Indie heroes go it alone Saturday
One is a reclusive, fabled singer/songwriter that Twin Cities indie-rock fans haven't seen for 13 years. The other one comes every year, but never like this. Both played rare shows minus their cult-revered bands last Saturday in Minneapolis.
Jeff Mangum is alive and well and actually exists, all things his 2,000 audience members might have doubted before Saturday. Moved to the State Theatre after his fan base proved too big for the Pantages, the hourlong set didn't exactly make up for lost time. But his fawning crowd is likely to remember it for a long time.
Mangum bowed out following his band Neutral Milk Hotel's 1998 sophomore album "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," a highly influential, conceptual folk-rock collection. Saturday's all-acoustic set stripped away the musical layering as well as some of the mythologizing surrounding "In the Aeroplane," which made up the bulk of the 14-song set list. The show came off like a John Denver/Cat Stevens folky campfire song fest.
"The best way to thank me is to sing along," Mangum said two songs in when a guy yelled out a passionate "thank you." Fans fulfilled his request on "Holland, 1945," a wordy, harrowing tune that made for odd but impressive audience accompaniment.
Things turned tent-revivalistic when he invited the crowd nearer the stage before "Two-Headed Boy." His approachability was the most surprising thing about the show. When a woman yelled out a request to "hang out," he quipped, "I do kind of keep to myself."
Mangum still had the intense, powerful, albeit nasal tenor voice that made him almost famous. He sang with a piercing resonance in the murderous epic "Oh Comely." Some of the "In the Aeroplane" songs dragged without the full band arrangements. Onetime NMH participants Laura Carter and Scott Spillane (who played an opening set) joined Mangum on the show's musical high point, "Ghost." It gave hope for a full band tour at some point. For now, though, fans are content knowing Mangum himself is not a ghost.
Meanwhile at the Triple Rock on Saturday, the most impressive thing about Craig Finn's sold-out solo gig was how much it varied from his full-time band the Hold Steady.
Finn was just a week into touring with the four Texas musicians who played on his solo debut, "Clear Heart, Full Eyes." He and the boys were still feeling each other out but certainly had a great feel for the album's atmospheric urban twang.
However, the standout moments were when Finn unveiled three new songs mid-set by himself, highlighted by "The Dudes From St. Paul," a John Prine-ian amusing spin on our capital city's dangers. He also encored alone with another new one that, along with the band's finale "Not Much Left of Us," showed an evocative Springsteen storytelling side not even so evident in the Hold Steady's E Street-like musings.
Like Bruce, Craig will probably always be better with his usual gang. But who knows what else can happen outside that box?
- Chris Riemenschneider
Surly named 11th best
Surly could build another brewery just to house its hardware. But the Brooklyn Center brewery's dominance in RateBeer.com's annual "Best" list deserves some kudos. The international beer rating website has Surly ranked as the 11th best brewery on the planet.
In RateBeer's style categories, Surly Furious was named the No. 1 India Pale Ale in the world. Also, Surly's Bitter Brewer was No. 8 for English Style Pale & Bitter, Abrasive Ale nabbed No. 6 in the Double IPA category, and SurlyFest was No. 10 for Dark Lagers. More than 140,000 beers from 12,000 brewers worldwide were tallied. One other Minnesota brewery made the list: Town Hall at No. 42.
- Tom Horgen
Surprise -- Jason Wu for Target sells out
After last fall's blowout collaboration with Missoni, Target once again immediately sold out its latest designer collaboration collection, this time with New York-based designer Jason Wu, within an hour of doors opening on Sunday morning. Though this time the online launch went a little smoother than Missoni for Target's infamous website meltdown, the sellout is marred by the fact that more than 11,000 items from the collection were poached by eBay sellers. Fashionista.com reported that a Miami store saw its entire collection bought up by a couple of eBay sellers. This looks to be a problem Target will have to deal with sooner rather than later.
- Jahna Peloquin
Bon Iver turned down Grammy performance
Currently appearing in national ads for Bushmills whiskey, Justin Vernon was less enthused about appearing in the Grammy Awards telecast. The musician better known as Bon Iver, who just played "Saturday Night Live" last week, told Billboard that he turned down a request to perform for this Sunday's telecast because it was to be part of a collaboration. He did not say who he was asked to play with, and he even said it involved "awesome people." However, he nonetheless found it insulting that the spot was not to feature his own music or his full band. "We kind of said 'Fuck you' a little bit," he said in the interview.
Vernon had already expressed mildly disinterested feelings about the Grammys when he earned a surprising four nominations. Those include the big ones for record and song of the year (for "Holocene"), plus nods for best new artist and alternative album. Can't wait to hear what he'll have to say should he make it to the podium.
- Jon Bream
Northeast brewery? Indeed!
Minneapolis is in the midst of a microbrewery surge (thanks, Surly Bill!). Now comes Indeed Brewing (www.indeedbrewing.com), a self-described "hop-forward" brewery that plans to open this summer. The upstart company is the brainchild of former college roommates Nathan Berndt, Tom Whisenand and Rachel Anderson. From what we've heard, they're all about the bold brews. Town Hall Brewery alum Josh Bischoff is their head brewer.
The 12,000-square-foot brewery (and taproom) will be located in a century-old warehouse in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District. The brewhouse will have capacity for 3,800 barrels a year. Berndt says they hope to start brewing in June and have beer on tap in bars and restaurants in July. The cans will hit stores by September.
- Tom Horgen
Madonna coming for first time since '87
Madonna, you've just won rave reviews for your Super Bowl performance. What will you do next? Go on tour, of course, with a stop in the Twin Cities for a performance on Nov. 3 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. She last performed in St. Paul in 1987 -- or six tours and eight studio albums ago. The tour will promote Madonna's new album, "MDNA," which will be released on March 26. Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 27 at the Xcel box office, livenation.com, ticketmaster.com and 1-800-745-3000. More info at www.madonna.com.
- Jon Bream
Vita.mn's Are You Local? cries Wolf
Don't want to pay the inflated hotel prices, deal in the sea of skinny jeans or wait in line for an hour to see a half-hour set, as is the norm at the South by Southwest Music Conference these days? You can take in a good handful of the local bands set to make a splash at next month's mega-fest in Texas thanks to the Vita.mn Are You Local? showcase.
The annual SXSW send-off party returns to First Avenue on March 2. The lineup features Peter Wolf Crier, Astronautalis, the Blind Shake, Pink Mink and Fort Wilson Riot. The three finalists in Vita.mn's new-band contest of the same name will perform next door in 7th Street Entry, competing for a SXSW party slot. Tickets for the showcase ($10) are on sale now.
- Chris Riemenschneider