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"Elizabeth Ries hangs out with fellow KSTPer Ken Barlow at 2001 Emmys reception/photo by Sara Glassman
"Twin Cities Live''s Elizabeth Ries may still be looking for a TV co-host, but she has landed a new partner on the radio.
Ries will be joining Margery Punnett from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on 107.1 FM. KSTP, which runs "TCL," and the radio station are both owned by the Hubbard family.
Punnett has been flying solo since her husband, Ian Punnett, stepped down earlier this year due to a battle with tinnitus. KSTP has yet to name a permanent parter for Ries on the afternoon television talker. Jon Hanson left earlier this year to return to radio management.
Walter Cronkite may be most closely tied to CBS, but that doesn't mean his name can't be associated with great journalism from other networks.
KARE, the Twin Cities' NBC affiliate, was named a winner of a Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Politcal Journalism. The station was honored for its coverage of the marriage equality debate, a project that also include members of Minnesota Public Radio.
"KARE's strength is in its storytelling," the judges said in their report. "Coverage was fair, balanced and deeply personal."
Other winners include ABC's Martha Raddatz for her work moderating the vice-presidential debate and ABC's Jonathan Karl for his analysis during the primaries.
While P.O.S. is still sorting through options regarding his troubled kidney, the Twin Cities hip-hop star will be part of a scheduling transplant at 89.3 the Current.
The real-life Stefon Alexander will host a new show at the station on Saturday nights at 11 p.m., playfully dubbed “P.O.S. Is Ruining the Current.” His new gig will replace the cult-loved hip-hop show “Redefinition Radio,” whose host Kevin Beacham is instead starting up a new program on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. called “H2 on the Current.” Beacham’s new show will be co-hosted with the behind-the-scenes boss at Rhymesayers Entertainment, Siddiq (aka Brent Sayers) -- who I've personally never found very talkative, but maybe that makes him the perfect co-host. If you’re keeping score, these two moves triple the number of African American personalities on air at the public radio outlet.
There’s more, too: The Current will begin airing Minnesota Public Radio's hit musical comedy series “Wits” every Sunday at 9 p.m. after “The Local Show” and “Sound Opinions.” All this shuffling leaves two shows, “The Current Presents” and “Passport Approved,” without any regular time slot. The former will still air occasionally on Sundays at 10 p.m. The latter will be represented by a “Passport Approved” track of the day on weeknights at 11 p.m., although even that seems generous given the abysmal music selections offered by the show’s host Sat Bisla (Exhibit A why Americans shouldn’t trust British music tastes; Mark Wheat not withstanding, of course).
A crowning example of “The Current Presents,” the recent show featuring local acts performing the tunes from Beck’s “Song Reader” book of sheet music -- which the station dimly aired opposite the Oscars -- will thankfully re-air tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 9 p.m.
Beacham and Siddiq certainly know underground hip-hop and will use their new show to shine a spotlight on the local scene’s growing stockpile of it. The first one is scheduled March 27. It will also be regularly re-aired over at the Legacy-funded Local Current stream (www.thecurrent.org/local), which will also air a new North Country program called “The Duluth Local Show,” hosted by Homegrown Festival director Walt Dizzo starting at noon Wednesday (with repeat streamings Thursdays at 11 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m.).
As for the P.O.S. show, which starts March 30, it will not exclusively deal in hip-hop but rather “his many musical influences,” according to the Current’s announcement. So you can pretty well count on it being the wildest show on the station now. Alexander is booked to perform at the Sasquatch festival near Seattle over Memorial Day weekend and another festival in Denver a month later, but otherwise his performance schedule is blank as he continues to focus on his health.
The typically savvy folks at 89.3 the Current had one of the more brilliant ideas of late for a local music project: Get a bunch of different bands from around the Twin Cities to record songs from Beck’s “Song Reader” sheet-music book. However, the public radio station wound up airing the results at an incredibly dumb time: This past Sunday night opposite the Oscars. Even Super Bowl Sunday probably would’ve been better for the station’s culture-savant audience.
Fortunately, those of you who missed the “Current Presents” broadcast -- i.e., 98% of you -- can still hear the results through the miracle of modern streaming capabilities. The show is now up on the Current’s website, where three of the tracks are also available as free mp3's. Those happen to be three of the best cuts, too, including a sweet lament called “Sorry” by Sonny Knight and members of the Twin Cities Funk & Soul All-Stars, who otherwise wouldn’t know Beck from Björk. Dig the video of their live recording above.
Other highlights among the 14 tracks in the project ranged in style from Prissy Clerks’ stormy, guitar-buzzing “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard” to the Roe Family Singers’ tender living-room ballad “America, Here’s My Boy” to the wildly twanged up “I’m Down” by ex-Chooglin’ rocker Brian Vanderwerf’s new band Eleganza. Other participants included Chris Koza (Rogue Valley), Gabriel Douglas (4onthefloor), John Munson (Semishakespeare), Matt Latterell, Niki Becker, hip-hop producer Big Cats, the Doctors (featuring Colonial Watts), Heavy Deeds, Dreamland Faces and Bad Mom.
Unfortunately, that stream of the show may be the only way to hear all the songs together. There would be complex royalty issues if the Current tried to make them commercially available. It’s essentially up to the bands to release each track individually (and for free). Some of them could also post the songs alongside other interpretations at the official Songreader.net site.
“I am left with the hope that each band, having put the time into learning these songs, will continue to perform them,” said the host of Sunday’s special, Jacquie Fuller, who spearheaded the project from its start to finish with producer John Miller (both doing so on a volunteer basis outside of their full-time behind-the-scene duties at Minnesota Public Radio). Admitting it was less than ideal, Fuller blamed the chosen air time on various schedule shuffling that kept pushing it back from week to week.
One upside of the delayed timing, though, was that she landed an 11th-hour interview with Beck himself, which is spliced in amid the songs in the special. While he didn’t really comment specifically on the local recordings, Mr. Hansen did interestingly put the kibosh on calling them “cover” songs: “It’s like saying Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” or “My Way’ were covers,” he said (Sinatra didn't actually write those songs).
Great point. However, I highly doubt Reprise Records premiered either of those recordings on Oscars night. Here's hoping the Current re-airs its special sometime soon.
With its national audience set to expand for its upcoming season, Minnesota Public Radio’s musical comedy series “Wits” didn’t seem to have any trouble attracting national-level guest stars.
The lineup announced this morning for the season that kicks off mid-March includes some of the hippest and hottest comedians out there -- including Hannibal Buress, Tig Nortaro and Patton Oswalt -- alongside some core music acts old and new from 89.3 the Current’s play list. They won’t just be performing for local audiences, though, as the show also announced it has been picked up for broadcast in many new markets, including Seattle, Austin, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. It has also expanded the number of shows to 10.
Here is the full “Wits” spring/summer lineup:
March 15: Paula Poundstone and Robyn Hitchcock
March 29: W. Kamau Bell and Brendan Benson
April 12: Kristen Schaal and Rufus Wainwright
April 19: Tig Notaro and Kathleen Edwards
April 25: Michael Ian Black and A.C. Newman
May 3: Patton Oswalt and Ben Lee
May 10: Rob Delaney and Neko Case with Kelly Hogan
May 31: Colin Hanks and Jason Isbell
June 7: Hannibal Buress and Open Mike Eagle
June 14: David Koechner and Metric
One of the trade-offs for Minnesota Public Radio broadening “Wits” to a national audience, it seems, is the noticeable lack of any actual Minnesotan talent on the show this season outside of host John Moe, music boss John Munson and Munson's bandmates. The nearest thing to a local guest star on the lineup is Canadian songstress Kathleen Edwards, who was living part time near Eau Claire, Wis., while dating Justin Vernon.
All of the shows will be taped at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul and start at 8 p.m., with a “pre-party” beginning at 7 p.m. featuring cheap cocktails to loosen up the crowd. Tickets go on sale in different phases, starting with season ticket packages that will be available Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. for a five-show bundle and noon for a 10-show pack. They are $37 for reserved floor seats or $27 for general-admission balcony seats. Single-show tickets will go on sale Feb. 26 at noon for $42 and $32. All the tickets can be purchased in-person at the Fitzgerald Theater box office, via phone at 651-290-1200 or online at www.fitzgeraldtheater.org starting at noon on February 26.