Pitchfork hearts Minnesota music
Those indie-loving hipsters at Pitchfork Media showed lots of love for Minnesota music in their just-published list of the best 200 songs of the 1980s. Prince’s “Purple Rain” topped the list and he also placed four other tunes — “When Doves Cry” (No. 11), “Kiss” (21), “I Would Die 4 U” (33) and “When You Were Mine” (69). The Replacements ranked No. 66 with “Alex Chilton” and No. 125 with “Bastards of Young.” Hüsker Dü checked in at 169 with “Pink Turns to Blue” while Minneapolis soul man Alexander O’Neal’s duet with Cherrelle, “Saturday Love,” landed at 96. Pitchfork showed love for Janet Jackson’s made-in-Minnesota music, too, with “Love Will Never Do” (27), “When I Think of You” (48) and “Control” (126). Wonder if the list reflects the fact that Pitchfork, now based in Chicago, was launched by Ryan Schreiber in Minneapolis in 1999 and the ’80s here were his formative years?
Until this year, the winners of the annual Thurber Prize for American Humor have been men: Calvin Trillin. Ian Frazier. Jon Stewart. Christopher Buckley. David Sedaris. Finally, someone realized that women are funny, too; all three finalists for this year’s prize are women, including Minnesota writer Julie Schumacher, who was nominated for her very funny academic satire “Dear Committee Members.” The other finalists are Roz Chast, author of a graphic memoir about her parents, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant,” and Annabelle Gurwitch, author of the essay collection “I See You Made an Effort.” Established in 1996, the annual prize was named in honor of James Thurber, another extremely funny writer and author of the comic autobiography “My Life and Hard Times.” Winner of the $5,000 prize will be announced Sept. 28.
As she greeted the crowd last weekend at Hilde Performance Center for the rock lineup of Big Head Todd & the Monsters, G. Love & Special Sauce and JJ Grey & Mofro, Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik sounded as much like a cheerleader as a politician. “I met someone who drove all the way from Red Wing,” she told the nearly 3,000 people. “I drove about half a mile. This venue is something we want to showcase and bring more concerts to.” Then she took a cellphone photo of the audience in the gorgeously manicured park, with its gentle slope, lush gardens, man-made pond and impressive stage under an arched roof. The amphitheater already hosts the Minnesota Orchestra. But if Plymouth steps up with a better sound system than the one used for the three-band show, the Hilde would have terrific potential to be an essential Twin Cities outdoor concert venue.
Mark Benninghofen makes no bones about it. “I have never performed in a musical,” said the actor in a statement from Theater Latte Da, which is opening a production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” on Sept. 26 at the Ritz Theater. Yes, Benninghofen has chosen this part to make his musical debut after years of performing dramatic roles at the Guthrie, Park Square and in films. Benninghofen says “Sweeney” is the only musical “that calls to me as an actor.” I.W. is most curious to see if it also calls to him “as a singer.”
All about that bass
Either a cosmic coincidence or a sign we’re still a small town disguised as a big city: Babes in Toyland posted a link to an interview with their new 22-year-old bassist Clara Salyer published in City Pages when she was 17, and the author is none other than Babes’ first bassist, Michelle Leon. “In person Salyer is simultaneously awkward and all knowing, like one of the sisters from ‘The Virgin Suicides’,” wrote Leon, who quit Babes in 1992 and went on to be a writer. Her memoir, “I Live Inside,” will be published in March. Leon’s replacement, Maureen Herman, was officially replaced by Salyer due to “personal differences” as the band resumes touring this weekend. And wouldn’t you know it: Herman also has a memoir due in stores next year.
The family and friends of Ross Young are calling his recovery a marvel. A comedic Twin Cities director, actor and writer best known for both staging and starring in “Tony ’n Tina’s Wedding,” Young collapsed at home Aug. 6. He was in a coma for a day and a half, and after that underwent open-heart surgery. He left the hospital this week for a six-month recovery regimen at home. Many from the acting community visited Young in the hospital, including Warren Bowles, an actor who went into cardiac arrest onstage in 2011 during opening night of “Neighbors” at Mixed Blood Theatre. “I said to him, ‘You’re famous as an actor but most famous for having that incident onstage,’” said Young. “And he said, ‘Yes.’ But I wasn’t sure why he was visiting me. It took me a while to figure out that I was in dire shape.” Young said the experience has helped him tweak his formula for comedy. “Comedy is tragedy plus a catheter,” he told I.W.