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Kraig and Kirk Johnson have two big to-do's on their plates over the next few days: Saturday’s memorial for their brother Kyle Johnson, who died Aug. 12, and Monday’s Triple Rock gig by their band Run Westy Run. The timing is not coincidental.
“We thought since we’re all going to be around, why not see if we can do a show and make it a kind of celebration?” Kraig explained of the Triple Rock show, which was only just booked last week amid all the other details the family has been dealing with after Kyle’s passing.
“I don’t think it will be a somber thing,” he added of the gig. “It’s not the memorial. It’ll just be what we do.”
Kyle, 54, had been in declining health for several years and was too sick to perform at any of the Westies’ five reunion shows since the first at First Avenue just after Christmas – their first performance in a decade and a half. Not just a case of putting the old band back together, the string of gigs also reunited the three brothers, who were split between New York (Kraig), California (Kirk) and Minneapolis (Kyle).
“He rehearsed with us, but he just wasn’t up to doing a show,” Kraig explained, noting that Kyle did at least get to attend a couple of the gig. He blamed his death on organ and kidney failure. “He was dealing with it for a long time. He’d get better for a while and you’d think he was doing OK, and then he’d get worse again.”
The lone sister among the four Johnson brothers, Kelly Abernathy posted this on Facebook following Kyle’s passing:
“His family was blessed with time to surround him with our love and support and say our goodbyes. On behalf of our family we would like to thank all his friends for their friendships, love and support that you shared with Kyle over the years. He holds a special place in our hearts and we will carry him with us in the days ahead. Kyle has a big heart and a kind soul and we will miss him so much.”
Though never as legendary abroad as the Replacements and Hüsker Dü (who preceded them on the Twin/Tone and SST labels, respectively), the Westies did gain a fanatical following locally in the late-‘80s with their rather crazed and unpredictable live shows. They also earned decent critical praise for their Peter Buck- and Grant Hart-produced albums on, loaded with a wild mix of danceable punk, psychedelic twang-rock and hard-grooving pop (and, sadly, all hard to find in stock nowadays).
At a 7th Street Entry gig in June -- timed to Kraig's return to town to play with the revamped Jayhawks -- the band took the stage in matching trucker hats, aviator sunglasses and '70s-porn mustaches. They were equally in sync musically, with ex-Son Volt ace Jim Boquist filling in on bass, a Gary Louris guest spot and a big singalong with "Mop It Up" and "Heaven's Not That Far Away." The latter one will surely sound more bittersweet should they play it Monday.
Run Westy Run was formed in the mid-'80s by the three St. Louis Park-reared Johnson brothers and guitarist Terry Fisher. Kyle mostly served as rhythm guitarist through the early-‘90s, when he quit the group in the kind of informal fashion that the band operates with to this day.
“He just kind of drifted away from the band but was fine with us doing it without him,” Kraig remembered.
Kyle lived in New York for many years after his tenure in the band and became an artist and woodworker, but he eventually moved back to the Twin Cities. He is survived by two teenage children, Ruby and Jack. The family is asking for memorials to benefit them in lieu of flowers. Their service for Kyle is at Washburn-McReavy in Edina (5000 W. 50th St. at Hwy. 100) from 11 a.m. on Saturday, with visitiation starting at 10 a.m. Click here for the family's obituary.
Like a lot of musicians with cultish fame and lengthy careers, Dave Ray’s recordings are spread out over a wide swath of record labels, including quite a few that – like the Minneapolis acoustic blues hero himself -- are no longer around. At last, though, one of Ray's oldest cohorts and the Twin Cities' longest-running label have taken on the hard task of sorting through Ray’s unreleased material and compiling it into one thorough and deservedly bulky anthology.
Red House Records announced today it will release the three-disc set “Legacy: Rare and Unreleased Recordings from an American Blues Master (1962 - 2002),” due to arrive Oct. 28. “Long in the making,” are the first words of the press release for the collection, which was “painstakingly” compiled by Ray’s longtime collaborator Tony Glover.
The collection includes some leftovers from Ray’s most famous group, Koerner, Ray & Glover – you know, the one that influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and John Legend to Bonnie Raitt and Beck – as well as tracks as a duo with Glover and various solo work.
Here’s the breakdown of what’s on each disc, per Red House:
The anthology will include a 32-page booklet with photos and liner notes. Here’s a taste of what Glover had to say for the collection: “To me he was a brother from another family – the family of sound. He brought a vitality to the blues that the scholars who’d been on the scene couldn’t muster.”
Ray died on Thanksgiving Day in 2002. Click here for the story we ran at the time on Koerner, Ray & Glover’s legacy, which was in the works at the time of his passing.
Red House is helping organize a release party at the Minnesota History Center on Nov. 9 with performers yet to be announced (details here).
With fervor building over the remade Replacements’ one and only hometown show Sept. 13 at Midway Stadium, many local scenesters are making sure the band’s former guitarist Bob “Slim” Dunlap doesn’t get lost amid the hubbub with a series of tributes/fundraisers.
Dunlap’s mounting medical bills from a severe stroke were what first spawned the Replacements rebirth last year in the form of the “Songs for Slim” EP. The beloved singer/songwriter/guitarist and former First Ave janitor is still bed-ridden and receiving care at his home in south Minneapolis, where he just marked his 63rd birthday last week.
First up is “Kinda Like Some Artists: The Replacements Poster Show,” a charity art sale and musical tribute happening Sunday in downtown St. Paul at the Hamilton Ink Spot space and the nearby Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Twenty locally rooted graphic artists have designed posters to commemorate the Midway Stadium show, including the Aesthetic Apparatus crew, Kii Arens, Tom Hazelmyer and Sam Anderson. The sale starts at 4 p.m. at Hamilton Ink, 375 Wabasha St. N. The music at the Amsterdam – mostly Replacements tunes and Dunlap’s solo material -- will kick off at 7 p.m. and run all night with performers including Curtiss A, Crossing Guards, St. Dominic’s Trio, Sons of Gloria, Doug Collins & the Receptionists, Pocket Genius and more.
On the eve of the Midway Stadium gig, Sept. 12, the Parkway Theater will host another multi-faceted show, “We Can’t Hardly Wait: A Slim Dunlap Benefit,” featuring an edited-down screening of the fan documentary “Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements” and another live tribute. Performers have not been named yet, but co-organizer Jon Clifford of Hi-Fi Hair & Records’ also promised “a slew of our local heroes”
The Cabooze also just announced "Lovesick Blues: A Birthday Tribute to Hank Williams," led by Curtiss A and doubling as a Dunlap fundraiser later in September, on the 26th. Curtiss has been earning raves for his Hank tribute sets over the past year or two, and Dunlap frequently covered the late Alabama music icon's tunes during his shows, too. Dunlap got his start playing with A’s team. Tickets for the show go on sale Friday at 11 a.m. for $10.
And there's still plenty of great merchandise to be hand in the "Songs for Slim" bin, too.
MOTHERLAND BENEFIT FRIDAY AT ICEHOUSE: Not related to Dunlap’s cause other than it’s also meant to offset medical bills and lend moral support, the Icehouse is hosting another worthy charity gig Friday dubbed “Motherland: A Benefit for Bobbie and Jeannie.” Hard-grooving electronic dance-pop favorites Apollo Cobra – whose song “Motherland” provided the name -- will play their first show in a couple months as headliners, with Verskotzi and Astrobeard for openers (10 p.m., $10 minimum donation, tickets on sale here). The subjects of the show, Bobbie Anderson and Jeannie Piekos are moms of some of the event’s organizers, each of whom were diagnosed with cancer around the same time. The concert will also feature a silent auction with items donated from around the music community and elsewhere.
Go big or go home. That must’ve been Jeremy Messersmith’s thinking as he headed to the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan yesterday to make his network TV debut on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
In addition to his regular, four-piece backing band, the Minneapolis pop craftsman brought the Laurel Strings Quartet and his non-touring guitarist Brian Tighe with him all the way to New York for the show – the same large ensemble he employed at Rock the Garden in June. He admitted via Twitter afterward that his entourage was too bulky to fit in the “Late Show’s” puny dressing rooms. “Lots of hanging in the hallway,” he said. Long before the performance aired, Messersmith posted a selfie on Instagram during the band's ungodly early 4 a.m. rehearsal on the Letterman set (reposted to the right).
Not only was the band big, but so was the song. He picked one of the grander, more challenging tunes from his “Heart Murmurs” album, “Bubblin’.” I’d say it paid off, but judge for yourself in the clip below.
Touring hard since February, Messersmith will scale back to his smallest incarnation for the next few weeks playing a string of the "supper club" solo shows he has long favored. He and the band do have one big gig in the area coming up soon: a pairing with Mason Jennings at the Vetter Stone Amphitheater in Mankato on Sept. 5.
Four young Minnesota musicians just wrapped a thrilling couple of weeks touring with the National Youth Orchestra, featuring soloist Gil Shaham. Left to right in a photo shot following a concert at Chicago's Millennium Park: Emma Richman, Anna Humphrey, Shaham, Arjun Ganguly and Liam Smith.
Turns out star violinist Gil Shaham isn't just a phenomenal musician. He's also a real mensch, according to four Minnesota teens who just finished performing eight concerts coast to coast with him. Violinist Emma Richman of Minneapolis, violinist Anna Humphrey of Rogers, violist Arjun Ganguly of St, Cloud and percussionist Liam Smith of Minneapolis were among 120 teens chosen to play with the prestigious National Youth Orchestra, a Carnegie Hall-funded program in its second year that auditions youth all over the country and pays for everything but transportation to New York at the outset and back home at tour's end.
Shaham was "the nicest guy, such a joy to work with," Richman said.
"You never know if you're going to get a diva, but he had this amazing way of making eye contact and smiling at everyone in the orchestra while he was playing," said Ganguly, in his second summer with the NYO. "He seemed like he was enjoying every minute of it."
The orchestra’s program included the premiere of "Radial Play," a special Carnegie commission by composer Samuel Adams, Leonard Bernstein’s "Symphonic Dances" from "West Side Story;" Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto with Shaham; and Ravel’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition." The final concert was performed Monday at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
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