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One of the more prominent on-air personalities at 89.3 the Current, midday host Barb Abney, was let go from the station Tuesday for reasons not made clear. The news hit social media just a couple hours after she got off the air.
The Current’s morning show producer and frequent late-night jockey Jade Tittle will replace Abney in the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. slot, the station reported.
“There's just not much to say, sadly,” Abney responded via email. “I was let go and that's pretty much all I know. I loved that job so, so much.”
Minnesota Public Radio publicist Jen Keavy said the dismissal of Abney was “a programming decision made by the Current's management.”
Keavy provided this statement on behalf of the rest of the Current’s staff:
“We are sad to see Barb go, and we sincerely thank her for her contributions to and passion for The Current. At the same time, we're excited for what we know Jade will bring to her new role as midday host.”
The timing of the staff change presents a sharp contrast to the high spirits and communal attitude displayed at the station's 10th anniversary celebrations, which culminated over the weekend with two shows at First Avenue. Abney was featured on stage at First Ave and served as the main host for the station’s “Purple Rain” tribute at the Fitzgerald Theater last week.
The news comes amid growing competition against the pioneering station, as the Pohlad-owned Go 96.3 FM hit the airwaves at the start of the year with strong echoes of the Current's modern playlist. Clear Channel also launched Alt 93.3 last summer, offering a heavy dose of '90s alt-rock.
A native of the Cincinnati area -- as she proudly noted nearly every time she played the Afghan Whigs (which thankfully was often) -- Abney came to the public radio station in 2006 with a more commercial FM background. She previously worked at Cincinnati alt-rock station WOXY.
At the Current, she was known for her “Cover 2 Cover” and “Tonal Recall” segments, spotlighting cover songs and ‘90s music. A mother of two teenagers, she also helped steer Wonderground Radio, Rock the Cradle and other kids-music efforts at the station.
It was probably the smallest event in the 10 Days of Random Musical Kindness to celebrate 89.3 the Current’s 10th anniversary.
The Bryant Lake Bowl theater holds about 89.3 people. For its most exclusive win-a-ticket-on-the-radio concert, the Current on Sunday night turned to Jeremy Messersmith, who has pretty much become the station’s musical mascot, and Dan Wilson, who was the first interview subject taped for the station before it went on the air in January 2005.
But the show ended up belonging to Caroline Smith, a newer local kid in the Current stable.
She stole the evening with her pluck, presence and personality. The least famous but the most unguarded of the three, she hit the stage first, working solo, and announced that backstage she had just done her impression of Creed’s Scott Stapp and did the audience want to hear it. Suffice it to say, Smith had the crowd at Stapp.
Seeing her without a band was a revelation. She sparkled throughout the night, whether telling stories (one was about a date with whom she was splitting a slice of piece and he wanted her to pony up $1.75 for her share), singing her songs about her complicated life (clearly inspired by Mary J. Blige, the songs, not her life) or providing backup vocals for Messersmith and Wilson.
Smith tells it like it is in conversation and song. She dedicated “Child Moving On” to her mom (who was in the audience) who “taught me to keep moving on no matter how many assholes you marry.”
When it came time for the encore at the end of 90-some minutes of music, Smith took charge and requested :"Closing Time," the smash hit Wilson had enjoyed with his band Semisonic.
When the three singers tackled “Someone Like You,” which Wilson wrote with Adele, Smith took the low harmony part and let the boys take the higher parts. When it came time for Messersmith and Wilson to be her backup singers on “Bloodstyle,” she insisted on giving them some of her bling (a bracelet for Jeremy, a sparkly ring for Dan) and called them her “girls.”
This girl has got it.
Messersmith, the headliner if there was one, seemed a little lethargic after just returning from two weeks in Mexico. In his three-song solo set, he answered a shouted request for “Steve” and performed “Tourniquet,” his big Current hit. He also debuted a new song, possibly titled “Fire Flower,” about a woman in winter.
Wilson, the former Minneapolitan who now has a flourishing songwriting/producing career in Los Angeles, offered three tunes from his two solo albums, including “Brighter Days.” When joined by the others, he played “Disappearing,” the sing-along “All Kinds” and the Everly Brothers’ “Don’t Forget to Cry.”
The song-swapping trio segment, which took place after intermission, was intended to be free-wheeling but it got a little awkward at times. Current DJ Steve Seel served as kind of an unnecessary moderator, providing commentary and asking questions of the singers.
Said Messersmith to Seel: “You’re like a mellow but informative hype man.”
Who needs a hype man when you’ve got Caroline Smith?
Rena Sarigianopoulos and Eric Perkins/photo by Bre McGee
Did a robot take over KTWN?
For the past few days, a Siri-like voice has been reciting pop-culture quotes and movie lines while countdowning to Monday afternoon. That's when a new format is expected to launch.
No word from KTWN management on why the robotic chatter and exactly what kind of music the station will soon start playing. Since 2012, the Pohlad-owned station, which also broadcasts Twins games, has focused on contemporary and classic rock.
It's also unclear who will still be on the KTWN team. Eric Perkins, who co-hosted the morning show, confirmed Friday that he's out, saying it was tough to balance his sports duties at KARE, Ch. 11 with the radio gig. No word yet on whether or not his KARE colleague Rena Sarigianopoulos will still be on 96.3 FM in the AM.
Minnesota Public Radio has won a a prestigious national award for its series of investigative stories into how the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis attempted to cover up abuse of children by priests. It is the first time MPR has received the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, which is considered to be on par with a Pulitzer Prize.
"We are honored and grateful to receive the duPont Award," said Chris Worthington, MPR News' managing editor. "While the stories can be difficult to hear, it's important they be told. They were well-documented and carefully reported. We are proud of our journalism and community service."
Judges called the pieces "a heartbreaking, exhaustive investigation," one that "overcame the challenges rife in reporting this type of story."
Madeleine Baran served as the lead reporter.
Other winners announced Wednesday include Netflix, the Seattle Times, PBS and CNN.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, 89.3 the Current is staging 10 Days of Random Acts of Musical Kindness in January. Some of these acts are more random than others but most of them are pretty cool and definitely kind.
* The events start Jan. 15 on the low-key with a Coffee Break with the Morning Show, with music by the Ericksons and free doughnuts and coffee. Free.
As for the more exciting events:
* Record shopping at the Electric Fetus with three Current DJs on Jan. 16. Free.
* 10-inch record release party for a special anniversary vinyl disc, with live performances by the Suicide Commandos featuring Craig Finn and Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady and L'Assassins on Jan. 17 at the Turf Club. $15.
* Jose James, the Minneapolis native who has been making noise since moving to New York, will be in concert at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester on Jan 17. $24.
* Concert and party featuring Hamilton Leithauser of the Walkmen, at the Turf Club on Jan. 17. $15.
* Concert with Current faves Dan Wilson, Jeremy Messersmith and Caroline Smith at the Bryant Lake Bowl on Jan. 18. Tickets only by winning on the radio.
* Mary Lucia’s Rock and Roll Radio Hour goes live with Little Man, Tropical Depression and —drum roll, please — Billy Idol at the Turf Club on Jan. 19. $25.
* A screening of Prince’s “Purple Rain” with live music by Heiruspecs featuring guest vocalists Maurice Jacox, Ashley Dubose, Tickle Torture, and a “special guest” at the Fitzgerald Theater on Jan. 20. $15.
* Two-day anniversary concert and live broadcast featuring Cold War Kids, Dead Man Winter, Hippo Campus and Allan Kingdom on Jan. 23, $20, and Atmosphere, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, The Trashmen and PaviElle at First Avenue on Jan. 24. $25
Tickets for all ticketed events go on sale this week: noon Thursday for MPR members and noon Friday for others. For more information, go to thecurrent.org/ten
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