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.
What has happened since progressive bluegrassers Nickel Creek took an indefinite hiatus seven years ago?
Creek frontman Chris Thile won a MacArthur genius grant and made major musical noise with the Punch Brothers, Yo-Yo Ma and others. Creek fiddler/singer Sara Watkins won lots of fans with regular appearances on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and two solo albums. And guitarist/singer Sean Watkins built his resume by forming Fiction Family and the supergroup WPA with Glen Phillips, Benmont Tench and others.
When the reunited Nickel Creek hit the stage Sunday at the sold-out State Theatre, the fans reacted like they were witnessing the return of a beloved boy-band. Screams, whistles, shouts – nothing usually associated with bluegrass groups, even one celebrating its 25th anniversary (they started as tweens).
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that 89.3 the Current has been showing love for Nickel Creek’s reunion album, “A Dotted Line,” tunes from which were the focus of the nearly two-hour performance. Or maybe a new generation has simply gotten hooked on bluegrass/folk from Trampled by Turtles and the Punch Brothers. Sunday's crowd was a mix of 20-something hipsters, graying bluegrassers and plenty of people in between.
Supported by bassist Mark Schatz, Nickel Creek was in good spirits, good form and good humor. Thile playfully boasted about the group’s ability to create great titles for instrumental songs. He rated “Scotch and Chocolates” an A-plus, dissed “Smoothie Song” and bragged about “Ode to a Butterfly” and especially the brand new “The Elephant in the Corn.”
Concertgoers could have bragged about the band’s instrumental prowess, especially the versatility demanded with all the stylistic shifts during the musical maze that is “The Elephant in the Corn.”
Nickel Creek has always been about Thile’s expert mandolin work, Sara’s fine fiddling, the three-part vocal harmonies and musical creativity.
Sean’s “21st of May” was a witty reflection on the doomsday predictions for the Darkness that never transpired. Sister Sara’s “Anthony” was a witty ditty dripping in irony with humor that evoked Nellie McKay and harmonies that suggested the Roches.
A version of Mother Mother’s “Hayloft” was all bouncy indie-rock with a jagged fiddle solo and an intense Nirvana-evoking mandolin break. It was followed by “The Fox,” a traditional workout that might have prompted fans to promenade and dosey-do if there had been room to square dance. Instead, people just clapped in cadence.
The high point may have been the finale, Sara’s rendition of Sam Phillips’ “Where Is Love Now.” It’s a pretty, sad song, with so much loneliness in Sara’s slightly breathy voice with a hint of vibrato. The chorus was dark and Beatley. If Paul McCartney had been a woman writing a country plaint, it might have sounded like this truly special piece.
Opening the concert were the delightful Secret Sisters. In conversation, Laura Rogers came across like Melissa McCarthy only more self-deprecating and less loud but just as funny. In song, the sisterly harmonizing Laura and Lydia Rogers were similarly clever, packing emotional punch in such new numbers as "Bad Habit" and “Good Luck, Good Night, Goodbye.”
Jason Davis is going from "On the Road" to Down the Road. The long-time Minnesota TV journalist announced his retirement Thursday and will hang it up on May 30. KSTP, his home since 1976, will air a week of tributes starting May 19.
"Jason won the first Emmy awarded in KSTP history in 1996," said Stanley Hubbard, chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting. "He has been a tremendous asset to KSTP and will be missed."
Davis, best known for his easy-going feature stories, said he's miss the exciting travel and fascinating people that he's gotten to meet.
"I have been given the unique freedom to choose my own stories, travel where I will and write and produce the story I want to tell," he said. "I don't think any other person in the television industry has been given the freedom I have enjoyed at KSTP."
The lineup for the 20th annual Basilica Block Party is being announced this afternoon on Cities 97 – one act every 15 minutes.
Announced thus far are Alpha Rev, Delta Rae, Airborne Toxic Event, Wild Feathers, local band Black Diet and the duo of roots rocker Ben Harper and blues harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite.
The BBP is slated for July 11-12 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. The previous events have raised $5.2 million for the basilica’s restoration and outreach program.
This year’s event will feature 20 acts on three stages over two days. Pre-sale tickets will go on sale Saturday for members of Cities 97 Frequent Listeners Club; the public sale begins May 3 at etix.com, the Electric Fetus and 1-800-514-3849.
Cities 97 DJs Paul Fletcher and Keri Noble should finish announcing the lineup by about 7 p.m. Look for an update here shortly thereafter.
He’s back! After a two-year absence from the State Fair, Garrison Keillor will bring “A Prairie Home
Companion” back to the grandstand on Aug. 29.
Before his hiatus (to undertake “Prairie Home” cruises), Keillor had performed eight consecutive years at the Great Minnesota Get Together. Tickets, priced at $25 and $32, will go on sale at noon Saturday.
Country superstar Tim McGraw (right, Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider) will be returning to the grandstand for the second consecutive year, with an Aug. 27 concert. Tickets, priced at $56 and $71, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be his fifth appearance at the state fair.
The fair also announced DigiFest Minnesota, starring the vocal group Fifth Harmony of “X Factor” fame and YouTube favorite Cimorelli, on Aug. 24 at the grandstand. Tickets, priced at $20 and $30, will go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Tickets can be purchased at mnstatefair.org, etix.com and -1-800-514-3849. The state fair box office will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
These three concerts join the previously announced shows: Kid Rock on Aug. 23, Linkin Park on Aug. 26 and the Happy Together Tour starring the Turtles on Aug. 25.
Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola have decided to get a divorce
Wurzer confirmed the separation by e-mail Tuesday after posting a short notice on Facebook. The couple, who have been married for 20 years, will continue to co-host "Almanac," TPT's long-running news program.
Eskola was a high-profile reporter for WCCO radio before leaving in 2010. Wurzer continues to work mornings at MPR.
In her e-mail, Wurzer said "all is well between Eric and me. We have the full support of TPT."
Wurzer and Eskola started co-hosting the Friday night show in 1994, the same year they got married.
Photo: From left to right: Eric Eskola, Tom Emmer, Mark Dayton, Cathy Wurzer and Tom Horner in 2010 "Almanac" debate. Photo by Jeff Wheeler
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