"Wish that I was in Minneapolis." It's a lyric that helped make Divine Fits' sold-out Varsity Theater show one of the most anticipated gigs of the spring. When the band rolled into town last week, co-leader Britt Daniel finally had the chance to explain himself. "I was stuck in L.A. writing, and I was sort of under the gun," he recalled, introducing "Would That Not Be Nice." Apparently, an unnamed musician friend contacted him from a tour stop here, where Daniel has played many times before with his other band, Spoon. "And yeah, I thought: 'I would love being in Minneapolis right now.' " The Minneapolitans, in turn, loved hearing the Fits' fun cover-song choices to flesh out the set list: Frank Ocean's "Lost" and Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky."
Not on the list
When Rolling Stone posted its ranking of the Top 20 U.S. rock clubs the other day, First Avenue was missing. Of the first 50 readers commenting on rollingstone.com, 15 mentioned the oversight of First Ave — more mentions than any other venue by far. Also overlooked were the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., the Metro in Chicago and any joints in New Orleans. I.W. asked one of the 24 voters — Andy Cirzan of Chicago-based Jam Productions, which promotes shows in the Twin Cities, including at First Ave — to explain. "First Avenue is one of my favorite clubs, period," he told I.W. "If it was all serious music fans and not industry guys voting, there's no way First Avenue is not in the Top 10." The voters included members of Phoenix, Spoon and Sleater-Kinney; agents for Billy Joel, Bassnectar and Arcade Fire; managers for Paul McCartney, Deadmau5 and Pearl Jam; some concert promoters and Sharon Osbourne and Miranda Lambert. Rolling Stones' "Venues That Rock" series will continue with rankings for theaters, dance-clubs, arenas/stadiums and amphitheaters. Don't hold your breath.
Separated at birth
One of I.W.'s eagle-eyed page designers has brought it to our attention that Richard Pitino, the new men's basketball coach at the University of Minnesota, bears a striking resemblance to a fleeting TV presence from our baby-boomer youth. Sure enough, young Richie is a dead ringer for actor Steven Franken, better known as Dobie Gillis' rich-kid foil, Chatsworth Osborne Jr. Franken also showed up on "Bewitched," "Love American Style" and a few movies. I.W. notes the irony that Dobie creator Max Shulman conceived of Dobie as taking place at the University of Minnesota. What's next? Maynard G. Krebs as athletic director?
G'night to the McKnight
The Ordway Center is saying goodbye in grand style to its 306-seat McKnight Theatre, which is being torn down to make way for an 1,100-seat concert hall. The St. Paul venue has scheduled a blowout concert — called "The Night of a Million Stars" — for April 28. It will be the last public event there. The show will feature artists who have performed in the theater over the past decades. The lineup offers such Twin Cities notables as Kersten Rodau, T. Mychael Rambo, Christina Baldwin, Jamecia Bennett, Dieter Bierbrauer, Gary Briggle, Yolande Bruce, Julius C. Collins III, Debbie Duncan, Nicole Fenstad, Ben Bakken, Jessica Fredrickson, Greta Grosch, Monica Heuser, Tonia Hughes, Jennifer Baldwin Peden, Kacie Riddle, Randy Schmeling, Erin Schwab, Austene Van and Regina Marie Williams. The evening also will feature performances by James A. Rocco, artistic director at the Ordway, and conductor Raymond Berg.
The year in pickers
Not only is Trampled by Turtles celebrating its 10th anniversary with three sold-out shows next week at First Avenue, but the Duluth-bred acoustic band is also wrapping up its most successful year of touring, behind its year-old album "Stars and Satellites." David Letterman's show? Check. "Just an unforgettable experience," frontman Dave Simonett recalled earlier this week. The Bonnaroo and Newport festivals? Check. "We've been wanting to play them for a long time, and they were definitely worth getting to," he continued. Lollapalooza? Double check. "One of the best sets we've ever played, and there were so many people there," he gasped, recalling the size of the crowd in Chicago's massive Grant Park. "I'm not kidding, it scared me." Also frightening to Simonett, who has a newborn at home (their second), was the thought of adding a fourth night to their First Ave run, which begins Wednesday. "Even if I was getting more sleep, I don't think I could do it."
I.W. felt that the newspaper of record did not do justice to Stephen Kanee when he passed away in January. Kanee was a major director and artistic associate at the Guthrie in the 1970s and '80s. He also taught at the University of Minnesota as head of the directing program. Among his best-known work at the Guthrie was "Teibele and Her Demon," which moved to Broadway. Kanee also taught at New Mexico State and directed at theaters around the Twin Cities. The Guthrie is holding a memorial for him at 11 a.m. Sunday.