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Saturday, July 22, 2006

From which Tennesse Williams play did Alva Star take its name? And more questions about local music courtesy of my dad.

I've come to expect the Spanish Inquisition

My parents were in town recently, and, as usual, I found myself facing a barrage of questions about what exactly I do as the managing editor of a music review website like HowWasTheShow. Some of the questions were good, though at times I found it difficult having to "speak for" the entire music scene. And since my audience wasn't as well-versed or sympathetic as say, Mary Lucia, I occasionally found myself a little defensive, especially about money-related issues. But attempting to answer helped clarify for me some of the things that motivate people to go into the pop music business in this day and age. Here are three of the questions and the answers I came up with. (Note: I had to research the first one a bit.)

  1. Regarding Alva Star headlining the HowWastheShow 4th Anniversary Party, I mentioned that the band Alva Star took its name from a Tennessee Williams Play. Which play, my dad queried? Well, Alva Starr (John Hermanson dropped the second "r" when he named his band) is a character in William's 1946 one act play, This Property is Condemned. In 1969, the play was made into a film starring Natalie Wood in the title role. Directed by Sydney Pollack, and also featuring Robert Redford and Charles Bronson, the film version received scripting help from Francis Coppola. Hermanson chose the name for his band after seeing the movie and being "captivated by the parallels between the lives of Alva Star and Natalie Wood and the early death of the character and the early death of the actress."
  2. Is there a Minneapolis sound? What does it sound like? At the HowWasTheShow writers' meeting this past week, some of the staff had talked about "sounds like" references in reviews and whether or not they were valuable. Clearly they are, as they give people some sort of reference point when they haven't heard the band in question. But how do you use "sounds like" comparisons with people who lack working reference points in contemporary music? You might be able to use "free jazz with horn usage similar to George Gershwin's 'An American in Paris'" to describe some contemporary music, but how do you describe Tapes 'n Tapes to someone who is nearly 70? In one of my own reviews from 2004, I said (regarding TnT) that "I find this local 3-piece [to be] playing some of the most interesting (if not the strangest) music in town, something like what might happen if the Strokes suddenly started listening exclusively to Captain Beefheart and eschewed the reaction of fans and critics." Don't know the Strokes? Don't know Beefheart? Where does that leave you? As far as the Minneapolis (or more rightfully, Minnesota) sound goes I ended up saying that if you took Soul Asylum, The Replacements and Husker Du and shook them up in a cocktail circa 1983 it would be close to the Minneapolis sound that lives in my head. Whether I can explain it or not, I know when I hear it, and we had to leave it at that.
  3. Are the bands I write about interested in making money? Of course they are! But my attempt at answering this question became emotionally heated for some reason. The question was prompted by discussion about Tapes 'n Tapes, the success they are having right now and their impending appearance on David Letterman (Tuesday, July 25th). Now, I wish the guys in this band all the success in the world and gazillions of dollars, but the fact is that most of even the successful musicians in this town still have day jobs (read Friday's Star Trib for an article about Tapes 'n Tapes that notes front man Josh Grier had to ask his boss for the day off to go to New York to do the Letterman gig), and I really, really don't think most musicians got into music because they craved either fame and fortune. (Okay, maybe some of them did in the back of their minds.) But I don't think money is a good reason to go into rock and roll. You want to make a buck? There are better paths. Most of the peopleI know would like nothing more than to grow rich doing what they love, but I sense the local bands I know are first and foremost in it for the music and that for that frequently underrated and underappreciated concept called fun, which I insist are the only reasons to get into this anyway. I started HowWasTheShow with the same objectives, and four years later, though we haven't made a dime to speak of, we've still grown and gotten some awesome recognition along the way. Personally, I've learned an incredible amount and feel that I've had a positive impact on a lot of people's lives. Sure, I could ask for more (and you're welcome to send money) but I'm happy, and really, that's all I care about in the end.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Musicapolis II - Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

MNStories has a nice piece today on last year's Musicapolis. See it here. Check out the cool, moving (pun intended, you'll see) interview bit with Grant Hart at the end.

This year's exhibit features 26 years of photos from Daniel Corrigan.

Band's play all afternoon to help kick off the exhbit. Here's the schedule.

2:30 - Spaghetti Western String Company
4:00 - The Tin Star Sisters
5:00 - Mike Gunther and His Restless Souls
6:00 - The Brass Kings
7:00 - The Gleam
8:00 - Gee as in Jesus
9:00 - Chooglin'
Followed by the debut of Shutter, a new film series at the Ritz Theater organized by The Ritz and MCP.

Admission is $10.

Afterwards, head over to the 331 Club for an afterparty featuring live performances by Sendero Flamenco, Le Cirque Rouge de Gus Cabaret & Burlesque, Fatala Express, and Jehovah's Shitlist. Also The Bearded Lady Motorcycle Rally Champions
be hosting their event afterparty in the 331 parking lot at the same time. The 331 event is free, inside and out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

HowWasTheShow Writer's Meeting

HowWasTheShow had a writer's meeting at the Turf Club tonight. So when did they paint the far wall across from the bar baby blue? I was sad to see the Christmas lights and the stencil-painted "Curtains" which had been such a part of that room for so long go away.

Even sadder was the fact that we all had to leave at 10 just before El Olio Wolof took the stage as we were nearly the only people in the bar. 12 music writers walking out just before the band began? That seems wrong.

Just for fun, I made a quick video of the staff photos we took:

Friday, July 14, 2006


I was told it was going to be a little warm this weekend, suggesting to me it was time I made a cool change to my back yard.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Nude Race

Of course, the Roskilde Festival wrapped up yesterday. This is actually the first year of the past four I have not been there.

Should I be suprised that once again, this (a blog entry in which I reference the annual "nude race") is the most popular entry in my blog stats today?

Looking for "Roskilde Nude Race" photos? I can't guarantee you'll find them, but this might be a good search to try. They may yet turn up, and if they don't, there are still some great photos from the 2006 festival.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mei Young's final broadcast on Drive 105 Homegrown - tonight (7/2) at 10PM

(Photo: Mei Young and I at Mei's "retirement" party at Big V's a few weeks ago. Self-portrait by me.)

Our friend and former HWTS'er Steve McPherson wrote a nice farewell piece to Mei Young in Wednesday's edition of the Pulse. (I've pasted it in below.) Well, damn it, I, too, will miss Mei's presence on the local airwaves.

I am honored to be filling in as co-host during Mei's final appearance on Homegrown, a program she started about ten years ago now. The irony of my appearance on tonight's program is that I'm filling in for Dave Campbell (who is seeing Wilco in Duluth), and one of our guests is Andrea Myers, who is filling in for me while I am on hiatus as editor of HowWasTheShow. So, it's a bit of a double switcheroo (a double spy turning into a triple spy) kind of thing.

Tune in. 10PM. At or on an actual radio at 105.1 etc. FM.

And here's a HowWasTheShow Flickr Photo tribute to Mei Young from pictures of the fun we've had over the past year or so.

Mei Young's Last Broadcast on Drive 105
by Steve McPherson

It won't be without a tiny tear that we bid adieu to Mei Young on this week's Homegrown. After all, she's been one of the most tireless supporters of the local music scene for as long as anyone can remember. After getting permission to play one local song a night in her 2 a.m. slot on KQRS way back in 1996, Young had planted the seeds of what would one day become Homegrown, and the show's long list of impressive guests is a testament to her unwavering dedication to all things local. I got to peek inside just this past January for the annual Critics' Picks show and, despite a fantastic case of jet lag, I felt right at home, due in large part to Mei's easy way with a mic and a question. Her final broadcast will feature guest appearances from's Andrea Myers and David de Young (who's become a regular contributor to the show), as well as the yet-to-be-picked winner of Homegrown's Battle of the Bands. Plus, those are just the announced guests; the press release promises mystery guests from Mei's past a la "This Is Your Life." As Young rides off into self-employment, she leaves the show in Dave Campbell's hands as host and producer, so a piece of advice: I've hung out with that guy, and I wouldn't let him drive my car. That's all I'm saying. With David de Young, Andrea Myers and Battle of the Bands winner. Drive 105 FM. 10 p.m. MCPHERSON