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In the midst of a Midwest tour that brings them Thursday to House of Rock in Eau Claire (with Dessa) and Friday to the Triple Rock in Minneapolis, local hip-hop vets Toki Wright and Big Cats dropped a freaky new track this week that shows off the more psychedelic, neo-soul- and electronic-styled music they’ve been making together over the past year. Titled “Echinacea,” the song finds Wright riffing in a mild but semi-manic tone on the herbal pill of the same name – and our hope for self-improvement in general -- while Big Cats (Spencer Wirth-Davis) lays down an eerie, hypnotic groove.
“Enchinacea” is the first track issued off Wright’s and Big Cat’s upcoming album, “Pangaea.” They debuted more tracks along with a new live format on Atmosphere’s Welcome to MN Tour in late February. Lydia Liza of Bomba de Luz sings backup at the shows, and Eric Mayson of Crunchy Kids is featured on keys. K. Raydio and Shiro Dame -- featuring Sarah White of Traditional Methods -- will also perform at Friday’s Triple Rock show (10 p.m., $10, tickets on sale here). They have shows spread around Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota in the coming weeks leading up to set at the Soundset festival in Shakopee on May 25.
Nearly nine years after Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller died of complications from throat cancer, his memory has become the catalyst for a new organization/website, Kill Kancer, intended to help prevent cancer and promote alternative treatments – with the Twin Cities music scene’s support.
A new PSA video (posted below) was released just in time for Friday’s Kill Kancer fundraiser concert at the Cedar Cultural Center. Instead of some of Mueller’s rock-vet pals, though, the so-called “manifesto” video – put together by local videographer Dan Huiting with Rick Fuller and the Martin-Williams advertising agency -- curiously features a younger cast of local hip-hop and R&B stars, including Slug, Toki Wright, P.O.S., Ashley DuBose and No Bird Sing’s Joe Horton. Karl’s widow, Mary Beth Mueller, said this is a sign of the demographics Kill Kancer will initially target.
“We really want to reach the areas where it’s most preventable,” Mueller said, pointing to inner-city youths who don’t know about or don’t have access to healthier eating and living habits that can avert cancer.
Among Kill Kancer’s plans are planting gardens in urban areas that lack them, stocking food shelves with healthier items and working with Full Cycle to bring free bicycles into low-income neighborhoods (for the exercise benefits). That’s along with many other goals that Mueller has been dreaming up since Karl’s passing. “I just can’t get past this terrible [expletive] beast that is cancer,” she said.
The origins of Kill Kancer go back to the now-legendary 2004 Rock for Karl benefit/tribute concert at the Quest nightclub a year before Mueller’s death, where Soul Asylum, Golden Smog, Bob Mould, Grant Hart, Paul Westerberg and the Gear Daddies all performed. That set up the Karl Fund, which has funded research for new treatments at the University of Minnesota and now will benefit Kill Kancer.
Mary Beth said a friend’s private grant on the eighth anniversary of Karl’s death last year helped ignite the new efforts. So did last year’s inaugural Kill Kancer concert at the Cedar with Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy (one of their last local sets together), Golden Smog, the Magnolias, Curtiss A and Jordan Gatesmith.
Now comes the second Kill Kancer concert. Pirner is back in town and has put together a special video presentation to go with his performance at Friday’s show. Willie Murphy, Communist Daughter, Silverback Colony (led by 4onthefloor’s Gabriel Douglas) and Taj Raj are also all lined up to play the show, along with the “special guests.” The $25 tickets are still available.
“There are so many civic-minded, responsible musicians in this town, it’s amazing,” said Mueller, who is working with many of Friday’s performers for the first time. She also noted the irony of music being used to, you know, kill cancer.
“The tobacco companies have been using rock ‘n’ roll to sell their product for 30-40 years,” she said. “This is a great way to turn that around.”
When you’re Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer Dan Wilson, where do you go to celebrate the release of your first solo album in seven years? Of course, the Electric Fetus.
That’s where Wilson made monthly trips to buy music when in lived in Minneapolis for all those many years. But he moved to Los Angeles nearly four years ago to further his songwriting/producing career, working with the likes of Adele, Taylor Swift and Pink, among others.
Between sessions with all those bold-face names, Wilson managed to complete his “Love Without Fear,” his second solo effort. On Tuesday, he was up early chatting on 89.3 the Current, doing interviews in the afternoon (as well as lunching with his singing brother Matt Wilson) and then singing and signing autographs at the Fetus in the evening.
Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar at the Fetus, the sweet-voiced Wilson performed four songs from the new album (including the title track and the new single "A Song Can Be About Anything") and one number from “Free Life,” his 2007 solo debut. There was nothing from his Semisonic or Trip Shakespeare days – or his Grammy-winning-collaborator-for-hire resume.
Wilson did slip into his “Words and Music” mode – the usual VH1 "Storyteller"-like format of his solo concerts – and talked about his songwriting process and what sparked a couple of songs in particular. He will give full concerts June 4, 5 and 6 at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis – with a different approach each night, though “Words and Music” will be the first show.
At the Fetus, Wilson got about150 people to sing along to “All Kinds,” from his first solo disc. Mid-song, he politely called their singing “super-nice but super-quiet,” which made us wonder if that’s a euphemism for semisonic.
After the half-hour set, Wilson spent an hour posing for photos and signing CDs (the deluxe version contains a hardcover book featuring lyrics that he wrote in calligraphy).
We didn’t stick around to see if Wilson did any shopping but, in a pre-performance interview, he told us he’d transferred his monthly habit of shopping at the Fetus for “a handful of jazz records and new pop releases” to the sprawling indie chain, Amoeba, in Los Angeles.
“I do there what I did at the Fetus – I bought old Ornette Coleman, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Beck, Sun Kil Moon.”
Some musicians have finished songs by the late Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. But the Secret Sisters, the old-timey Alabama duo who come across like the Everly Sisters, got to complete a Bob Dylan song – and they’ve included it on their new album, “Put Your Needle Down.”
Their producer, T Bone Burnett, hooked them up with some demos from Dylan, which were from the 1980s..
Laura Rogers explained to RollingStone.com how she and her sister Lydia had such surreal luck and ended up with a song that Dylan co-wrote called “Dirty Lie.”
"We were in the middle of our recording session with T Bone and he said to us, 'Bob sent over some songs for you guys to listen to and choose one to finish. It was the weirdest thing ever to even be considered to finish it in a way that even remotely measures up to what he is known for. So we looked at four or five demos he’d sent, and ['Dirty Lie'] really spoke to us."
It took the Secret Sisters about two hours to finish the tune.
A dramatic version of Journey’s “Open Arms” earned Twin Cities club vet Kat Perkins a warm embrace from her coach Adam Levine at just the right moment to advance in the playoffs round on NBC’s “The Voice.”
The so-called “singing nanny” -- who left a job working for an Edina family of five children to be on the show -- was picked by Levine as one of three out of five Team Adam members to advance from Monday night’s show. Her version of the 1981 power ballad is now available as an iTunes download.
Known to local metal fans from her days fronting Scarlet Haze, the Scranton, N.D., native was the last of the three selected from Levine’s team in the episode’s tense closing moments. She was thus given a chance to make a final kiss-up comment to the Maroon 5 singer and said, “You believed in me from the get-go. That means the world to me.”
After her performance, Perkins, 33, earned praise from all four of the team coaches/judges. Usher told her, “You should be very, very proud of yourself.” Shakira added, “You’re so good with those big notes.” As for Levine, he said, “There has not been a better performance than this one.”
Perkins will perform as one of 12 contestants to advance to the live rounds starting next week.
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