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The Viking Bar reopens this week with music and food on the new menu

A newly updated sign above the old, familiar entrance of the Viking Bar. / Courtesy Amy Britt

A newly updated sign above the old, familiar entrance of the Viking Bar. / Courtesy Amy Britt

The “Gone Fishing” sign is gone. Shuttered for 10 years, the Viking Bar is set to reopen this week with an extensively remodeled interior and a full live music calendar already in place, one that’s true to the Minneapolis West Bank watering hole’s storied roots.

“We’re going to try a little bit of everything, but especially pay attention to the history of this place,” said KFAI-FM “Freewheelin’” host Jackson Buck, who is part of the team lining up acts starting next week.

Housed in a 112-year-old two-story building at 1829 Riverside Av., the Viking was a haven for folk and blues acts in the spirit of the West Bank’s ‘60s/’70s scene, but the city’s smoking ban and other factors led to its closing in 2006. The space was finally taken over by a pair of 30/40-something couples, the Britts and the Johnstons, who have been working on reopening it for a year now.

Part of the extended remodel was installing a kitchen to serve a new locally sourced food menu. The new proprietors also had to jump through the hoops of getting approved for a new liquor license, since the old one had long since expired. They will officially be open for business Wednesday.

What it looked like inside the Viking during remodeling.

What it looked like inside the Viking during remodeling.

The live music starts in full force next week and will include a June 2 gig by Steve Kaul & the Brass Kings and a June 3 set by who else but West Bank vet Willie Murphy, whose weekly Blue Monday gigs were a mainstay there in the ‘90s and early-'00s. Curtiss A’s bluesy band Dark Clik is lined up for a Sunday night residency for the month of June, when the calendar will also include the likes of classic piano man Cornbread Harris, bluesy punks Eleganza, Texas country rocker Mary Cutrufello, rootsy howler Mike Gunther and – for its first pre-ticketed show on June 25 – twang maestro Erik Koskinen.

Buck is overseeing the Viking’s booking duties along with Chris Mozena (from the great Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Fest and ex-Palmer’s) and Jesse Brodd (Harriet Brewing). He said cover will typically be about $5. The stage was rebuilt but is in the same tucked-away location as before in the 125-capacity room. Some of the other regulars at the old Viking Bar, including Spider John Koerner and the Front Porch Swingin' Liquor Pigs, are also expected to return in the coming months.

“It’s really exciting for those of us who were here before, and hopefully for younger music lovers, too,” Buck said. “They put a lot of work into the place, but they’re staying true to what it was.”

See the bar’s new Facebook page for updates and other info. Here’s the schedule for the first week and a half at the new Viking.

  • Drew Peterson / Siama Matuzungidi
  • Freewheelin’ First Friday: Rena Haus / Steve Kaul & Brass Kings
  • Legends Series: Willie Murphy
  • Sunday Residency: Curtiss A & the Dark Clik
  • Jesse’s Joyrides / Circle of Heat
  • Cornbread Harris
  • KFAI live remote of Sugar Shop (DJ Larry Englund) / The April Fools
  • Mississippi Driftwood
  • Sunday Residency: Curtiss A & the Dark Clik

Intermedia's 'Q-Stage' fest provides a forum for questions of gender

A scene from Gender Tender's “Bent/Straight,” featuring performance duo Will Courtney and Syniva Whitney.

A scene from Gender Tender's "Bent/Straight," featuring performance duo Will Courtney and Syniva Whitney (photos by Blythe M. Davis).

There were no absolutes evident at Intermedia Arts last weekend, as the second series of the “Q-Stage” performance festival wrapped up with shows featuring transgender and genderqueer artists.

“Bent/Straight,” by queer couple and performance duo Will Courtney and Syniva Whitney, and “The Grief Experiments,” by A.P. Looze, pushed genre definitions in terms of the art form in much the same way the artists’ gender identities don’t fit into binary limitations.

The performer/creators in both shows fall somewhere outside male/female categories, identifying either as transgender, or non-binary, in some cases preferring the pronoun “they,” rather than he or she, to reflect that identity. Mirroring that propensity away from gender absolutism, the work itself defied being pin-pointed into a category. Gender Tender’s work is part dance, part comedy, part experimental performance, with pastiche of film sprinkled throughout.

A.P. Looze’s work, under the direction of Zoe Michael, takes a slightly more narrative approach, but vacillates between performance art and storytelling, with some multimedia incorporated.

Physical objects played a huge role in both works. In “Bent/Straight,” the performers collaborated with artist Madeleine Bailey, who created an installation made up of three mini-blinds on wheels that were used as a moving set for the piece. Whitney and Courtney rolled the blinds to different spaces on stage, creating architectural shapes for their dance and performance work to come alive. Bailey’s design also incorporated household lamps that doubled as props — a crucial part of the lighting design, as well as costumes that matched the absurdity of their performance style.

In Gender Tender’s work, the visual elements were much more integral to the piece than a set might be in a traditional play. The objects became themselves another character. The performers moved them around but used the mechanism of opening and closing the blinds to create metaphorical gestures. The blinds came to symbolize the obstructions that get in the way of relationships, and of seeing people as they really are. The blinds also became an instrument to provoke humor, a gag employed readily as the performers freely drew from film noir and horror movies in order to devise a macabre playfulness that ran through the work.

A.P. Looze

A.P. Looze

A.P. Looze, meanwhile, demonstrated their mastery at manipulating props. A sparkly blue cloth became a stand-in for social media communication, a pile of clothes on a floor, the ocean, and a bathtub.

Looze also made use of two Barbie and Ken-like dolls. They were seen copulating with each other and inserted into Looze’s mouth in a funny, sexy scene that perfectly illustrated the ridiculousness of gender norms taken to the extreme.

Ultimately, “The Grief Experiments” proved the more accessible of the two pieces, in part because Looze lets the audience into the journey.

While by no means linear, Looze’s work succeeded in emotionally connecting with the audience through themes of recovery, loss, and sorrow. Gender Tender’s piece, while visually fascinating, didn’t have the same sense of an arc, and its spastic moments of morbid humor failed to connect to its visual and movement elements, which were more successful.

What’s clear is that “Q-Stage,” presented by 20% Theatre Company, has proven to be a fertile ground for experimentation. In supporting local queer artists, artistic director Claire Avitabile has nurtured a space for performance that challenges traditional modes and categories, seeking to find new form and ways of presenting work.