My Minnesota

Christopher Bahn: Reveling in our wealth of music, art and theater

  • Updated: April 16, 2011 - 10:27 PM

Chris Bahn

Christopher Bahn is an arts journalist and critic, a native Minnesotan -- well, born in Indiana, but moved back before his brain could hard-wire any Hoosierisms. He's also a writer for places all over the Internet, including MSNBC and the Onion's "AV Club."

Is this a good place to be a critic? Are we chock full o' the arts?

"Minnesota punches way above its weight class in terms of its creative culture. It's hard to be bored here if you're paying any attention at all. The music scene has such a deep, rich history -- in some cities, cover bands dominate the clubs, but here, there's so many great bands doing really interesting original work. The Current's new all-local music stream is perfect evidence of that. I just love the fact that there's enough good music made here to justify a 24/7 channel.''

What's the explanation? "I've heard ... that we're so far from other big cities, and so isolated in winter, that it encourages us to grow our own culture. Makes sense to me."

Yes. But if that was all there was to it, Nome, Alaska, would be the musical theater capital of the world. We have to have something else going for us.

"The big institutions like the MIA, the Walker and the Guthrie are real gems, but there's lots going on on a more underground level, things like the Aesthetic Apparatus design team or the multitude of tiny theater groups that make up the Fringe Festival. I think all of that stuff cross-pollinates and nourishes each other, even if it's just as inspiration.''

What says "Minnesota" to you? Besides those highway signs at the border.

"I still get a little thrill when I watch old episodes of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' and catch the jokes that only Minnesotans will get, like quips about Circle Pines or Rosedale." 

Exactly! When I was living in D.C. and caught those local references, it made me feel homesick. And we're talking about a show full of robots in outer space. But then there's the way we manage to combine arts and the outdoors:

"The Walker's movies and music series in Loring Park feels quintessentially Minnesotan to me somehow; it sort of epitomizes grabbing hold of summer."

Obligatory reality check: If you could change anything, what would it be?

"Winter. Less of it, please. Some people thrive on the cold season, but to me, six months of darkness and ice is just the price we pay for everything else."

C'mon, at least there's sports.

"I'm not sure I could name even one current Twin, Viking, Timberwolf, or ... wait, what's the hockey team called again? Are we the Mighty Ducks? Please tell me we're not."

We're not. But that sounds like a great name for a movie! If it's playing at the festival, watch for his review.

JAMES LILEKS

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