his own distinctive style.
In front of a full house at the Cedar Cultural Center Monday, the Minneapolis-reared, Brooklyn-based James previewed his forthcoming fifth album, “While You Were Sleeping,” due in June.
The spare, spacey “U r the 1” hadn’t quite come together yet but the rest of the new material impressed, including the atmospheric “While You Were Sleeping,” “4 Noble Truths” with its swirling intensity and an elegant reading of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful.”
Speaking of Green, a number dubbed “Al Green Remix” was one of the night’s highlights as James kept singing lines from such Green songs as “Love and Happiness” and “I’m Still in Love with You” as if they were samples and he was a hip-hop DJ scratching the samples. Later, during a free-wheeling 40-minute version of “Park Bench People,” he sampled a little Nirvana and also let his four first-rate musicians take solos.
Other older numbers stood out, including the Adele-evoking, pop-soul “Come to My Door” and the closing ballad “Do You Feel.” Both tunes came from 2013's "No Beginning No End," which was my top album of last year.
And there was plenty of time for hometown chatter about having worked across the street at Depth of Field, having done a pre-concert interview on KFAI and having turned down a part in a South High production of “West Side Story” because it was in the American, not Puerto Rican, gang.
But Monday was truly about the music and James’ inspired balance and blend. In his nearly two-hour performance, the versatile and deeply talented singer, 36, demonstrated the warmth of Lou Rawls, the intimacy of Bill Withers, the intellect of Gil Scott-Heron and the adventurousness of Sly Stone.
James’ mother (who was in the audience), father, the folks at Minneapolis’ South High (some of whom were there) and James’ mentor Louis Alemayehu (who was there), among others, certainly did right by him.
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