With its national audience set to expand for its upcoming season, Minnesota Public Radio’s musical comedy series “Wits” didn’t seem to have any trouble attracting national-level guest stars. The lineup for the season that kicks off mid-March includes some of the hippest and hottest comedians around — including Hannibal Buress and Patton Oswalt — alongside some core music acts from 89.3 the Current’s play list. They won’t just be performing for local audiences this time as the show also announced it will be broadcast in several new markets, including Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C. One trade-off for MPR broadening “Wits” to a national audience, it seems, is the lack of any Minnesotan talent this season except host John Moe and music boss John Munson and his bandmates. The “Wits” lineup: Paula Poundstone and Robyn Hitchcock (March 15); W. Kamau Bell and Brendan Benson (March 29); Kristen Schaal and Rufus Wainwright (April 12); Tig Notaro and Kathleen Edwards (April 19); Michael Ian Black and A.C. Newman (April 25); Patton Oswalt and Ben Lee (May 3); Rob Delaney and Neko Case with Kelly Hogan (May 10); Colin Hanks and Jason Isbell (May 31); Hannibal Buress and Open Mike Eagle (June 7); David Koechner and Metric (June 14). For ticket info, go to www.fitzgeraldtheater.org.
Clive Davis on Dylan
To be sure, there are many self-serving moments in music mogul Clive Davis’ new autobiography, “The Soundtrack of My Life.” But he gives Bob Dylan, one of the key artists early in Davis’ career, lots of props not only as an artist, naturally, but as a businessman, too. After owning up to being chewed out as a Columbia Records lawyer for rejecting “Talking John Birch Society Blues” in 1963 (“You can’t edit or censor me!” the singer scolded), Davis cites Dylan’s “farsightedness” as the first artist to want to include unreleased material on a greatest hits collection (now a common practice). Dylan also sought an unprecedented “key-man clause” in his Columbia contract in case Davis left the label. The mogul said Dylan wanted to sell his 1974 “Before the Flood” live album through a massive TV sales campaign or put the album out himself. In the end, Dylan gave the album to Asylum Records after a bidding war. Concluded Clive: “Dylan proved as gifted in the rough-and-tumble world of business as in the loftier realms of his songwriting art.”
Pear and Eggers, anyone?
Dave Eggers — editor, author, dynamo, and, yes, heartthrob, with that curly hair and scruffy beard — is no stranger to the Twin Cities. He was here last year as a Pen Pals speaker, and his latest anthology of “non-required reading” (published October 2012) included a piece by Minneapolis writer Louise Erdrich. Eggers will be in town in early March signing books at two stores — signings only, no reading or event. Still, his very presence, silent though it may be, is sure to draw crowds. He’ll autograph “A Hologram for the King” and most likely any of his other books, too, on March 9 at 3:30 p.m. at Micawber’s Bookstore in St. Paul and at 6:30 p.m. at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis. A books blogger in Portland, Ore., noted that at Eggers’ recent reading there, a fan brought him a pear, which the author ate. Actually, she said it was a “perfect pear wrapped in gold foil.” What gifts will Minnesotans bring?
More songs for Slim
With last month’s auction of the special-edition Replacements EP now at a whopping $106,000, the next phase of the “Songs for Slim” fundraising campaign to help guitarist/singer/songwriter Slim Dunlap’s medical care is in motion. The first batch of 7-inch tribute singles is up for auction on eBay, featuring Steve Earle covering Slim’s “Times Like This,” and the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn doing “Isn’t It?” Only 100 copies are available in the auction, which ends Friday afternoon. Even more important to Replacements fans, New West Records has announced plans for the more standard rollout of the five-song reunion collection. It will arrive digitally March 5, and a 12-inch vinyl edition will land April 16 in time for Record Store Day (April 20). More details at www.songsforslim.com.
Big plans for IFP
Andrew Peterson has been appointed executive director of Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota, after six months as interim director. Peterson, 48, a filmmaker, said IFP’s long-term goal is to partner with other media-resource groups under one roof in a multipurpose media center that would be for film and TV production what Open Book in Minneapolis is to the literary arts. “The big picture here is rebuilding the film industry in Minnesota,” he said. “Back in the day, we were the fourth-largest market behind only New York, L.A. and Chicago, and now the fact that Oklahoma does better than us is absurd.”
St. Paul’s delightful habit of preserving and honoring poems by pressing them into the wet concrete of new sidewalks has begun to spread. Falcon Heights and Northfield recently announced similar projects. St. Paul is now opening its sixth year of poetry competitions. You have until midnight on March 15 to submit a poem — or two—to the Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk contest. There are requirements: You must be a St. Paul resident; poems must be in English; you must submit online; and there is a $3 fee and a length requirement. The five lucky winners will each receive $150, and their poems pressed repeatedly into new sidewalks. After five years of Sidewalk Poetry, St. Paul has 50 poems engraved 700 times into sidewalks all over town. Winners will be announced in May at the monthly Readings for Writers, curated by St. Paul Poet Laureate Carol Connolly.