Fringe attendance, Rufus' extended family, more
The Minnesota Fringe Festival reported essentially flat numbers for attendance at the 11-day performing arts festival. According to preliminary figures, 46,280 tickets were distributed, compared to 48,432 in 2011. The number of performances was down, due to show cancellations, so the average attendance per show was 56 -- the same as last year. The ticket total marks the second year of decline from the record of 50,222 in 2010. "Ash Land," by Transatlantic Love Affair was the best attended production in the festival. "Class of 98," presented by Mainly Me Productions, was second. "Ash Land" was also first in the percentage of capacity, a prodigious accomplishment given that the show was presented in the 259-seat Rarig Thrust stage. "TROY! The Musical," staged by Burnt Nightengale Productions, was second; it played at the 90-seat Bryant-Lake Bowl. Of the top 15 best-attended shows, 13 were presented on the West Bank, and most of them were in the Rarig Center on the University of Minnesota campus.
GRAYDON ROYCEAll in the family
Rufus Wainwright and his opening act, Adam Cohen -- both the offspring of famed singer/songwriters-- were in giddy moods at the Minnesota Zoo on Saturday. It was the last night of their tour together and they wanted to celebrate. So, after an encore duet of "Chelsea Hotel #2," by dad Leonard Cohen, Wainwright gave his fancy sport coat to Cohen. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. Said Cohen to Wainwright, who is gay and will marry his longtime partner next week: "I have seen the light, or should I say the rainbow." During his own set earlier, Cohen explained how the two came to be "brothers-in-law." The birth mother of Wainwright's 18-month-old daughter, Viva Wainwright Cohen, is Cohen's sister, Lorca. "I don't know how, but he did knock up my sister," Cohen quipped. "My confession is that he tried to knock me up several years ago."
JON BREAMMill City to Sin City
Don't call him the best, call him the "most inspired." Bartender Jesse Held is known in the Twin Cities as a behind-the-scenes connector -- he created the local Iron Bartender competition and is the head of the North Star Bartenders Guild. Last week, Held took first place in Bombay Sapphire's Most Inspired Bartender competition at Mill City Nights. He'll go on to represent Minnesota in the national finals Sept. 9 in Las Vegas. Held, who bartends at Eat Street Social, wowed the judges with his take on a gin Collins. His "Saiya Nara Sling" is a carbonated doozy made with Bombay Sapphire, sake infused with hibiscus, peppercorn-melon cordial and Bittercube Lemon Tree bitters. In the past, the finalists have all appeared in a big ad spread in GQ's year-end issue. Held, who stopped drinking for 60 days, said he's already lost 20 pounds in preparation for his modeling moment: "I've been working out!"
TOM HORGENSomerset reset
Last weekend's show at the Somerset Amphitheater featured three bands, 5,000 fans and one beer line. As My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and Trampled by Turtles performed, some fans waited nearly an hour for a brew. DJ Jill Riley of 89.3 the Current sensed the tension in her not-for-broadcast introduction of MMJ: "Don't let this go down as the night you couldn't get a beer. Let it go down as the night you saw My [expletive] Morning Jacket!" At least the bands seemed to enjoy themselves. Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell raved about spending the prior day in the Twin Cities, where his in-laws live. Some of MMJ's members also tweeted their love for the 112 Eatery. MMJ leader Jim James said of the amphitheater, "It's beautiful here. I feel like a child at the county fair."
CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDERPrized letters
"Silhouette of a Sparrow," a debut young-adult novel by Minneapolis writer Molly Beth Griffin, is the winner of Milkweed Edition's annual Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature. Her book is a coming-of-age tale of a 16-year-old girl in Excelsior during the 1920s. The award carries a $10,000 prize. Meanwhile, Minnesota poet Ed Bok Lee has won an American Book Award for "Whorled," his collection of poetry published last year by Coffee House Press. "Whorled" also snared a Minnesota Book Award. Finally, two Minnesota high school seniors have captured James Patterson prizes in an essay competition. Fifteen students nationwide merited first-place awards, including Luke Mielke of St. Paul, and 20 students earned second-place, including William Theriac, also of St. Paul. The essay question was "How has your favorite book inspired you?" Winners receive $1,000 and $500, respectively, to be spent at the bookstore of their choice, where an account is established in their name. How fitting.
Tower of Power lead singer Larry Braggs gave a shout-out Wednesday at the Minnesota Zoo to Twin Cities singer Greg "G Sharp" Sain of the Legendary Combo and other groups. They knew each other back in the day at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. "I learned how to entertain with Greg Sain, not how to sing," Braggs told the standing-room-only crowd. "I learned all the good stuff, not the bad stuff. The bad stuff he keeps in Minneapolis."
JON BREAMA year in Poliça
Not only was last Saturday's whirring Cabooze Plaza gig the biggest headlining gig yet for Poliça, with 2,200 attendees, it was also something of a symbolic marker. "It was almost exactly a year ago when we made our record," singer Channy Leaneagh noted. What a year. Just a week earlier, the group performed at Lollapalooza in Chicago and announced a new deal with New York indie label Mom + Pop Music, which has re-released Poliça's "Give You the Ghost" with a bonus remix EP. The deal's one downside is it probably means the next album won't be out for another year. Producer Ryan Olson said the band already has 20 new songs in the can that exceed the quality of the debut. "You can tell we spent more than one weekend on it," he cracked. But the roll-out for the first album rolls on: The group performs Wednesday on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:30 p.m., ABC) and then tours through the fall.