12 hours with "Live From Here"

A behind-the-scenes look at "Live From Here," the Minnesota-rooted radio show formerly known as "A Prairie Home Companion." The show won't stay a Minnesota treasure for long. This spring, host Chris Thile announced he was moving the "Live From Here" home base to New York. 

12 hours with “Live From Here”

Star Tribune photojournalist Aaron Lavinsky got a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Minnesota-rooted radio show formerly known as “A Prairie Home Companion,” spending the day with host Chris Thile and his production team as “Live From Here” prepared for a live broadcast from the State Theatre in Minneapolis.

The March 2 performance was the third of four Twin Cities visits during the show’s 2018-19 season — but the final one for mandolin virtuoso Thile, who subsequently announced he was moving the “Live From Here” home base to New York.

Produced by St. Paul-based American Public Media, the weekly variety show draws more than 2 million listeners a week, touring venues around the nation with its mix of rootsy music and comedy.

“Each week I try to take the listener on a journey through new work, old work, instrumentals, catchy tunes you didn’t know you knew, comedy, and moments of pause,” said Thile.

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Sheet music and microphones awaited Thile’s arrival for a morning rehearsal before the March 2 show in Minneapolis.

8:49 am

Cases of musical instruments and various replacement parts and tools sat outside Thile's dressing room at the State Theatre.

8:49 am

Madison Cunningham, singer and guitarist with the show’s house band, prepared for rehearsal by listening to a track on her phone.

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Thile laughed as he ran through a number with the band.

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The mandolinist took a private moment to practice in his dressing room after the rehearsal.

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Comedy cast members Greg Hess, Holly Laurent and Mike Yard made revisions to their scripts as they ate lunch before their rehearsal session.

8:49 am

Guest guitarist Chris "Critter" Eldridge, a member of Thile’s group the Punch Brothers, jotted a note on his sheet music.

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Head writer Tom Papa worked with the show’s acting company on a comedy sketch. Papa, a noted standup comedian, also contributes a regular segment called “Out in America.”

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The show’s lighting designer, Dietrich Poppen, worked under the gaze of his 3-year old rescue dog, Vienna, who tags along during performances.

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Two hours until showtime. “What starts as musing on a theme, or city, or poem, somehow bridges across two hours of live radio that comes together right before the On Air light turns on,” said Thile.

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Thile took a moment during the final rehearsal to tune his banjo.

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Sheet music, marked “Critter” for guitarist Chris Eldridge, was strewn about the stage.

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Thile and the band warmed up the State Theatre audience 10 minutes before the live broadcast.

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Holly Laurent, left, and fellow cast member Serena Brook waited backstage to perform.

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Paying tribute to a musical hero, “Gentle on My Mind” songwriter John Hartford, Thile led the house band in a performance of Hartford’s "Skippin' in the Mississippi Dew."

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Thile took a sideman’s role as the show’s regular vocalist, California native Madison Cunningham, performed her original song "Dry as Sand."

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As guests Broken Social Scene performed, Thile stepped offstage to confer with senior producer Kathryn Slusher. He needed the title of the Canadian band’s latest album so he could share it with the audience.

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At the end of the broadcast, Thile gathered the show’s cast — including guests Broken Social Scene, jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, comedian Dave Hill and Ojibwe “water walker” Sharon Day — for a curtain call.

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Thile hugged longtime bandmate Eldridge after the show. “We’re so lucky to have the incredible team of artists and technicians who can make it all happen in front of your very ears,” he said.

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Encore time: Eldridge, bandleader Mike Elizondo (on standup bass) and Thile prepared to perform audience requests. “Creating this show every week is such an honor,” Thile said.

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Photography

Aaron Lavinsky

Reporting

Aaron Lavinsky, Kevin Martin

Editing

Kevin Martin, Tim Campbell