A Low point or high point? Drone on, amongst yourselves
Their van hadn't even made it back to Duluth on Saturday night, and Alan Sparhawk was already well aware of the high amount of speculation, confusion, anger and/or admiration he and his Low bandmates caused with their highly unusual set that afternoon at Rock the Garden. "We weren't really trying to do anything 'punk' or pull one over on people," Sparhawk insisted. The trio played a sparse, slow, droning, extended version of its 1996 tune, "Do You Know How to Waltz?," stretching it to almost 30 minutes with long, echoey hums and dissonant guitar noise here and there. Sparhawk punctuated the one-song performance by blurting out at the end, "Drone, not drones." The band's frontman contends it wasn't any kind of subversive act. "It was a combo of things," he told I.W., recounting how the heavy rain factored into their decision to play it that way, as did opener Dan Deacon moving his performance into the Walker Art Center parking garage. "It was just kind of a weird atmosphere, people coming in during the rain, not really knowing where to go. And then we found out our set had to be a little shorter than planned, to get the schedule on track. So we decided to try to do something beautiful." Reaction to Low's performance on Twitter was mostly ugly. Countered Sparhawk: "If I was there in the audience, that's the kind of thing I'd like to see a band do."
Rock the Woman's Club
"I'm sure, Minneapolis, you're thinking: What the hell is he doing? We already have 'Prairie Home Companion,' " John C. Reilly, who was in the 2006 movie "A Prairie Home Companion," said on Saturday night at the Woman's Club. "What the hell do we need him for?" The actor, known for "Boogie Nights" and "Chicago," then explained that you shouldn't let people tell you who you are, "if you've got a short story in you, or a painting," do it. So he put together John C. Reilly & Friends, a modest acoustic show that frankly was more Grand Ole Opry than "PHC." There were corny jokes. Example: Singer Tom Brosseau, who is from Grand Forks, N.D., told of his last phone call to his recently deceased grandmother: "She said: 'Come back to North Dakota. There's a girl behind every tree.' There are no trees in North Dakota." Reilly joked about the big rock fest across the street at Walker Art Center. But his sidekick, wonderful vocalist Becky Stark, didn't mention that she'd performed at Rock the Garden in 2009 with the Decemberists.
A way with words
Among the millions of fans mourning the passing of best-selling Twin Cities author Vince Flynn on Wednesday were the staff and students of Groves Academy in St. Louis Park. Flynn, who grew up with dyslexia, was a big supporter of the school for youth with learning disabilities. He was the students' favorite speaker, partly because he was known for saying things like, "Sometimes you just have to suck it up."
Full steam ahead
Artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken is organizing a three-week, cross-country culture tour via train filled with A-list artists, musicians and writers that's booked to arrive in the Twin Cities on Sept. 12. The train will travel from New York City to San Francisco, making 10 stops en route. Called "Station to Station," the project aims to launch a "revolutionary endowment model" to fund new art programs and "creative collisions" in 2014. "This is a fast-moving cultural journey," Aitken, who splits his time between L.A. and New York, said in a statement. Sponsored by Walker Art Center and others, the train is expected to be a moving "cultural studio" that will broadcast content and experiences at its stops and while moving. Train riders include artists Kenneth Anger, Olaf Breuning, Peter Coffin, Urs Fischer, Meschac Gaba, Liz Glynn, Carsten Holler, Christian Jankowski and Rirkrit Tiravanija; musicians Dan Deacon, Eleanor Friedberger, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Savages and David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors; writers Dave Hickey and Barney Hoskyns, and chefs Alice Waters and Leif Hedendal.
The Brooklyn Lakers?
Minneapolis has occasionally been dubbed the "Brooklyn of the Midwest," but with news of a musician-run bar called Lake Street in the Greenpoint 'hood of Brooklyn, the feeling is mutual. Its owners include Twin Cities-bred drummer Bobby Drake (of the Hold Steady), former Minneapolis rocker Frank Bevan (Freedom Fighters), Moorhead, Minn., native Eric Odness (the Wanted) and Kansas native Rob Pope of Spoon. All have spent their fair share of time in Minneapolis while playing in various bands. Lake Street will open soon, according to the NYC blog Bedford + Bowery, but the Minneapolis connections will be low-key — Midwest brews and regional fare including brats and hot dogs. Drake says it aims to be "the kind of old-man divey but cool bars" where the musicians liked to hang out back home.
Have strings, will travel
A cellist from Southwest High School in Minneapolis has been chosen for the National Youth Orchestra. Nora Doyle is one of 120 musicians from 42 states who will play with the ensemble on an inaugural tour that includes Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Royal Albert Hall in London and Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall in St. Petersburg, Russia. Doyle joins violinist Jennifer Kim, of Rochester, and violist Arjun Ganguly, of St. Cloud, as Minnesotans chosen for the orchestra, which is sponsored by Carnegie Hall. They get to travel with violinist Joshua Bell after two weeks in residency at Purchase College in New York.