A South 'West Side' story
As he is wont to do when he returns home to Minneapolis, acclaimed Brooklyn jazz/soul/hip-hop singer José James reminisced Monday. In concert at the Cedar Cultural Center, he mentioned having worked at Depth of Field on Cedar Avenue, doing an interview with Janis Lane-Ewart of KFAI and visiting with two of his music teachers at South High, Scott Carter and Dennis Malmberg. James recalled trying out for a high school production of "West Side Story." He had his eye on the part of Bernardo but he was cast as Action. "I felt like I couldn't relate to the Jets," he told the full house that included his mother. "I walked into the casting director and said, 'I'm not doing the play. I want to be a Shark. I'm Latino.' " The part, James said, went to another student — Josh Hartnett.
'Mad' for MN manners
Ain't it quaint. Jaded bicoastal types still think of Minnesota as the land o' courtly, old-fashioned hard workers. "Mad Men" overlord Matthew Weiner has attributed Vincent Kartheiser's landing the complicated role of Pete Campbell in part to his being from Minnesota. In a vulture.com interview supplementing a profile of Kartheiser in this week's New York magazine, Weiner said that the role was hard to cast because "the men in that age range were very casual" and he needed a "far from modern demeanor." It wasn't a problem for Kartheiser to do it convincingly because "he's from Minnesota and as it turned out, a lot of the cast was from the Midwest [including Harry Crane portrayer and Stillwater native Rich Sommers], and I think it was just a matter of manners — just being raised with a certain kind of manners that fit the story. I think it's something that hadn't been socialized out of them yet. They were polite, and it gave it a slightly period feeling."
House of the Dead
The first rock concert at the remodeled Northrop Auditorium will not be the Moody Blues, after all. Nope, Northrop has scheduled Bob Weir & RatDog for June 13. While RatDog is not as well known as the Moody Blues (who play at Northrop on Aug. 26), there is a certain symmetry to having the jam band as the renovated Northrop's first rock attraction because RatDog is a Grateful Dead spinoff featuring Dead guitarist/singer Weir, bassist Rob Wasserman and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. The Dead were believed to be the first rock band to perform at Northrop, back in 1971. And what was the last rock act to play at the University of Minnesota auditorium before its capacity was cut by 2,000 due to renovation? Furthur — another Dead spinoff, featuring Dead bassist Phil Lesh, Chimenti and, of course, Weir.
Monday's Avenged Sevenfold concert at Target Center was briefly interrupted when a camera crew came out to film the California metal men onstage accepting a trophy from the Golden God Awards, which were taking place in Los Angeles. "We're doing it 'live,' but it doesn't air till Wednesday," singer M. Shadows cracked. An even bigger surprise: After the cameras were gone, Shadows handed the trophy to a dude in the crowd. "If I see that thing on eBay tomorrow," he told the guy, "well, I'd probably buy it."
This being Poetry Month and all, I.W. might swing by the O'Shaughnessy Room at the University of St. Thomas' library for a little Emily Dickinson — or maybe a lot of Emily Dickinson. Beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, readers will read aloud every one of Dickinson's 1,789 poems. It's free. The last time St. Thomas did this, six years ago, more than 100 people read and the marathon lasted 14 hours. Dickinson's favorite desserts, black cake and coconut cake, will be available.
Krazy for Karl
A good-humored guy, late Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller probably would've enjoyed last weekend's tribute under the Kill Kancer banner at the Cedar Cultural Center. Run Westy Run's Kraig and Kurt Johnson came to town with one day's notice to surprise Karl's widow, Mary Beth Mueller, resulting in a particularly unrehearsed Westies set. Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner's segment with a video-screen backdrop and drum machine was equal parts weepy (footage of Karl played during "Stand Up & Be Strong") and goofy (a cover of the Surfaris' "Surfer Joe" with beach video). And then there was elder statesman Willie Murphy, who made the night's most level-headed comment about Kill Kancer's noble efforts: "Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling you get," he said. "It's something you do."
It's gotten to the point where it is news that a musician is staying at the Minnesota Orchestra. Anthony Ross, the principal cellist and one of the more vocal leaders during the lockout of musicians, said last week that he is staying in Minneapolis. Ross declined an offer from the Chicago Lyric Opera. Burt Hara, the principal clarinetist, made news a couple of months ago when he departed for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. So in terms of high-profile musicians sticking around, the orchestra is one for two.
Don't worry, call Bobby
As part of his encore Saturday at Orchestra Hall, Bobby McFerrin entertained questions from the capacity crowd. Q Why don't you sing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" anymore? "I haven't done it in concert since November 1988. By the time you'd heard it, I'd sung it 300 trillion times." Q Is there any way to get you to conduct the Minnesota Orchestra? "Just call my management. I'd love to. The whole time I was here, I worked over in St. Paul," he said referring to his five-year stint in the '90s as creative chair of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. I.W. wasn't sure if the questioner meant as a guest conductor for the Mn Orch — or a permanent one.