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Alexa Horochowski's 2014 installation at The Soap Factory. Star Tribune photo by Tom Sweeney
A lot has changed in the 25 years since The Soap Factory art complex started life as No Name Exhibitions.The popoular outpost for Halloween fun and experimental art is celebrating its quarter century anniversary with a benefit party from 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Nov. 15 in its cavernous, brick-and-timber warehouse, a former soap factory, at 514 S.E. Second St., Minneapolis.
The Factory's presence there has been a spur to development in what is now a fast-gentrifying neighborhood near the Mississippi River. Back in 1989, what is now a rough-hew home to avant garde art was still a functioning factory.
"There have been a lot of changes in this building," said Ben Heywood, executive director of The Soap Factory. "Back then they were literally melting down animals and turning them into fat and then throwing lye into it and turning it into soap."
Back then a group of local artists banded together and started No Name Exhibitions in another quasi derelict building known as the Skunk House. On the opposite side of the Mississippi and just west of Hennepin Av., the Skunk House was subsequently acquired by the Federal Reserve bank to house its air conditioning plant, Heywood said. No Name then moved into the bottling house of the former Grain Belt Brewery and from there to the Soap Factory in 1995.
"Our exhibition space went from 600 square feet to 50,000 square feet when we moved here, so that's a big change," Heywood said.
The Factory building is still pretty raw, but it too has changed over the years. Now, for example, it has bathrooms. And in January it will add heating and air conditioning for the basement and first floor. Previously the place closed in winter months when there was no heat.
Other improvements include the addition of a permanent staff, rather than volunteers who ran the place until 2002. With staff came a year-round exhibition and performance program. And the ever-popular Haunted Basement Halloween shindig. And now the 25th anniversary party.
Billed as a "day of citywide fun," the anniversary committee may have overpromised a bit. There won't be hot air balloons or marching bands on Nicollet Mall, much as Heywood would love such stuff. By "city-wide" they mean art impressario and cultural gadabout Andy Sturdevant leading a Soap Factory History tour starting at 3 p.m. Saturday in a vintage bus that will roll past previous Factory locales.
"Andy is a city-wide celebration in himself," Heywood explained. Indeed.
The Factory invited 9,000 people to the shindig and expects a good turn out.
"We can hold 700 people on the first floor and we should have a full house," Heywood said.
Party goers can expect Beatrix* JAR and Solid Gold to kick off the event with DJs Diarrhea (Jackie Beckey) and Christopher Saint Christopher (Christopher Allen) commanding the dance floor and emcee Ian Rans running the show.
There will be complimentary cocktails by Bittercube, gourmet nibbles from Fabulous Catering and Common Roots catering, small plates from Tilia, Heyday, Haute Dish, Third Bird, and the University of MN College of Design. Plus art by Aaron Dysart and Andy DuCett. Performances by artist Jaime Carrera and theater company Live Action Set. Plus an auction, of course.
(Party 6 p.m. to midnight, Nov, 15, tickets $50 to $2,000. The Soap Factory, 514 Second St. S.E., Mpls. For tickets: www.soapfactory.org)
Imagine First Avenue nightclub serving Jucy Lucy’s from Matt’s Bar or “A Prairie Home Companion” being taken over by Har Mar Superstar. That’s the kind of only-in-Minnesota pairing that has been taking place behind-the-scenes with the Surly Brewing Co. and local hip-hop troop Doomtree, who have teamed up to create a new beer in time for the latter’s 10th annual -- and final – Blowout concert marathon.
Surly Doomtree will be available in kegs throughout the Blowout X eight-day run, Dec. 6-14. The flavor of the beer is being kept tightly under wraps until then by Surly brewmaster and metal shredder Todd Haug, but the newly arrived press release for the brew promises “it’s a style that is fitting of both Doomtree and Surly -- non-traditional and hard to classify.”
The second day of the eight-day farewell Blowout schedule, Dec. 7, has already been billed as Doomtree’s Surly Day. No performance is scheduled that day but members of the group will be doing something else they’re very good at: bar-hopping. They will hit a handful of beer havens around the Twin Cities that day and mingle with fans to tout the new brew. Word is the beer may not be limited to Blowout week, too, should demand for it outlast the rap shows.
Details of the Surly-Doomtree mash-up -- home brewers might get that pun -- were finally announced last night at the release party for another new beer, Surly 8, at the Dakota Jazz Club, where Doomtree members surprised partygoers with a short set. Mutual admirers for several years, Surly staff met with the hip-hop crew members over the summer to brew up ideas for their collaboration. The pairing is well timed for both parties promotionally spaking, as Surly is about to open its new $30 million facility near Prospect Park area of Minneapolis, and Doomtree will drop a new all-crew album in late January.
“Witnessing the pride and dedication they have not only for the beer that they create but the state that they come from, it all just kind of clicked,” Doomtree producer Lazerbeak said of Surly. And Surly president Omar Ansari said of the rap kids, “They shared our belief that putting out a quality product that you can be proud of is more important than chasing what you think consumers want.”
This beer shouldn’t have any trouble finding consumers, though.
Maybe he’s trying to make up for the shockwave he caused by that whole going-electric thing. Or at least it felt like Bob Dylan had completed a 180-degree turn from his legendary 1965 transformation at the Orpheum Theatre on Thursday night, since he played the exact same set list for the third night in a row there.
The surprise is there was no surprise on Thursday. Although, fans who paid attention to set lists in other cities – and it seemed like this was mostly a hardcore crowd that knew what's what – knew that Dylan has been sticking to the same lineup of mostly recent songs from night to night, even in other cities where he’s playing multiple nights. Click here to see the set list posted from Night 1 at the Orpheum, with six songs from the last Dylan album, "Tempest."
Of course, ours is the only city where Dylan actually used to own the venue, a fact he never once referenced throughout the three shows. No surprise there, either. He never said anything, really, other than his standard pre-intermission salutation, “Well, thank you. We’ll be right back.”
Surprise might be overrated, though. Dylan has been trying to shake things up performance-wise for five decades now. The point of this current outing seems to be testing out how well he and the band can settle into playing this particular set of tunes, or how much they can vary the music within these tight parameters.
Stylistically, the songs ranged in sound from the mambo-like rhythmic reworking of “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” to the waltzy rendition of “Waiting for You,” and from the wicked grind of “Lovesick” to the light, jazzy vibe of “Spirit on the Water,” in which Bob sat at piano and traded playful licks with guitarist Charlie Sexton like they were in the least-psychedelic jam band of all time. Things a-changed aplenty musically even with the songs remaining the same.
Or maybe the cemented set list was more about what’s left of Bob’s voice, chosen based on how well he can build up his cords around these particular tunes – because his singing was clearer and more inspired than it has been in recent memory Thursday, much like the other nights. Even the two “Blood on the Tracks” tracks, “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” were delivered more elegantly and just plain more annunciated than they had been in years.
Three nights was certainly enough – in fact, one of these shows really did suffice in this case, as special as they were – but it would be interesting to see how different Bob and the band sound toward the end of this current string of shows, even if they’re still playing all the same songs. Or especially if they’re still playing this same damn set list.
Exact same songs but somehow it felt different on Wednesday.
Yes, Night 2 of Bob Dylan’s three-night stand at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis felt different from the opening concert.
Tuesday’s audience was much more energetic. Many fans stood for the entire concert. Not so on Wednesday. The second-night crowd must have included fewer hard-core fans. They didn’t even clap at the opening line of “Tangled Up in Blue.” In fact, they didn’t get excited until the punch line of the chorus. Same thing happened with “Simple Twist of Fate.” At least a few dozen fans reacted to the opening words of “Blowin’ in the Wind” done on grand piano.
While Tuesday’s second set lacked momentum, Wednesday’s second segment was more focused and consistent. A key difference was “Early Roman Kings,” with its echoes of Muddy Waters. On Tuesday, the tune felt repetitious. On Wednesday, George Receli’s drumming was more interesting. Charlie Sexton’s bluesy guitar riffs nicely echoed Dylan’s vocal lines, and there was more fire in Sexton’s solos.
There was plenty of nuance in Dylan’s often emphatic voice on “Spirit on the Water” with its finger-snapping cadence. By song’s end, it almost felt like a call-and-response with the singer and the suddenly responsive crowd. Dylan’s voice and delivery had more bite on “Long and Wasted Years” than it did the night before. “Soon After Midnight” was throwback pop, almost with an echo of the Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue.”
As was the case on Tuesday, Dylan didn’t introduce the band and he made only one comment. At the end of the 50-minute first set, he said something like “why, thank you folks.” He mumbled and all I could understand was something like “we’ll be right back.”
Indeed, he was prompt. Just as a gong had sounded at precisely 8 p.m. and Stu Kimball started playing guitar, the second half started after an exact 20-minute intermission.
Dylan didn’t bother to change clothes between sets. His Wednesday outfit was a different color from Tuesday’s but the same design – a frock-length jacket with piping and a stripe down his pants leg. Night 2’s ensemble was black with white piping whereas Night 1 he wore beige. He sported the same light (possibly gray) Zorro hat both nights. On Wednesday, he was rocking stylish black-and-white cowboy boots that almost suggested spats.
Frankly, the lighting is so dim but arty that it’s hard to distinguish much onstage. Dylan’s Oscar – he won it for “Things Have Changed,” his opening number on both nights, from 2000’s “Wonder Boys – was stationed on a case behind his grand piano bench, next to a bust of a woman. (On his 2012 tour, Dylan had the Oscar, surrounded by Mardi Gras beads, secured atop his grand piano.) At the Orpheum, there was a bust of, I think, Beethoven at the back of the stage, by Sexton’s amplifier.
As explained in my review of Tuesday’s concert, Dylan focused on material from his 2012 album “Tempest.” In fact, the set list was predominantly tunes he has recorded since his much-lauded 1997 comeback album “Time Out of Mind.”
There were two selections from 1975’s “Blood on the Tracks” and two pieces from the ‘60s – “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “She Belongs To Me” (1965).
He also introduced his version of “Stay with Me,” a pretty, almost Irish-flavored pop ballad that was featured on “Sinatra ’65: The Singer Today.” It is expected to be included on Dylan’s 2015 album, “Shadows in the Night.”
Dylan and his band will close their Orpheum run on Thursday night.
Wednesday’s set list:
Things Have Changed/ She Belongs To Me/ Beyond Here Lies Nothin’/ Workingman’s Blues #2/ Waiting for You (it’s from the 2002 soundtrack to Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood)/ Duquesne Whistle/ Pay in Blood/ Tangled Up in Blue/ Love Sick
High Water (For Charley Patton)/ Simple Twist of Fate/ Early Roman Kings/ Forgetful Heart/ Spirit on the Water/ Scarlet Town/ Soon After Midnight/ Long and Wasted Years ENCORE Blowin’ in the Wind/ Stay with Me
The Minnesota Orchestra will perform a short piece by composer Stephen Paulus at all three weekend concerts. Paulus, who died Oct. 19, was a former composer in residence at the orchestra. He enjoyed a long relationship with the organization. In 2011, the orchestra opened its season with "Timepiece," a jazz-inspired work by Paulus and his son, Greg.
The orchestra will play "Veil of Tears," which is a selection from the large work "To Be Certain of the Dawn." Commissioned by the Basilica of St. Mary's, this Holocaust Oratorio was recorded by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Chorale and the Minnesota Boychoir in 2008.
"Veil of Tears" is a short, instrumental piece. Described as a tribute to Paulus, the composition will open the concerts this weekend at Orchestra Hall.
At right, Paulus reviewed the score of "To Be Certain of the Dawn" with music director Osmo Vanska in 2008. Photo by Sharolyn Hagen.
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