Loring not lost

Rumors of the Loring Theater's demise have been exaggerated -- not greatly, but the historic venue will stay open for the foreseeable future. The 1920s-era theater, at Nicollet Avenue and 14th Street in Minneapolis, is struggling financially and has canceled many but not all of its upcoming shows. "We are not going out of business," artistic director Steve Barberio told I.W. "We've pulled back and are evaluating where to go from here." Most of the canceled events, he said, were "simply not selling tickets." Friday's concert with the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra and several others have been relocated to the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis, but local songwriter Zack Dyer is still hosting his album-release concert at the Loring on Saturday. Several private functions are also on the books. Formerly the Music Box Theater (it went back to its original name last year), the 450-seat venue has been trying to find a foothold since the departure of the "Triple Espresso" stage show in 2008.


The ride with McBride

It was a four-day, country-music, breast-cancer-awareness, whistle-stop, cross-country train tour, as vocal powerhouse Martina McBride rode from L.A. to N.Y.C. last month, greeting crowds and singing at stops along the way. Though the Midwest stop was in Chicago, the train trek was part of a promotion by Twin Cities-based General Mills, which in October turned 60 million of its food packages pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. McBride's new CD, "Eleven," includes the hit, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," about a woman with breast cancer. McBride even sang it at a 1 a.m. stop in Albuquerque, N.M. Eric Jensen of General Mills, who was along for the ride, told I.W. that the train trip "was not about Yoplait, Cheerios or Progresso, it was about sharing stories."


Stage collapse

There was another scary moment on a Twin Cities stage last weekend. Actor David McMenomy fainted Saturday night during the second act of "Our Class" at Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company in St. Paul. Because so many characters die in the drama about a tragic incident in a Polish town during World War II, the audience was not initially aware that something was amiss. Finally, another actor announced that this was not part of the show, and could someone call 911? Fortunately, there was a doctor in the house. McMenomy regained consciousness and declined treatment when EMTs arrived. It turned out that McMenomy's issues weren't as serious as those of Warren Bowles, who suffered cardiac arrest onstage in September during Mixed Blood Theatre's "Neighbors." After "Our Class" was called off for the night, McMenomy stopped at Abbott Northwestern Hospital on his way home and was diagnosed with low blood sugar, said Barbara Brooks, MJTC's artistic director. He was back for Sunday's show.


A niece in need

Soul singer Willie Walker is a man on a mission -- helping his niece, Gina Williams, with a benefit concert. "Gina got shot on Labor Day, nine times," Walker told I.W. "The guy who lived with her -- they'd been together 16 years and had a 14-year-old daughter and she wanted out of the relationship -- he came in the room, kicked the door down, told their daughter to leave, and just started shooting." Amazingly, Williams survived (and her ex has been charged with attempted murder) and she is recovering at Courage Center. She was diagnosed as being a paraplegic from the waist down, "but somehow she got feeling in her legs, and can stand with some assistance." The five-hour benefit Sunday at the Minnesota Music Cafe (starting at 3 p.m.) will feature a parade of bar stars, including bluesman Bernard Allison; several members of the Butanes, who've recorded several CDs with Walker; Wain McFarlane of Ipso Facto; soul singer Maurice Jacox and, of course, Walker and his band.


A new Zoo Animal

The buzzed-about, moody, Christian-themed indie-rock trio Zoo Animal is using Friday's second annual gig at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church as a benediction of sorts. Bassist Tim Abramson and drummer Thom Burton "decided that the life of a musician was probably not suited for them," singer/guitarist Holly Newsom told I.W. "I've been looking to press the accelerator for [Zoo Animal], and we all kind of came to the conclusion that it might be best if I play with folks who can be on the road as much as I want to be. I hate thinking of going on without them, but I'm also excited about the freedom to travel more." In other words, Newsom plans to keep Zoo Animal afloat with new players. (7 p.m., free, 511 Groveland Av., Mpls.).


A window opens

Citing the memory of family matriarch Margaret Marvin, an avid reader, Marvin Windows and Doors has announced that it will become the lead sponsor of the Minnesota Book Awards (held in April in St. Paul) for the next two years -- namely the 24th and 25th annual celebrations. Marvin Windows is based in Warroad, Minn., a city probably better known for its amazing hockey talent than its love of books. But they don't put you in the penalty box for reading.


Made in Minnesota

Just in time for holiday shopping, Walker Art Center will open a new mini-store Thursday featuring products designed by Minnesota artists. Some are Walker exclusives, including a set of six pint glasses by Christy Johnson, Craig Eliason, Steven Lang, Max Mose, Andy Ducett and Michon Weeks. Designs on their glassware range from Babe the Blue Ox to a strung-out version of the word "ambivalent." Price of the set is TBA but it will include a voucher for two beers at the Walker's recently redesigned restaurant, Gather by D'Amico. Other products promised for the launch include wool-felt toys by Timothy Haugen, toy food made from polymer clay by Amelia Schmelzer, and clothing and bags by Tommy Kronquist.


One for the kids

A 17-song benefit album of a completely different tone, "MN Music 4 MN Kids, Vol. 1" also lands this week with an all-star all-local cast to benefit Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Spearheaded by Adam Levy and Invisible Button Entertainment's Lily Troia, the disc features new and previously released original songs from kids-oriented music acts (Levy's Bunny Clogs, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Okee Dokee Brothers), local favorites who happen to have kids (Mason Jennings, Twilight Hours, Cloud Cult, Roma di Luna, Dan Israel, Toki Wright) and others who have no trouble getting into a youthful mindset (Lucy Michelle, Rogue Valley, Dessa, Mayda).

The Cedar Cultural Center is hosting a release party with Bunny Clogs, the Okee Dokees, Mayda, Israel and more Sunday at 2 p.m. ($5-$12).

Random mix...

After helming the "Czeslaw's Loop" show during Art-a-Whirl, Chris Strouth will lead his experimental ensemble Paris 1919 through a live score of the silent Hitchcock film "The Lodger" at the Ritz Theater on Saturday (7:30 p.m., $15, 345 13th Av. NE., Mpls., www.ritzdolls.com). ... The Ritz Theater is also where a lot of shows are landing after getting bounced from the financially struggling Loring Theater, including Friday's "11:11:11" concert by ever-eclectic gypsy-folk/Celtic-rock/trad-country/you-name-it ensemble the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, featuring video accompaniment and a puppet troupe (7:30 p.m., $10). ...

A new northern Minnesota all-star quartet of sorts featuring Ol' Yeller vet Rich Mattson and former SMUT singer Germaine Gemberling, Junkboat will be at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall on Saturday with the Mammy Nuns, celebrating the release of its eponymous debut, a twang-punky collection boasting (rather excellent) traces of X and Neko Case (10 p.m., free). ...

Another album that merits more than just a short blurb at the end of this column (busy week!): Acoustic quintet Pert Near Sandstone makes good on its recent win in the Northwest String Band Summit Competition with its masterfully and jubilantly plucked fourth disc, "Paradise Hop," which finds band leaders Nate Sipe and Kevin Kniebel coming into their own as songwriters -- only two of the songs are traditionals. Release party is Friday at the Cabooze (9:30 p.m., $10).