Riding 99 (Red Bull)oons to Brooklyn
The local brain trust (seriously) known as 1.21 Jigawatts has done it again. Two years ago, the group of six brilliant tinkerers led by inventor/designer Ben Arcand won Red Bull's national Creation competition, and they made the finals last year. This year, they're finalists again with their new contraption, 99 (Red Bull)oons, which consists of three LED-lit doohickies outfitted with ultrasonic range finders and propellers, surrounded by helium balloons and programmed to change color based on how close they get to the ground (see video at www.startribune.com/a2252). But the team can't rest on its high-tech laurels yet. To win the finals, being held in Brooklyn beginning June 12, they have to do a 72-hour "live build" of something new that they won't find out about till they get there, competing against five other teams. Go Jigawatts!
Kids will be KIDS
North Minneapolis grade-school rappers Y.N.RichKids of "Hot Cheetos & Takis" fame could have another viral hit to their name, but there's one problem: It's not actually their name anymore. A gritty slow-jam single titled "My Bike" — recorded by the little rap giants last summer along with another insatiably cute video — finally saw the light of day on YouTube last Friday. By Thursday it had already attracted more than 62,000 views. In the interim, however, the group has changed its moniker to simply the KIDS following a dispute between their families and the North Community YMCA over money and copyright issues. "We all just wanted to finally get it out there," said Melissa Mercedes, whose son Freeman "Frizzy Free" Hickman, 10, stars again in "My Bike" with six other young rappers who racked up 6 million views with their prior hit. The kids are working on a record deal as the KIDS and will perform under that name at the Institute of Production & Recording's open house Saturday in downtown Minneapolis (noon-5 p.m., free).
His 'Fabulous' finale
"You're gonna see a lot of love onstage tonight," Zenon Dance Company artistic director Linda Andrews promised at the top of Sunday's show at the Cowles Center. Much of it was directed toward Greg Waletski, who marked his final performance as a member of the troupe after a 22-year career. Zenon's 30th Spring Season program — including the world premiere of "Mariana" by Bessie Award-winning New York choreographer Faye Driscoll — showed off the troupe's many moods and skills. But the emotional highlight arrived when Waletski soared through a solo moment in the finale, Daniel Charon's heroic "Storm." There were loud cheers and shouts of "Bravo!" and dancers Tristan Koepke and Scott Metille presented him with a tiara and a pink sash labeled "Fabulous." Waletski will continue performing occasionally while he launches a new career as an American Sign Language interpreter.
A voice all his own
After making a splash on NBC's "The Voice," Nicholas David Mrozinski came home to First Avenue last weekend to say: "I gotta be me." Any TV fan expecting a human jukebox — and there were clearly some First Ave first-timers in the crowd — might have been disappointed by Saturday's second of two sold-out nights. To be sure, he reprised several numbers from "The Voice," and trotted out fellow contestants Trevin Hunter, Terry McDermott, Todd Kessler and Melanie Martinez. But much of his nearly two hours onstage was devoted to his own, 1970s-tinged songs, backed by his nine-piece Feelin' Band. A few, notably "Say Goodbye," showed a flair for country soul. While not necessarily memorable, they did establish that Mrozinski may be the best male soul singer to emerge from the Twin Cities since Alexander O'Neal.
Moe 'Gatsby' blues
Some of the best jokes at last week's "Wits" taping at the Fitzgerald Theater came before the tapes were rolling, when host John Moe thanked the audience for coming instead of "rushing out" to see that day's big movie opening, "The Great Gatsby" (which was universally panned by critics). Said Moe of the theater's namesake, "Most people don't know that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote 'Gatsby' here at the Fitz for 'Wits' when 'Wits' was a vaudeville show hosted by Eddie Cantor." In the spirit of the latest screen adaptation, he added, "Tonight's show will feature sudden bursts of hip-hop for no apparent reason."
Saltz hits Northeast
Art-a-Whirl weekend is all about local talent, but at least one New York dignitary will also be on the scene Saturday night. Public Functionary, the newish Northeast space aspiring to be as much of a community hotspot and idea machine as a place to show art, is hosting a discussion on contemporary art and gallery culture featuring Dzine, whose work hangs in PF's inaugural show, and Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, Pulitzer finalist, former long-distance trucker and a fun, no-B.S. type of guy. Saltz is a pretty impressive get for a joint that just opened a few months ago. Tickets are $15, students $8.