If you're one of those people who won't be completely over the pandemic until you're crammed into a crowd of thousands of sweaty people spilling beer over each other while some band performs onstage — any band at this point! — then the most realistic target to set your sights on is September. That's when America's biggest festival, Bonnaroo (a bellwether for the touring industry), has been rescheduled. Locally, that's when First Avenue staff says it's booking its biggest swath of shows, including outdoor gigs. We may see other sporadic outdoor concerts before then, including big bashes like July's Twin Cities Summer Jam or August's We Fest. Indoor gigs could also return by then with modified, vaccine-related safety protocols. But September seems like the soonest that things will get back to normal, and then we can all go crazy again.
For one week each winter, Minnesotans warm up the harsh cold with the Great Northern, a series of community-oriented public art, food, music, performance and outdoorsy events. Watch St. Paul-based artist Marlena Myles' Dakota heritage-inspired digital art animations on the Highlight Tower in northeast Minneapolis while eating grilled takeout by Hmong cultural ambassador Yia Vang. Experience glowing ice sculptures on Theodore Wirth Park's groomed ski trails. Catch a virtual reading of winter stories by Arab, Southwest Asian and North African artists at First Avenue. Experience a semi-improvised music event by Twin Cities photographer Alec Soth and drummer/composer Dave King of the Bad Plus. (Jan. 28-Feb. 7; thegreatnorthernfestival.com)
'No Time to Die'
By now, the next James Bond movie, "No Time to Die," has become the movie that cried wolf. Awaiting the reopening of theaters everywhere, its release date has been shifted repeatedly and, as of this writing, is targeted for April, more than a year after its original date. It does seem like the perfect movie to greet fans when they feel safe returning to the multiplex, featuring Daniel Craig's final time trading anxious barbs with M (Ralph Fiennes), as well as a pair of Oscar-winning evil foes: the return of Christoph Walz's Ernst Blofeld and Rami Malek as a new maniac named Safin.
'The Seed Keeper'
Minnesota Book Award-winner and Native writer Diane Wilson, whose book "Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past" was selected for the One Minneapolis One Read program, has a new novel coming out in March from Milkweed Editions. "The Seed Keeper," to be published March 9, is the multigenerational tale of four ironwilled Dakota women. The story is told through the life of Rosalie Iron Wing, orphaned as a young girl, sent to live with a white family in Mankato. Later in life, as the widow of a white farmer, she begins to reclaim and understand her past and the women who came before her and helped shape who she is.
Ken Burns' 'Hemingway'
Ken Burns' endless to-do list includes a massive documentary on boxer Muhammad Ali, but before that's released, America's greatest history professor is turning his lens on another heavyweight. "Hemingway," a six-hour profile spread over three nights, promises an intimate portrait of an author whose personal adventures were as incredible as the ones his characters tackled in "The Sun Also Rises" and "A Farewell to Arms." Jeff Daniels provides the voice of Ernest Hemingway while Meryl Streep, Keri Russell, Mary Louise Parker and Patricia Clarkson read from letters penned by his four wives. The PBS project premieres in April.
'Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard'
Artist Moira Villiard (Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe) transforms the 400- by 50-foot concrete wall of Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam into an outdoor installation celebrating the resilience of Indigenous women. Her animated video collage mixes projects of Grandmother Moon (Nokomis), fire, earth and water elements, the jingle dress dance, music by Lyz Jaakola (Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe) and a recorded narrative by Dakota/Ojibwe First Nation elder Millie Richard. Advanced registration required. Guests will be able to safely social-distance outside. (6-8:30 p.m. Feb. 18-20; northern.lights.mn)
A wave of Minnesota albums
Long winters have always been an asset to Minnesota music makers, who use the icy months to hole up, write, record and go a little crazy. If you think of this quarantine as one stretched-out yearlong winter — especially for musicians also shut out of live gigs — then we're clearly due an explosion of great material once the pandemic is over. We know such mainstays as Har Mar Superstar, Dessa, Trampled by Turtles, the Suburbs, Charlie Parr, Ondara, Hippo Campus, Haley, David Huckfelt and the Cactus Blossoms have been working toward 2021 releases, and we can't imagine how many future young stars will break out — literally and figuratively.
New Works 4 Weeks Festival
The Red Eye Theater, which lost its nearly 30-year-old home in 2018, is getting a new space in Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood. Red Eye plans to announce details about its new building in the coming months. Meanwhile, the New Works 4 Weeks Festival is planned throughout the month of June. Presented online this year, the festival starts out with its Works-In-Progress weekend, featuring new works by emerging artists, followed by the Isolated Acts portion of the festival, chock-full of new experimental works. (June 1-20, online, redeyetheater.org)
W. 7th St. music venue
While music venues nationwide remain precipitously endangered by the pandemic, at least one seasoned Twin Cities club owner is giving us the promise of a cool new St. Paul space in 2021. Jarret Oulman, co-owner of the 331 Club and Amsterdam Bar & Hall, bought the former Fort Road Federation at 974 W. 7th St. just before the pandemic hit and has been slowly remaking it into a small music joint called the White Squirrel Bar. "It's a special project for me personally," said Oulman, who lives nearby. With only a 60-person capacity, he plans to offer no-cover gigs and other cool programming on a near-nightly basis.
St. Paul writer Jim Heynen is perhaps best known for his "boy" stories ("The One-Room Schoolhouse" and "The Boys' House"), which were featured for years on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." The stories were inspired by Heynen's own childhood, growing up on a farm in one of the last parts of Iowa to get electricity and attending a one-room schoolhouse. His new collection, "The Youngest Boy," illustrated by Tom Pohrt, will be released April 13 from Holy Cow! Press in Duluth. Short and intense enough to be considered prose poems, wise enough to be called parables, these stories are populated with one-armed women and farm auctioneers and "arguing, daydreaming boys." Only the dogs have names.
'Hamilton,' 'Rent' and 'Hadestown'
"Hamilton," the superstar of musicals, took theater to a new level with its buzz, ticket prices and use of the revolutionary musical form that is hip-hop to tell a story of the American Revolution. Now the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which presents Broadway shows in Minneapolis, is hoping that Lin-Manuel Miranda's juggernaut will save the day as theaters reopen in the hoped for post-pandemic era. The show is scheduled to land at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis July 28-Aug. 29. Before then, the trust and other presenters and producers will test the waters with other beloved shows: "Hadestown," Anaïs Mitchell's Tony-winning musical about two lovers' mythic trip to the underworld and back, June 22-27 at the Orpheum; and the Ordway presents "Rent," Jonathan Larson's anthemic Generation X-defining musical, July 20-Aug. 1.
Bob Dylan at 80
A trip to Tulsa, Okla., for the opening of the Bob Dylan Center was on our to-do list for 2021. Alas, the opening of the official museum to which he sold his personal memorabilia has been postponed until 2022. So we'll just have to be excited to celebrate his 80th birthday on May 24; in fact, the University of Tulsa is presenting a virtual symposium on the bard that weekend. In 2020, Dylan surprised us with his longest song ever, "Murder Most Foul," and a new album "Rough and Rowdy Ways," arguably the best collection of originals ever by a 79-year-old. With health and protocols willing, maybe Dylan's Never Ending Tour will resume this year.
Sundance Film Festival online
The Sundance Film Festival is usually the year's biggest event for fans of independent movies, with hipsters gathering in Park City, Utah, to sip $15 gold-dust lattés and compliment each other on their comedies about cannibalism. That changes this year, since the pandemic has forced the festival online and will give viewers in a couple dozen theaters around the country, including the Riverview in Minneapolis, a chance to catch the latest movies. This year, that includes directing debuts from actors Rebecca Hall and Robin Wright and also two films from native Minnesotans: director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.'s "Wild Indian" is one of 10 in the competition, where he'll meet producer Adam Paulsen, who had a hand in producing "A Glitch in the Matrix" and "On the Count of Three."
New music from big names
Some of music's most popular mononyms — Adele, Drake and Rihanna — have new albums expected in 2021. Even one of our favorite made-up names, Lana Del Rey, promises a new record, the curiously titled "Chemtrails Over the Country Club." We're excited about the debut of U.K. newcomer Arlo Parks, the Foo Fighters' next rocker and another deluxe reissue from the Prince estate of an album not from the 1980s. And we're especially looking forward to a project that's been a long time coming — the debut of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. They're not really singers. But the Grammy-winning producer/songwriters are in the spotlight on their album featuring some of their favorite collaborators, including Babyface, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men and, of course, Janet Jackson. But this time, Jam & Lewis are in control.
Dance in the park
Summer cannot come too soon, with its promise of outdoor performances by companies like April Sellers Dance Collective, which plans its enticing production of "Rumble Strips" at Caponi Art Park in June. Sellers developed the piece with a National Dance Project Award, and is planning an immersive yet socially distant presentation of the evening-length work. Using the lens of gender identity, Sellers, whose works are often as bawdy and clever as they are technically flashy, navigates the tension between seeking a collective understanding and singular, conflicting perspectives on the world. (June 5-6, Caponi Art Park, 1220 Diffley Road, Eagan, aprilsellers.com)
'Low Visibility' at Walker Art Center
The power of visibility and the ability to disappear in the context of a hyper-surveilled world fuel "Low Visibility" at the Walker Art Center. Drawing from the art center's permanent collection, curator Jadine Collingwood organizes works by an international and multigenerational group of artists that tackle surveillance. In a world rife with advancements in military weaponry, technology, disinformation and global activism, visibility is more than just power — it is a means of control. (Opens Feb. 5, Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, Mpls.)