On the list, finally
I.W. joined other whiners when Rolling Stone's recent list of the 20 best clubs in America did not include Minneapolis' revered First Avenue. Turns out that our favorite club apparently is considered a "big room" by the big magazine, which lists First Ave at No. 3 on its new list of 20 best big rooms. Somehow our legendary 1,600-person nightclub is on the same list with New York's redoubtable 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall, Atlanta's renowned 4,700-seat Fox Theatre, Nashville's landmark 1,300-seat Ryman Auditorium and the 2,100-capacity Surf Ballroom in Buddy Holly, Iowa, er, Clear Lake. Topping First Ave are the 1,200-capacity 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco's legendary 1,100-capacity Fillmore. But what does Rolling Stone know? As a "fun fact," it mentioned that Prince reunited with his "Purple Rain"-era band, the Revolution, at First Avenue last year. Fact: The Revolution went on without Prince.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts greeted its record-setting 600,000th visitor for the fiscal year with big hoopla last Sunday. Director Kaywin Feldman delivered a welcome speech and gift. MIA staffer Steven Lang performed an original country song touting the museum's free admission policy, and membership honcho Kristin Prestegaard waved a big sign. The only thing they forgot was to ask the last name of the visitor, "Lauren," who had stopped by to check out the museum's popular Art in Bloom exhibit, which paired artful flower arrangements with paintings and sculpture. Her boyfriend's grandmother, a veteran flower arranger, was in the show for the 10th year. Museum officials attribute the record-setting attendance to novel programming, including a midwinter "pop-up park" in the lobby, and brand-name exhibitions, including "China's Terracotta Warriors" (attendance 146,507) and "Rembrandt in America" (107,090). The record attendance mark will obviously grow since the fiscal year doesn't end until June 30.
Jacob the Eliminator
A couple of days after it happened, Jacob Larson, 8, of Farmington, was still starstruck. He got to meet his hero, WWE champ John Cena, at Monday Night Raw in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, courtesy of Make-a-Wish. "He got about 10 minutes 1-on-1 with John Cena," Jacob's mom, Lindsay Anderson, told I.W. on Wednesday. "He showed us around backstage. He's a great, great guy." Jacob's brother Ben, 6, and his Aunt Heidi were along, too. They got to meet more than 15 wrestlers. "Some still played their parts backstage," Mom reported. "The kids were kinda speechless." Not only did Jacob get to sit in the front row ("It was a little scary," he admitted to I.W. "The fireworks were loud"), but he and two other Make-a-Wish boys (one from Kentucky, the other from New Jersey) were interviewed on the TV show. "John Cena made them honorary WWE superstars and asked what their [wrestler] name would be," Anderson said. "And Jacob went: 'Da E-lim-i-na-torrr.'"
Live with Kellie and ...
Country singer Kellie Pickler, the "American Idol" finalist-turned-"Dancing With the Stars" sensation, brought two special guests to Mystic Lake Casino last week — her songwriter husband, Kyle Jacobs, who is from Bloomington, and Derek Hough, her TV dance partner. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, Jacobs offered a solo rendition of one of the biggest hits he's written, Lee Brice's "Hard to Love." He also played guitar while Pickler sang her own "Mother's Day." Even though the singer was on a four-night tour, she and Hough must spend their days practicing their dances. He joined her twice on the Mystic showroom stage — being summoned by her for a bow (showing off his Pickler T-shirt, he quipped: "It makes me feel thinner") and transporting her on his back for the encore (followed by a little Hough booty shaking to her music).
Everybody wants her
Laura Osnes, Minnesota's Broadway baby, was so busy on Tuesday doing interviews and getting ready to star in "Cinderella" that she didn't get back to I.W. until Wednesday morning. Osnes was nominated for a Leading Actress in a Musical Tony Award, her second such nod, after "Bonnie and Clyde" in 2011. "If you call me back in 10 minutes, I'll have my phone on," Osnes said on a voicemail. "Then they have me going out on a massive press junket. Maybe I could call between shows. But yes, it's indeed very exciting and I'm very grateful." The winners will be announced June 9 in New York.
Driving Mr. Jones
Looking for local memories of country legend George Jones upon his passing last week, I.W. turned to the best in-town archive, Sherwin Linton. The Twin Cities country stalwart often performed with Jones in the 1960s and recalled a no-show 1967 gig at the Frontier Club in Fridley, when he got a speeding ticket heading out to the airport to pick up the star. "When I got there, he didn't even make the flight," Linton said. Then, there was an earlier concert at the Minneapolis Auditorium when Jones fired his band in a huff afterward. "'He won't even remember what he did tomorrow," the musicians told Linton, correctly. But Linton will always remember Jones for having "a feel for a song and a way of delivering it that I think is unmatched in all of country music."
Well-connected Minneapolis singer-songwriter Kevin Bowe is never at a loss for words — or gigs. He was called upon this week to open a late booking for Gary Louris at the Dakota Jazz Club. "In the last week, I've opened for Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, Styx, the Proclaimers and Gary Louris," Bowe told Tuesday's crowd. "I hardly know who I am anymore." Especially after Louris, a pretty fair electric guitarist, asked Bowe to back him on lead electric guitar during the first part of his headline set.