The Minneapolis musician stopped drinking, started jogging and wrote 400 pages of lyrics for a concert that should outlast the weekend.
You could watch three Twins playoff games, do a full day of housework, catch up on last year's entire season of "Glee," hit the mall, bake a soufflé, go to church and get three full nights of sleep -- all in the time it takes Minneapolis rocker Mark Mallman to play a single gig starting Thursday.
One of the Twin Cities' most publicized musicians of the past decade -- and certainly the biggest glutton for punishment -- Mallman plans to perform continuously for 78 hours at the Turf Club in St. Paul. And no, it's not a joke.
There will be no breaks, besides bathroom trips. There will be no audience between 2:15 a.m. and noon (when the venue is closed), besides the people monitoring the show live via the Web. Most remarkable of all, there will be nothing to compare it to in the great, big, increasingly rote world of rock performances, which is the main reason why Mallman is going for it.
"As creative pursuits go, rock 'n' roll shows have become incredibly uncreative," said Mallman.
The 37-year-old singer/pianist is no stranger to testing his creative endurance. He played a 26-hour concert in 1999, followed by a 52-hour set in 2004.
Dubbed Marathon 1 and Marathon 2, those shows earned him international airtime on CNN and consideration from Guinness World Records. He believes Marathon 3 will be far more worldwide in scope, since webcasting technology has greatly improved since 2004, as have the reach and influence of indie music blogs that have picked up on his plans.
"When it's 5 a.m. here, it'll be 11 a.m. in London," he said. "Who knows how many people might be watching?"
Mallman insists he's not doing it for the attention, though, and especially not for a Guinness record.
The Guinness bookkeepers ruled that his Marathon 2 performance -- envisioned as one loooong song, just like No. 3 -- did not meet their definition of a real concert or song. Instead, the award for longest concert went to Canadian piano-rock act Gonzales last year after a (paltry) 27-hour show in Paris. The Onion newspaper and Filter magazine disputed the record on Mallman's behalf, to no avail.
Said Mallman, "It's not about any of that. It's about creating a better performance. It's sort of like the rugby players who take ballet class to become better players. I'm doing it to become better at what I do."
Worse than being drunk
The mop-headed, hyper-energetic singer has been training hard to prepare for his musical marathon. He couldn't jog a mile in May, but he has been averaging seven per day in recent weeks. A devout night owl, he swore off alcohol weeks ago and consulted nutritionists about his diet. He's also stretching out his sleep patterns for easier adjustment.
His musical preparations include writing 400 pages of new lyrics and lining up 100 other musicians to play with him -- all doing it out of friendship and admiration, not for the money.
"He seems to consistently one-up himself," marveled Pink Mink singer/guitarist Christy Hunt, who remembers doing aerobics onstage with Mallman during her 11-hour shift in the 2004 marathon.
"It was completely hilarious, surreal and energizing," Hunt said. "I believe that's why he does what he does. He's really a 'Mr. Show.'"
Last week, Mallman met with Turf Club music manager Dave Wiegardt to go over myriad details. They discussed everything from where to plug in the juicer to where to find a missile shell to use for percussion.
"I want the drummers to know that this isn't a jam session; it's something completely different," Mallman told Wiegardt, who followed the singer's plans with equal parts amusement and concern.
"We'll help all we can," Wiegardt said, "but ultimately, he's the one who has to do most of the work. He seems to have no fear over it -- which makes me a little scared."
Dr. Michel Cramer Bornemann seems to think Mallman should be scared. A sleep forensics investigator at Hennepin County Medical Center, Cramer Bornemann said one night without sleep impairs a typical person more than being legally intoxicated on alcohol.
"The impairment increases exponentially the longer you stay awake," the physician said. "Your physical judgment is way off, so the chance for a mishap goes way up. There are challenges as a musician, too: It becomes more and more likely he'll hit the wrong notes."
Mallman actually claims the previous marathons enhanced his performance skills by tapping into a "raw nerve," an idea that Cramer Bornemann did not dismiss. The effect might be similar to growing abuse of the sleep-aid drug Ambien, he said, where users who fight to stay awake on it can get a euphoric feeling. In either case, though, "the risks are serious and dangerous."
Rocking himself to sleep
Mallman says he never really went batty during his 52-hour concert, and he pretty clearly remembers everything about it. His weirdest memory: "After I finally went home and crashed, I was still playing the keyboard in my head and still moving to the music when I woke up, like when you get out of a long car ride and still feel the motion."
Wiegardt pointed out that one important new ally Mallman might have this time is the 24-hour CVS pharmacy recently built next door to the Turf Club. "We could wheel you and your keyboard through the drive-through and get you any pharmaceuticals you might need," the Turf Club manager joked (half-joked, actually).
Mallman laughed but bristled at the idea.
"I don't want any drugs," he said. "It's like a woman who chooses natural childbirth. The pain is part of the experience. I want the full experience."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658