What in the Whirl?

Unmasking the musical side of Art-a-Whirl, which lands again this weekend in northeast Minneapolis.

When the Voltage show arrived two weekends ago, the local fashion scene had its chance. When the Sound Unseen fest comes around each October, it's the film community's time. Fringe Fest is for the theater and dance folks.

This weekend, it's the visual art world's turn to mingle with the local music scene. That's not exactly the main purpose of Art-a-Whirl -- continuing today through Sunday in galleries, bars and restaurants around northeast Minneapolis -- but that's what I and many other people like about the city's hippest neighborhood party.

"There's a utopian feel to it, where everyone goes beyond their usual confines and just gets out," said Jarret Oulman, co-owner of the 331 Club, which enjoys its busiest weekend of the year thanks to Art-a-Whirl.

The 331 will get out of its confining (but cozy) indoor space Saturday by hosting live music on an outdoor stage starting at noon, with acts including Skoal Kodiak, Lookbook, Jeremy Messersmith, One for the Team and the Roe Family Singers. The neighboring Modern Cafe will then host music outside on Sunday along with Gastro Non Grata, the nonprofit group that throws free parties every other month or so in clubs to cross-promote indie bands, restaurants and microbreweries.

Gastro Non Grata co-organizer Craig Drehmel sees Art-a-Whirl's genre-blending spirit as kindred to his. Sunday's GNG lineup includes bands such as Chooglin' and Private Dancer with food from the Modern and Emily's Deli and beverages from Bourget Imports and Illinois' Two Brothers Brewery (whose French country ale is to die for).

"We have beer geeks who don't know local music talking to music geeks talking to food people, everyone gladly telling each other about what they're getting," Drehmel said.

Minneapolis police also got involved in the last GNG mixer, Drehmel said, threatening to shut it down because it didn't have the nonprofit license required to host a meat raffle. Thus, there will be no raffle this Sunday, and next Sunday's Gastro party at the Triple Rock will for the first time have a cover charge, $3, to make up for the loss of the events' only revenue source.

The only charge at another Art-a-Whirl-related music event, Creative Electric Studio's S.S. Infinite Regress boat party on the Mississippi River, will be the $5 cost for a sterile white suit. The Creative Electric folks -- who also put on the Electric Arc Radio series -- worked for months turning the former Safe House Boat into a floating work of art, and the final piece of the puzzle will apparently involve film projection onto guests (hence the white suits).

The floating spectacle will be docked down the hill from Gluek Park and the Sample Room, and the performances will be viewable from shore, including Gay Witch Abortion and Knife World tonight and bizarre-o duo White Map and the Owls' Allison LaBonne on Saturday night.

And while it's no work of art, Grumpy's Bar Northeast is also hosting music Saturday starting at 1 p.m. and ending with a special headliner: Guzzard, the ferocious trio that recorded for Amphetamine Reptile in the early '90s but hasn't played together in 13 years. Other acts include Gay Witch Abortion, the Bitter Spills, Awesome Snakes and Lady Hard On.

Stay Golden

With its first real First Ave headlining show tonight, Solid Gold is coming out of its own spring break, during which the members weighed their record-label options. "Nothing we can talk about yet," frontman Zachary Coulter said, but confirmed they are close to settling on an offer.

In the meantime, the acidic dance-rockers have booked some European dates in July, and they made a video for "Biblethumper" that's now posted on their MySpace page. They've also been writing songs that they hope to play soon for hometown fans -- if not tonight then maybe at one of their upcoming outdoor shows, including Sunday at the inaugural Lyn Lake Street Festival (4:45 p.m., free, at Lyndale Av. and Lake St.), plus Grand Old Day in St. Paul June 7, and July sets at Rock the Garden and the Minnesota Zoo. DJ Real Jaguar will spin tonight after their set. Lookbook and Marijuana Death Squad open (9 p.m., $10).

CD parties

One-half-Minneapolitan duo the Wooldridge Brothers -- Scott and Brian -- perform tonight at the Nomad Pub (10 p.m., $6) to promote their first disc in three years, "Days Went Around." Peter Holsapple plays keys on one track, and his dBs mate Chris Stamey helped mix the album. Their midtempo, middle-age-sounding Americana rock songs range from the John Hiatt-ish "Coffee Spoon" to the BoDeans-style finale "The Last Word."

Another name-drop-worthy mixer, Justin Vernon (a k a Bon Iver), polished off the first full-length album by the Daredevil Christopher Wright, an Eau Claire trio that generated a local buzz with the innovative, fragmented, carnivalistic folk-rock on its 2006 debut EP. The new disc, "In Deference to a Broken Back," was inspired by a serious back injury suffered two years ago by guitarist Jonathan Sunde, whose brother Jason more or less fronts the band (there's actually no one named Chris). It sounds like Jonathan's hospital meds did most of the inspiring in madcap, hazy, Neutral Milk Hotel-ish songs like "A Near Death Experience at Sea" and "A Conversation About Cancer." Weird but wonderful stuff. The CD party is Saturday at the 400 Bar (9 p.m., $5).

Random mix

What are local acoustic blues stalwarts the Brass Kings doing on a bill with an Indian Veena player and an Afro-Caribbean roots band? They're mixing it up for the 416 series at the Cedar Cultural Center (416 Cedar Av. S.), Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ($5), with Nirmala Rajasekar from India and local duo Soukousize. Each act plays its own set, and then they perform together. ...

Chan Poling's long in-the-works Broadway-oriented musical comedy "Venus" opened last weekend and will continue through May 24 at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis (right by the 331; quite a happening hood!). The Suburbs and New Standards co-leader collaborated on the project -- a feminine and modern twist on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde -- with Ballet of the Dolls artistic director Myron Johnson (8 p.m. Wed-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun.; $30-$40). ...

The Jayhawks will issue an anthology titled "Music From the North Country" on July 7, three days before their reunion at the Basilica Block Party. A three-CD deluxe edition includes a disc of rarities/outtakes and a DVD of videos. See the full track list on our blog, startribune.com/poplife. ...

As if the return of the Soundset and Bella Madre festivals weren't enough for one weekend, also look for the debut of a two-day Memory Lanes Block Party next weekend (May 23-24) with acts including Kill the Vultures, Chooglin', Lucy Michelle and Dance Band. Now if only the weather cooperates.

chrisr@startribune.com • 612-673-4658

  • ART-A-WHIRL MUSIC

    Today: Daughters of the Sun, Sicbay, more at 331 Club, 331 13th Av. NE., Mpls. (9 p.m.-close). Gay Witch Abortion, Knife World aboard the SS Infinite Regress by Gluek Park, 2119 NE. Marshall St. (dusk).

    Saturday: Skoal Kodiak, All the Pretty Horses, One for the Team, more inside/outside 331 Club (noon-close). White Map and Allison LaBonne on the SS Infinite Regress (dusk). Guzzard, Bitter Spills, more at Grumpy's, 2200 NE. 4th St. (1 p.m.-close).

    Sunday: Gastro Non Grata with Chooglin', Private Dancer, more outside Modern Cafe, 337 13th Av. NE. (11 a.m.-6 p.m.).

    Tickets: All shows are free.

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