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Posts about Minnesota musicians

Trampled by Turtles steaming ahead to Letterman, NPR's 'First Listen'

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: July 7, 2014 - 11:29 AM
Trampled by Turtles played "The Late Show With David Letterman" in 2012 and return next week.

Trampled by Turtles played "The Late Show With David Letterman" in 2012 and return next week.

Right on cue for next week’s release of their seventh album, “Wild Animals,” Trampled by Turtles are predictably picking up steam. The band just announced it will return to “The Late Show With David Letterman” next Tuesday night, July 15, the day the record comes out. That’s in addition to other East Coast media gigs that week including a CBS “Early Show” appearance (airing July 19), a WXPN/World Café Live noontime broadcast on July 18 and a “Tiny Desk Concert” at National Public Radio headquarters in Washington, D.C.


Trampled will head east right after its special hometown release concert Thursday at the Cedar Cultural Center, tickets for which were given out free with pre-orders of the album from the Electric Fetus. Otherwise, the fellas won’t have another gig locally until their Sept. 20 Festival Palomino at Canterbury Park.

Meanwhile, NPR got the exclusive “First Listen” stream of “Wild Animals,” which debuted this morning. Writer Stephen Thompson called it “a thoughtful, stately grower of a record.” You can stream the album in full here via NPR. Here's the recently released video for the new title track, directed by local filmmaker Phil Harder and starring a less-than-Har-Mar-like Har Mar Superstar.

The Hold Steady's MN Zoo set list

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: July 6, 2014 - 12:49 PM
Craig Finn occasionally imitated the Minnesota Zoo stage's daytime stars (birds) in Saturday's sold-out Hold Steady concert. / Monica Herndon, Star Tribune

Craig Finn occasionally imitated the Minnesota Zoo stage's daytime stars (birds) in Saturday's sold-out Hold Steady concert. / Monica Herndon, Star Tribune

The Hold Steady has been changing its set list rather dramatically from night to night and city to city this summer. There weren't any big surprises in the mix at the Minnesota Zoo on Saturday, just in the order they were played.

Look for the full concert review at startribune.com/music. Here's the set list:

Positive Jam / Stuck Between Stations / I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You / The Swish / Sequestered in Memphis / You Can Make Him Like You / Rock Problems / Magazines / Constructive Summer / Sweet Part of the City / The Only Thing / Spinners /  The Ambassador / The Weekenders / Chips Ahoy! / Southtown Girls / Your Little Hoodrat Friend    ENCORE: Citrus / Hornets! Hornets! /  Massive Nights / Slapped Actress / Killer Parties

James Hunter delivers authentic vintage soul at the Dakota

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: July 6, 2014 - 12:34 AM

It’s festival season, so James Hunter is in demand. Which kind of explains why he’s playing a split gig at the Dakota Jazz Club. Sorta. He performed there Thursday and, after playing at the Thunder Bay Blues Festival in Canada on Saturday, he’s back at the Dakota Sunday night.

The British blue-eyed soul man was in good form on Thursday. He leaned heavily on material from last year’s “Minute by Minute,” which was a good thing because it’s probably his most consistent album. (It’s also his first made-in-America disc, produced by Gabriel Roth of the Dap-Kings.)

Once again, Hunter tips his hat to Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and his beloved the “5” Royales, a 1950s group whose songs were later interpreted into hits by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and the Mamas and the Papas, among others.

On Thursday, he gave ample solo opportunities to his sax men Damian Hand (tenor) and Lee Badau (baritone) and B3 organist Matt Slocum, the only American in the band. And Hunter took a few solos on guitar. But, in the spirit of the 1960s soul era that he mines so effectively, no Hunter number drags on past three or four minutes.

In just under 90 minutes, the James Hunter Six delivered nearly 20 numbers. The always charming Hunter – who looks like an impish John Mellencamp -- wasn’t as chatty as in some previous Twin Cities shows but that’s OK because sometimes it’s difficult to understand his Cockney accent, especially when he’s talking fast.

Hunter, 51, is not particularly showy. But, despite his restraint, he was unquestionably soulful and sexy – though the sound of the upright bass could have been louder, for my taste.

Hunter brought the passion on the dynamic “Baby, Don’t Do It” by the "5: Royales. He unleashed James Brown-like screams on “Look Out,” scatted on “Down Home Girl” and channeled his inner Smokey Robinson on “Let the Monkey Ride.”

Memphis-style horns colored “Chicken Switch,” skiffle seasoned “People Gonna Talk” and a “Tequila”-like rhythm splashed over “The Gypsy.”

The James Hunter Six may not be as exciting as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings or as showy as newcomers St. Paul & the Broken Bones. But Hunter is the real deal – he delivers vintage-sounding soul with authenticity and love.  

 The James Hunter Six perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Dakota Jazz Club. Crankshaft, the blues- and rockabilly-loving artist from Anoka, opens solo.

Babes in Toyland reunion rumors just that for now

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: June 30, 2014 - 4:32 PM
Babes in Toyland circa 1996 with (from left) Lori Barbero, Kat Bjelland and Maureen Herman. / Photo by Bill Phelps

Babes in Toyland circa 1996 with (from left) Lori Barbero, Kat Bjelland and Maureen Herman. / Photo by Bill Phelps


***UPDATE: A new report on the news blog BoingBoing.net further confirms the reunion and points more to the origins. It will apparently be bankrolled with some of Marueen Herman's associates from the nonprofit Project Noise. But the band members have still yet to meet in one place to forge ahead with the plans.

Babes in Toyland fans screaming with delight at the chance to scream along to the old songs in concert again probably should not hold their breath yet.

The weirdly vague reports going around music blogs today "announcing" the influential Minneapolis thrash-punk trio’s reunion conspicuously left out mentions of drummer Lori Barbero, the band’s co-founder (and the band name's co-owner). She said it’s way too preliminary and tentative to be calling this a comeback, but the members do plan to talk in a conference call Tuesday to possibly start hashing out details.

“There’s nothing I can comment on yet,” said Barbero, who claimed she has only had sporadic contact via texts and e-mails in recent months with her former bandmates, singer/guitarist Kat Bjelland and bassist Maureen Herman. She would be all for putting the old band back together, she said, “But something else has to happen first.”

Some of the reports seemed to suggest Herman and Bjelland could perform as Babes in Toyland without Barbero, who now lives in Austin, Texas. “I should hope not!” Barbero said, adding that she doesn't believe Bjelland would want that either.


The reunion talk was sparked by a radio interview Bjelland and Herman did over the weekend at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, Calif. (posted below). They pointed to a not-yet-announced benefit gig in Minneapolis for Lady Parts Justice as the would-be target for their first show, and Bjelland also hinted at making new music together.

“We’ll make it a reunion and do songs we’ve done before,” Bjelland said in the interview. “I think we were kind of talking to see how it goes, and make it Babes in Toyland but a new formation, write new songs and stuff.”

Attempts to reach Bjelland and Herman for further comment today were not reciprocated. Herman has been working as a writer in recent years, including stints with the Upright Citizens Brigade and comedian Lizz Winstead.

As was the case with the Replacements’ reunion and their frontman Paul Westerberg, just getting Bjelland back on stage might be exciting enough of a prospect for old Babes fans. She has been living a mostly reclusive life in Minneapolis since the mid-‘00s. She talked in a 2007 interview of wanting to step back from the music business after fighting physical and mental illness, falling out with a manager and stirring up controversy by touring England as Babes in Toyland with fill-in members (and without Barbero’s permission).

“One of the reasons I got sick, I think, is because I stopped playing music,” she said in 2007. “I need it as therapy.”

Bobby Z's Purple Hearts Club Band at First Ave, Apollonia at Paisley Park

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: June 30, 2014 - 2:21 AM
Brian Setzer and Cory Wong "Rock This Town"

Brian Setzer and Cory Wong "Rock This Town"

Why shouldn’t somebody celebrate “Purple Rain” this summer at First Avenue?

While Prince is adverse to celebrating anniversaries and looking back, his former drummer Bobby Z toasted the 30th anniversay of “Purple Rain” in a big way Saturday at First Avenue at his third annual Benefit 2 Celebrate Life for the American Heart Association.

Bobby Z, drummer for Prince & the Revolution, found an array of local guests – and one out-of-towner, “Purple Rain” co-star Apollonia – to play songs from “Purple Rain” as well as some of their own selections.

Four years ago, Bobby Z suffered a near-fatal heart attack. So he has organized an annual benefit to raise awareness about heart health. He gave a little speech and showed a quick video but the “educational” highlight was when one of his doctors, Dr. Uma Valeti, said: “It’s easier to save a man’s life than to put up a show like this.”

Amen. The scheduled opening act didn’t arrive on time. So, the music began with a surprise guest, pinch-hitting for a stuck-in-transit performer. Yes, Bobby Z called on Brian Setzer, Minneapolis’ most overlooked guitar hero, to open the show with the house band – which the pompadoured guitar man dubbed Bobby Z’s Purple Hearts Club Band.

And, apparently without rehearsal, Setzer and the the band tore through a rockabilly number and two Stray Cats classics, “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town.” Indeed, Setzer did rock this town. And to show you what kind of guy he is, he usually let Cory Wong from the house band take the first guitar solo - - and there were solo opportunities for the other band members, as well.

Then the expected kickoff act showed up: hip-hop hero Slug, of Atmosphere, just back from Milwaukee. He threw down a rap/sing version of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and then it started raining “Purple."

“American Idol” finalist (from Season 5) Paris Bennett declared “Baby, I’m a Star,” with some star-like testifying at the end. Her mother, Jamecia Bennett, raised the bar by taking “When Doves Cry” to church with the help of Sounds of Blackness.  The Grammy-winning choir stuck around for some of their own selections, including “Optimistic.”

Then it was star time with Apollonia offering “Take Me with U,” which apparently Apollonia 6 recorded before Prince reclaimed it for himself for “Purple Rain.”

Apollonia returns to First Avenue

Apollonia returns to First Avenue

Dr. Fink, formerly of Prince and the Revolution, showed why he has a PhD in keyboards, as he played “Do Me Baby” as a wedding march and offered “Father’s Song,” composed by Prince’s dad John Nelson for the movie soundtrack.

Then it was time for a little Purple detour, with G Sharp of Dr. Mambo's Combo, who does the best vocal impression of Prince of anyone in the Twin Cities, delivering “Dirty Mind.”

Paul Peterson took the stage next to ask: What time is it? If you can’t have Morris Day, then Peterson, a Time replacement member for “Purple Rain,” sang the Time’s “Cool” and “Jungle Love” that were featured in the movie.

The show concluded, of course, with the entire cast (save Setzer) doing “Purple Rain.”  Wong’s guitar defined the song as several vocalists took turns. But, in the end, when Jamecia Bennett wailed and Wong’s guitar kept rising, there were chills like when Prince himself performed “Purple Rain” at First Ave.

What do you do for an encore? Show “Purple Rain,” the movie, in its entirety on First Avenue’s big screen.

For her encore, Apollonia headed to Paisley Park where Prince and 3rdEyeGirl gave her a private concert at 3.a.m. plus a tour of his complex. She hadn't been in the Twin Cities since she filmed "Purple Rain" here in 1983. 

At 4:42 a.m. Sunday, Apollonia posted an item on her Facebook page but it was later taken down. Still, Consequence of Sound republished her post, which said, in part:

"They play loud and HARD. Heard new music that was dope! He had a cool chair for me on the stage at his side and I sat there transfixed on every note, every move, every vocal. After every song I yelled and clapped my ass off. It was so amazing it made me sweat. These ladies are so talented and beautiful. I was charmed. And Prince….my heart still skip’s a beat. Paisley Park is a fun place. He showed me all my images painted on the walls. 'Hey thats me!!!' I said, he just laughed in that cool way he that does. The biggest room will be The Purple Rain room….he will have us painted there, huge murals. 'My big head gonna be up there?' He just laughed and laughed."



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