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Posts about Minnesota musicians

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."


Taste of Minnesota will move to Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia

Posted by: Jon Bream Updated: June 25, 2014 - 4:17 PM


Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner/ Star Tribune photo by Kyndell Harkness

Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner/ Star Tribune photo by Kyndell Harkness


Taste of Minnesota is making a comeback – far away from its home site of Harriet Island in St. Paul.

Because of flooding at Harriet Island, Taste is being moved to the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia, it was announced Wednesday afternoon. The event is set for July 3-6 with two-dozen food vendors and about 30 musical acts, including Soul Asylum, Halestorm, Cowboy Mouth, Starship and Joe Nichols.

A longtime fixture on Harriet Island, Taste of Minnesota is returning after a three-year hiatus. 

Admission to Taste is free until 3 p.m. daily.  After 3 p.m., it cost $10, which includes $5 worth of food-and-beverage tickets.

Square Lake Fest 2014 on sale today with Low, Anonymous Choir

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: June 25, 2014 - 10:56 AM
Low played the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis last year to tout their album "The Invisible Way." / Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

Low played the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis last year to tout their album "The Invisible Way." / Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

A cultishly enjoyed annual event that’s kept small by design – and thus has sold out in recent years – Stillwater’s Square Lake Film & Music Festival put tickets on sale today for its 2014 installment on Aug. 9. This year’s music headliner is Low, who open for Trampled by Turtles and Doomtree at Duluth’s Bayfront Park on Saturday and always seem to offer some kind of memorable outdoor Twin Cities performance each summer. Also, Dark Dark Dark singer Nona Marie’s vocal group Anonymous Choir will stage a live score to the 1975 silent film “Aucassin & Nicolette” at the festival.

Here’s the full music lineup:

Low played the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis last year to tout their album "The Invisible Way." / Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

  • Low
  • Anonymous Choir
  • Frankie Lee
  • Shiro Dame
  • Carroll
  • Gao Hong
  • Ruben

As always, Square Lake will feature assorted indie filmmaker showcases throughout the day and involves a marathon-like bicycle run, too. The event is held near Square Lake Park on the northern outskirts of Stillwater. Tickets are $25 advance, or $10 if you register to ride your bike to the fest.

Andrew Litton extends Sommerfest contract to 2017

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: June 24, 2014 - 2:27 PM

Andrew Litton has extended his contract as Sommerfest Artistic Director with the Minnesota Orchestra. Litton, first named in 2003, will stay in the top post through 2017.

“I have loved Sommerfest since I led my first festival concert in 1984, early in my career,” Litton said in a statement. “I admire its spirit of playfulness, its urban setting and adventurous audiences—and the great Minnesota Orchestra musicians with whom I have been fortunate to collaborate.”

Litton’s contract had been set to expire after next month’s festival, July 5-26. This year’s session is the first to be held in the newly renovated Orchestra Hall. Litton will conduct Brahms and Bernstein, serve as piano soloist in Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and lead a semi-staged version of Strauss’ comic opera “Die Fledermaus.”

He will also inaugurate the Target Atrium as a performance venue on July 12 when he will play selections from his first solo piano recording, “A Tribute to Oscar Peterson.”

Litton has been a popular and comfortable fixture at Sommerfest and his continued presence provides stability for the orchestra and for audiences. He’s the longest-serving director for the festival, which was founded in 1980 with Leonard Slatkin. Litton serves as music director of Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic—where he will oversee that orchestra’s 250th anniversary celebrations in 2015—and the Colorado Symphony, as well as conductor laureate of Britain’s Bournemouth Symphony.


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