Louie from Lee's, he's gotta go now
The mood was as bittersweet as the old-school country music at Lee's Liquor Lounge on Saturday, when Texas honky-tonker Dale Watson coincidentally returned to Minneapolis' vintage Glenwood Avenue saloon on what turned out to be owner Louie Sirian's last weekend after 40 years behind the bar. Watson opened his show with "Louie's Lee's Liquor Lounge," his 1998 tribute to the man who didn't bother changing the sign out front ("It's what inside that counts"). Sirian reluctantly took the stage and sang Watson's praise, saying that he and Lee's "go together like hamburgers and ketchup." Replied Watson, "That's high praise, because I've seen Louie put ketchup on his steak." New owner Craig Kruckeberg, who officially took the reins Tuesday, was also brought to the stage, where he pledged of the bar's future, "What you see is what you get."
Hey, I know you
Don Shelby was deep into his chicken-fried steak and eggs at Alexandria's Travelers Inn the other morning when a familiar face approached the table. "Hi, Mr. Shelby, they told me you were here so I just wanted to stop and say hi," said Al Newman, former Twins utility man and coach. Shelby, something of a local folk hero in Alex, gave a big hello and asked the obvious question: What brings you to town? Newman is in his third season as field manager for the Alexandria Blue Anchors, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Northwoods League. "Didn't want to interrupt your breakfast," he said as he headed out the door. Are you kidding? I.W. thought. You're Al Newman. You can interrupt breakfast anytime you want.
Kanye West never met a hyperbolic statement he didn't like. But I.W. kind of likes it when he's making massive declarations about our Wisconsin neighbor Justin Vernon. Yeezus surprised the crowd last weekend during his set at England's Glastonbury festival by bringing the Bon Iver frontman out to perform two of their collabos — then declared Vernon "one of the baddest white boys on the planet." Now wouldn't it be something if Vernon returned the favor and surprised the audience at his Eaux Claires festival July 17-18 with a Kanye sighting? We can imagine Ye grabbing the mic onstage and shouting, "I'mma let you finish but Justin Vernon has the best festival of all time!"
Happy trails, Bain
The crowded Jungle Theater lobby on Monday night testified to the affection many feel for Bain Boehlke, who has left the theater he founded nearly 25 years ago. Actors, writers, directors, designers, friends and patrons came out to honor Boehlke before he heads to Seattle. "I'll be back," Boehlke said casually, and no one should doubt him. He ranks very high in the pantheon of visionaries and practitioners who have built the Twin Cities' reputation as a theater mecca. I.W. will miss him greatly and long remember him as one of the best. Sarah Rasmussen takes over now as artistic director. With Joe Dowling leaving the Guthrie, this is a real sea change in Our Town.
M-M-M Owl City
Minnesota's top-selling recording artist of the past six years, Owl City, is back at it. The Owatonna electro-pop singer, aka Adam Young, is about to drop his third album, "Mobile Orchestra," on July 10 via Universal's Republic Records. This week, he premiered a new single/animated video from the record, "Unbelievable," which features another act that outlasted teen-pop one-hit-wonderdom, brotherly trio Hanson. Suffice it to say Young hasn't turned to making death-metal or singing about heroin addiction.
Fresh off the success of his brisk and delightful production of "Damn Yankees," Ordway Center artistic director James Rocco is producing a revival of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," which opens Aug. 4 for a two-week run. Like "Yankees," it will have a cast of actors drawn mostly from the Twin Cities, as well as four out-of-towners. "I'm trying to do for some of our actors what others did for me," he told I.W. "I want them to be seen, and to get breaks that will take them across the country and the world. We have some really outstanding talent in the Twin Cities, and the world needs to know about it." Aye, aye, Captain Rocco.
Everyone knows that vinyl is making a big comeback but who knew that the St. Paul Public Library was expanding its vinyl LP collection to new levels of hipness? Among the titles you can take out are Jack White's "Lazaretto," John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and a Fela Kuti boxed set. And for lovers of Minnesota sounds, there are such classics as Curtiss A's "Courtesy," the Wallets' "Body Talk" and Hüsker Dü's "Land Speed Record Live" as well as more recent recordings by Doomtree, Charlie Parr and Retribution Gospel Choir, to name a few. I.W. hopes that while new vinyl converts are at the library, they'll also check out titles by Minnesota authors like Fitzgerald, Lewis and Erdrich.
Jeffrey Hatcher not only wrote the play "Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders," but he has ended up in the title role temporarily because of illness. He's subbing for actor Steven Hendrickson, who had a medical emergency last Friday — which was to be opening night — at Park Square Theatre. Director Peter Moore had to step in (Park Square does not employ understudies) and carried a script onstage last weekend. Hatcher, as playwright, can just make up lines if he should suffer a temporary memory lapse on stage. Just kidding.