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Posts about Minnesota musicians

Newly renovated Turf Club on track to reopen Aug. 28

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: July 23, 2014 - 3:38 PM
The Turf Club closed in June to make way for renovations. / Star Tribune file photo

The Turf Club closed in June to make way for renovations. / Star Tribune file photo

While the rebirth of one mainstay rock club is on hold for a while, there’s good news about the reopening of another: The Turf Club just announced it will host a grand re-opening party Aug. 28 with local country-rock favorites Dead Man Winter (led by Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles), Frankie Lee and Erik Koskinen.

Another big Turf show was just announced for Sept. 4 with the Jayhawks, who are already set to play First Avenue the following two nights and reportedly have something playful in mind for the warm-up gig (on sale Friday at noon).

With an eye for a mid-size room across town that will add to its booking options, First Ave bought the Turf Club last winter and promised to spruce the place up without ruining its good vibe. The doors were shut June 1 for renovations, which began in earnest almost immediately.

Among the heaviest work was adding a kitchen (to serve pub grub a la First Ave’s successful in-house eatery the Depot), a new roof, a new sound system and, yep, new bathrooms. While they were closed for summer, the Green Line opened its light-rail station right outside the Turf's front doors – which, by the way, were also replaced with new doors.

A glimpse inside during renovations. / Photo courtesy Dayna Frank“We’re just now getting to the part where everything is getting put together and it’s really starting to look great,” said First Ave general manager Nate Kranz, talking between interviews for the club’s new staff positions Wednesday. He said the Aug. 28 should be an easy target to make.

“We gave it a 10-day buffer, so barring any major glitch, we should be fine.”

While there were some not-so-pleasant surprises in the reconstruction process, there was at least one good one: The crew discovered a large mural of horses that had been hidden behind a curtain. It probably dates back to the 1940s and will now serve as the backdrop to the new stage.

The first week or two will be seen as a “soft opening” to test the staff and kitchen, but things won’t be soft for long. Among the acts already down to play the new Turf are JD McPherson (Sept. 9-10), Shonen Knife (Sept. 16), Nick Waterhouse (Sept. 20), Ty Segall (Sept. 24), Mike Watt’s new band Il Sogno del Marinaio (Sept. 28), Christopher Owens of Girls (Oct. 4), Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook (Oct. 14) and Sondre Lerche (Oct. 17). There’s also a great classic Turf lineup with the Birthday Suits and the Blind Shake scheduled Sept. 13 -- the day the Replacements are also booked to play St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood.

Jackson Browne visits 'Fountain of Sorrow,' Fountain of Youth

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: July 19, 2014 - 1:29 AM

A few thoughts on Jackson Browne’s concert Friday night at the sold-out State Theatre:

*He may sing about “Fountain of Sorrow” (which was the night’s highlight) but he clearly visits the Fountain of Youth. He still looks the same – same hairdo (looking like he was supposed to get a haircut two weeks ago), same figure, same untucked dress shirt and jeans. Let me repeat: He looks the same at 65 as he did when he was 24 and released his first album. His voice has the same timbre, though he takes some songs in a lower key.

* He was in good voice at the State. Remember in 2011, he postponed his State Theatre gig a few weeks because of problems with his vocal cords.

* The first of two sets on Friday lasted only 55 minutes. The promised 15- or 20-minute intermission stretched to 40 minutes. The second set ran 75 minutes. He played 22 songs total.

* With a row of 20-some guitars (some acoustic, some electric) lined up behind him, Browne opted to play piano a lot. He worked without a set list and occasionally accommodated requests shouted by fans (“I’m a recovering people pleaser,” he joked). Despite the unplanned repertoire, the set had a nice flow, partly because Browne was intermittently talkative and often funny (whether making fun of himself or his stepfather).

* After giving a long explanation how he had to watch a movie 20 times before writing a song to be played over the closing credits (he never mentioned the movie’s title but it was 2009’s “Shrink” with Kevin Spacey), he started playing the song and after a few lines, he decided picking with his thumb wouldn’t work. So the Rock Hall of Famer stopped, picked up a guitar pick and started “Here” all over again.

* Browne really likes the State Theatre. He told the crowd that a couple of times and even reminisced about receiving one of the guitars he was playing in the wings of the State from the late Minnesota guitar-maker Roger Benedict (whose company carries on).

* Browne praised the MSP Airport, noting that not all airports have a French Meadow Bakery. Travel tip duly noted.

Set list:

Set 1: I’ll Do Anything/ Sky Blue and Black/ Looking into You/ Looking East/ I’m Alive/ Something Fine/ Leaving Winslow (new song) / In the Shape of a Heart/ Rock Me on the Water

Set 2: For a Dancer/ Here (from the 2009 movie “Shrink”)/  Your Bright Baby Blues/ Birds of St. Mark/ Fountain of Sorrow/ The Fairest of the Seasons/ Rosie/ Shaky Town/ Doctor My Eyes (Browne on piano, Manny Alvarez on guitar)/ Late for the Sky/ I Am a Patriot (Steve Van Zandt song)/ Running on Empty ENCORE The Pretender

Minnesota Opera gets new support from Mellon Foundation

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: July 17, 2014 - 10:03 AM


Minnesota Opera’s reputation for developing new work has drawn interest and encouragement from many sources nationally and internationally. The company announced Thursday that it will receive a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support upcoming commissions of “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Shining” and “Dinner at Eight.”


The gift, which stretches over three years, completes fundraising for the Opera’s $7 million New Works Initiative and launches a new phase.

The gift “sets the stage for the Initiative’s continuation and underscores the national importance of this landmark program for the development of new opera,” Opera President and General Director Kevin Ramach said in a statement.

The initiative was launched in 2008 with the intention of supporting new commissions and revivals of newer work (which in opera can mean anything from the last century) or work seldom performed. Among the world premieres developed through the program are “Silent Night” (Photo above by Tom Wallace) by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell and “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley and Douglas Cuomo (below, photo by Tom Wallace).


Puts won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his “Silent Night” score. He and Campbell are working on an adaptation of “The Manchurian Candidate,” which is in development and targeted for a premiere next March.

Campbell will also serve as librettist for “The Shining” with composer Paul Moravec (slated for May 2016) and he will write “Dinner at Eight” with composer William Bolcom (headed for 2017). Both those productions are part of the second phase of the initiative. Additionally, the New Works Initiative incorporates a co-commission of “Cold Mountain” (based on Charles Frazier's Civil War novel) with Santa Fe and Opera Philadelphia, with a score by composer Jennifer Higdon.

Aloe Blacc, fireworks wake up All-Star Game Gala, residents

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: July 15, 2014 - 4:14 AM



“Ironic” seems to be the theme of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game experience in the Twin Cities.

After we finally build a gorgeous outdoor ballpark, we land the Home Run Derby during a record cold-day for July. Nice.

And the timing of this all-eyes-on-Minneapolis event couldn’t be better. The Twins biggest star, Joe Mauer, can’t qualify for the All-Star Game because he pulled his obscure, er, oblique muscle. An extraordinary injury for Above-Average Joe, whose only weaknesses are bilateral.

To add insult to injury, the Home Run Derby gets delayed on Monday by an hour because of rain, and then the contest provides all the drama of a Brazil-Germany World Cup soccer match.

After Monday's snooze fest at Target Field, MLB tapped Aloe Blacc for its post-Derby All Star Gala at Mill City Ruins and Museum. I guess they couldn’t find Alanis Morissette to sing “Ironic.”


So they got the voice (and songwriter) of Avicii’s worldwide smash “Wake Me Up.”

And that’s exactly what Aloe Blacc did to the crowd of a few thousand ticket-holding partiers outdoors behind the Mill City Museum – and to untold residents on the opposite side of the Mississippi River.

With show-time temperature hovering at 57 degrees, the pop-soul star played a 50-minute set that featured his big hit, “The Man,” which has become something of a theme for All-Star Game promos, and a slow-downed, almost jazzy reading of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

“I apologize for doing a Michael Jackson song in Prince’s city,” Blacc, who lives in Southern California, said after the tune. “But we don’t know any Prince songs.”

There were plenty of Minnesotans in the crowd, judging by all the Twins gear (people still love Kirby Puckett and Justin Morneau). There were a few faces well-known to local baseball fans: Clark Griffith, Dick Bremer and Frank Viola.  But there were many out-of-towners showing their love for the L.A. Dodgers, Detroit Tigers and, of course, the Yankees. Too bad it was so chilly that the visitors were ignoring the fabulous Izzy’s ice cream desserts set up next to space heaters on the riverbank.

The out-of-towners seemed captivated by the fireworks above the Stone Arch Bridge – which started at 12:20 a.m. and lasted for 13 minutes. But the fireworks seemed like an impossible-to-ignore snooze alarm for nearby residents who didn’t abide by Aloe Blacc’s “Wake Me Up.”

We imagine the Twins, Major League Baseball and Minneapolis officials might be receiving some uncomplimentary phone calls, emails and Tweets.

Trampled by Turtles go "Wild" at Cedar Cultural Center

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: July 11, 2014 - 9:49 AM

They slowed things down again on their latest record, but Trampled by Turtles proved they can still perform with fast efficiency on Thursday night at the Cedar Cultural Center.

The bearded pickers played their new album, “Wild Animals,” front to back in a free concert for local fans who ordered it at the Electric Fetus. Since the show was also broadcast live via 89.3 the Current, the guys took the stage right at 8 p.m. sharp and walked off stage 47 minutes later.

Frontman Dave Simonett did a little talking between songs, including a moment of high praise for the Electric Fetus and Thursday’s record-buying crowd. “It’s great in 2014 to still be able to walk into a record store like that,” he said. However, he let the new material speak for itself. And did it ever.

The quintet unofficially turned into a sextet at Thursday’s gig with the addition of Eamonn McLain, the Field Trip (nee Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles) cellist who has performed with them here and there in the past – including their Letterman appearance in 2012. Word is McLain will be with them on Letterman again Tuesday and throughout their upcoming tour.

McLain’s presence added a somber tinge to some of the more slower-paced, ambient tunes, including the shimmering “Silver Light” and the folky, harmonious gem “Hollow.” He and violinist Ryan Young also played off each other with great flair in the dramatic burner “Repetition,” one of a few songs to also feature local MVP drummer JT Bates on tambourine (not exactly the most demanding use of Bates’ talent, but a nice little touch nonetheless). Banjoist Dave Carroll and mandolinist Erik Berry got to strut their stuff later in the hard-plucking, twangier ditties “Come Back Home” and “Western World,” the latter of which was one of a handful of tunes the band had yet to play live. You wouldn’t have known it.

After the mellow, truly grand finale “Winners” – a song laced with bittersweet Duluth references – the band only returned for one more tune, a cover of Loudon Wainwright III’s “Swimming Song” dutifully sung by bassist Tim Saxhaug. “This summer I did jackknives and swan dives for you,” Saxhaug sang, one of many lines that seemed fitting given how big a summer it’s becoming for the Trampled crew.

If you missed the broadcast, look for Thursday's concert in the 89.3 the Current archives.


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