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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Talking Volumes at the Fitzgerald Theater (Tuesday, April 20th, 2004)

Tuesday evening I took a break from the rock shows in Minneapolis and headed to the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. The Fitzgerald, long time Twin Cities stomping grounds of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, has more recently become home to the Rhubarb Show , a music showcase which features veteran as well as up and coming local musicians. Recent musical guests have included some of my favorite musicians like Ben Connelly, Mike Gunther and Coach Said Not To and Heiruspecs. (Check out one of the archived shows here.)

On Tuesday’s agenda at the Fitzgerald, was Talking Volumes, a joint project of the Star Tribune, the Loft Literary Center and Minnesota Public Radio. The program is a kind of live book club in which authors read from their books and field questions from the host and the audience. The program is taped, edited and broadcast the following day on MPR’s Midmorning.

This month’s featured author was Anchee Min, in the Twin Cities to discuss her 2004 Houghton Mifflin book Empress Orchid, an historical novel re-telling the story of Empress Orchid in the final days of the Chinese Empire. It was Anchee Min’s intent to help revise accepted history and present a more human side of a woman who Chinese schoolchildren had been taught for decades was a “mastermind of pure evil and intrigue.”

Tonight’s show marked the move of MPR’s Heather McElhatton, who has produced Talking Volumes for the past four years, from producer of the program to its host. McElhatton did a great job of keeping an uncommonly exuberant author in check and trying to keep the focus of discussion on the actual book during the hour-long interview. Ms. Min has a tendency toward grandstanding, not something that you might expect to see or hear in an author interview. Her dramatic, sometimes melodramatic performance featured her leaping from her chair at one point to demonstrate how she was taught to bayonet American soldiers during the Chinese Cultural Revolution complete with sound effects.

There were times during the program I was taken aback by the unexpected directions the show was taking. Excerpts I have read of Ms. Min’s work contain brilliant and often graphic images--like one of moths being pulled apart during coupling to watch them bleed to death as a form of entertainment--but at times I found the additional images she described in the interview to be a bit too graphic. Example: her story of her poverty-riddled childhood in which a tapeworm she acquired from eating out of the garbage crawled out of her anus. "TMI," as they say in the parlance of the times. Not that Ms. Minn was without her moments of humor. When asked by McElhatton about her dreams when growing up as a child in China she responded that it was "to save the starving children in America."

The show also featured Dr. Hua Chen from the Minnesota Chinese Music Ensemble playing one of several Er-Hu he had brought along. The Er Hu is a beautiful two-stringed sort of violin that sounds like a cross between a violin and an oboe. One highlight was when Dr. Chen accompanied Ms. Min as she read a poetic passage from her book.

Overall, the show added additional insight to the previous interviews and articles I had read and listened to with Ms. Min . And if part of the success of her appearance on the program is to be judged by book sales, I’m not surprised to learn that at the time of writing Empress Orchid has shot to the top of the Minnesota Best Seller List.

You can listen to the entire show here: Or even choose to watch selected video highlights.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

RIFT MAGAZINE to hit stands on April 28th after short production delay

For those of you (like me) who were looking for copies of Minnesota's new music magazine, Rift on Tax Day, you'll be happy to know that after hitting a production snag the new bi-monthly periodical will hit the stands on the the 28th of this month.

There will also be a launch party on the 15th of May at the 400 Bar featuring the bands Aneuretical (9:00), Cowboy Curtis (10:00), The Vestals (11:00), and Self-Evident (12:00).

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Pixies Tickets on sale this morning at 10:00 a. m.

Just a reminder that tickets for the Pixies' return to Minneapolis at the Roy Wilkens Auditorium (seats 5,500) on November 11th went on sale at 10 a.m. today.

Not wanting a repeat of ticket anxieties leading up to the Fine Line show on Tuesday, on TickeMaster I managed to buy 'em from the man this time after about a 4 minute wait in a virtual line.

Good luck to you. I hope there are still some left by the time you read this. It's now 7 minutes after 10.

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Music by The Melismatics, Astronaut Wife, Sideways, Faux Jean, The Mood Swings and DJ Marc Mueller / Visuals and interactive digital media design by Co.Lab and Jennifer Jurgens

At First Avenue, Minneapolis on Friday, April 16th, 2004 @ 5 pm

It's that time of year again, and time for this much-anticipated annual event from one of my favorite local labels: Susstones. HowWasTheShow will of course be onhand to give you a full report after the show, but this is one you really shouldn't miss folks.

Today's Susstone's press release gives the down and dirty on the particpants:

"The Melismatics – Since the release of their New Infection album on Susstones, the Melismatics have seen their fanbase explode both locally and regionally. This band represents Minneapolis rock at its finest – melody, attitude, energy and wit. They have a couple of cool surprises in store this evening - just wait and see – but above all, enjoy the Melismatics in their natural element of the big rock stage.

Astronaut Wife – This show marks AW’s return to live performance after nearly a year’s absence. Things have been moving along behind the scenes, however, with a whole new group of songs in the works for the follow-up to the band’s Flying Saucer album. Tonight the band plans on debuting several of these new creations, accompanied by interactive visuals created by digital artist / Susstones co-founder Jennifer Jurgens. Expect more sublime electro-organic melodies and artful grooves as the Wife charts the course toward its next release.

Sideways – Ed Ackerson’s retro / futurist instrumental project Sideways has morphed into a live action musical and visual “happening”. Combining live music with narrative animation elements designed by collaborator Christian Erickson, the show brings the original integrated media concept of Sideways to life. Erickson’s visual elements react in real time to musical input from the band, utilizing original technologies developed by Susstones technology partner Co.Lab. The live band, which includes Ackerson on guitar, Peter Anderson on drums, Kraig Jarret Johnson on bass, Tim Oesau on organ, and Blake Hurlbert on percussion, made its first appearance a few weeks ago at the Walker Art Center to rave reviews. Tonight the Sideways experience comes to the main stage with bigger sound, bigger projection screens, and refined visuals.

Faux Jean – Although nearly ready to, ahem, spring a new band line-up on his adoring masses, Faux Jean is scheduled to appear at the Soirée in his solo “troubadour” guise. The Faux material shines brightly in solo presentation, the undiluted charm of the tunes and lyrics clear. Don’t be surprised, however, if a guest or two mysteriously appear to give a hint of Faux Jean to come.

The Mood Swings – The very newest addition to the Susstones crew starts the evening in full rock tilt. Formed by singer / guitarist / songwriter Ashley Prenzlow (previously of The Meg, Basement Apartment), The Mood Swings combine a heavy fuzz-rock sound with ultra sharp pop songcraft. Ashley, guitarist Sallie Watson, drummer Laura Bennett, and draftee-bassist Mark Wade have only played a couple of shows but are already blowing minds and taking no prisoners with their live assault. Be sure to come early to check out this cool new band!

DJ Marc Mueller – Resident vinyl alchemist at Sussed!, the Susstones-sponsored Tuesday night DJ event at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, Marc “The Guv’nor” Mueller will spin his trademark mix of sublime sounds throughout the evening.