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Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

Local music: Let's dial down that pride

  • Article by: LAURA BUCHHOLZ
  • May 27, 2012 - 8:39 PM

On May 17, Minnesota Public Radio's news show "The Daily Circuit" aired a story asking the pressing question on everyone's mind:

"Is Minnesota Music in a Golden Age?"

I'll let you guess what the answer was.

One of the guests was Mark Wheat, a host on the MPR music station "The Current." If you're not familiar with Mr. Wheat, he's the local music mixologist with the Cambridge accent. It's a lovely accent. Sounds like champagne. It's the kind of accent that says, "I've got Sting sitting right next to me in studio, but I'm not going to mention it."

The fact that Minnesota managed to lure this accomplished gentleman to our soybean fields can only mean that God Himself laid his finger on our local music scene, because, obviously, He saw that it was good.

The other guest was Chris Roberts, an MPR arts and culture reporter. During the course of the show he declared that Minnesota's music scene was "special," and that he was proud of his provincialism. So proud, in fact, that his face grew red as host Kerri Miller read this comment by jeffjordan on the Local Current Blog:

"... MPLS just looks like some solipsistic backwater when the media crows on and on about how great we are. Out-of-towners tell me, 'Wow, you guys sure are proud of yourselves, huh?' Would it kill you to write a negative review of a new local band?"

I'm with jeffjordan on this. Here's why: Have you ever seen a couple frantically groping each other in broad daylight, just to prove to everyone how in love they are? That's how Minnesota's "great local music scene" strikes me. I realize that saying this might put me at odds with legions of good, sincere Minnesotans, but I don't care. Someone's gotta say it. I guess it's jeffjordan and me.

One way you know the local music scene has some problems is that it cheerfully endures wretched band names like "Trampled by Turtles" and "Pert Near Sandstone."

Let's back up. I was part of a jazz quartet when I was in junior high. Three of us were female, so we decided to call ourselves "Son of the Devil and His Many Wives." Why do I mention that? Because Trampled by Turtles is still a worse name.

So is Pert Near Sandstone. It hurts to even type those names. I bet I could start an all-flute rap band here called "Mr. Feepy's Intestinal Derivative," and as long as I pledged my allegiance to the Minnesota music scene, local music connoisseurs would be OK with it.

I'm not going to name names, but I know a local drummer who winces if you call him a local drummer. I imagine it's the same chilling dread I feel when I see the phrase "female writer." Why not just be a drummer? Why not just be a band? Why does it all have to be about you, Minnesota?

Yes, it is possible that Minnesota has a good music scene. It might even have a great one. I don't care. But do we need to make out with ourselves so much? Are there no hall monitors in this high school?

The day I was writing this was Minnesota Music Day, as pronounced by The Current. It also was Art-A-Whirl weekend, so it would have been the day to scramble over to Grumpy's Northeast to see two of your favorite local bands: Gay Witch Abortion and Seawhores.

Come on, people.

Oh, by the way, I hope you've been reading this essay with an English accent. If you haven't, please go back to the beginning and start over. If you don't sound like champagne right away, don't worry. Sounding like a fine local craft beer is pretty good, too.

After all, I hear Minneapolis has a great local craft beer scene.

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Laura Buchholz is a writer for "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor."

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