An Evening at Torch

Live music doesn’t have to be about huge arenas and screaming fans or late nights at crowded rock clubs.  Sometimes it’s about connection.   I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at Torch, a new performing arts space in Minneapolis that puts the audience-artist connection at the forefront of the experience.  It’s a great space with a strong vision, and I am excited to see what’s next there.

I caught the final date in the Raw Deal concert series that ran on Sunday evenings in December and January.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at Torch, but I couldn’t help but smile when I walked in to find friendly faces and the smell of brownies baking.  “Homespun” is the way it is described on the web site, and I think that describes it well.  Torch has a homespun feel to it in the most complimentary way possible.  This is a venue where you introduce yourself to your fellow audience members and you talk about what brought you there.  It’s a venue where you can, not only meet the artist, but also have a conversation with them.  When the show started, we all paid attention.

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Hannah von der Hoff performed first.  Her bluesy style radiated warmth and fit perfectly with the setting.  There was no set list.  The audience drew the song names from a couple of hats, which kept things conversational and open.

Matt Latterell closed the night with songs that told stories.  His album Life on Land has been in regular rotation on the playlist at our house for a while, and my husband and I were happy to have the opportunity to see him perform in a venue like  this one.

Dessa Deconstructed

DESSA_PARTS_OF_SPEECH_COVERI always seem to grab my notebook when Dessa is on the radio.  Her songs have a way of sparking my own creative spirit, and her commentary on her craft become journal entries and eventually  blog posts.  Today, as I listened to the rebroadcast of Dessa Deconstructed on the Current’s Local Show, I once again found myself jotting down quotes and scribbling poetic jumbles.  When you have some time, watch the program or listen to her latest record.  Perhaps it will have the same effect on you.

 

Free Art Fridays

A zine hiding at the Minneapolis Central Library last week.

A zine hiding at the Minneapolis Central Library last week.

Art is everywhere.  I say that all the time, but on Fridays, that’s actually a little more true because there are people in the Twin Cities hiding art in unexpected places for you to find.  I’ve done it the last couple of Fridays with my zine about becoming a mother, Will There Be Smoking?.  You can join too as a hider or a seeker.  Read more about it in this article from the Pioneer Press:

Here’s how it works: Artists are invited to create a small piece of work, hide it somewhere in the Twin Cities, then on Friday, post photo clues on Facebook and/or Twitter. The finder is asked to post or tweet a photo to let the group know the art has found a good home.

Of course, not all of the art is found by group members. A random passer-by could just as easily snag a piece, adding to the mystery.

“There’s some joy thinking about who discovers it and thinking about where to hide it,” Wang said.

There’s a Facebook group and a hashtag to use.  Keep your eyes open.  The whole city is a potential hiding place for some little treasure.  If that isn’t a happy thought for today, I don’t know what is.  :)

Monday Morning Music with Caroline Smith

My partner says I have a type when it comes to music.  He’s probably right.  Look at some of the artists I’ve blogged about: Haley Bonar, Zoo Animal, Lucy Michelle.  I can’t deny it.  I like female singer-songwriters, especially those who write folky indie pop.  For the record, I’ve also blogged about totally different music (See Bloodnstuff, M83, and GY!BE), so I’m not completely stuck in a genre bubble.

I bring this up because Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps is so my type.  The recent documentary about the Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter, My Way Back Home: Caroline Smith, highlights Smith’s evolution as a songwriter, her relationship to her family and hometown of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and finding her voice.

Enjoy.

On the last day of spring break…

I’m typing next to my living room windows.  It is sunny outside, and there is a steady stream of bike and pedestrian traffic providing me with a soundtrack of conversational snippets as people pass.  It has been spring for weeks, but on a day like today, it feels like spring.

My five-year-old has already brought out her bicycle and played at the park today, and we’ve indulged her whims perhaps more than usual because she has only just returned from a week’s stay at her grandparents’.  A week is a long time to be away from your little one.  Although, I swear she doesn’t seem as little today as she did a week ago when my parents drove away with her.  Did she grow so much in six days?  She did lose another tooth while she was gone.  Perhaps that’s the difference I’m sensing.

I had big plans for those six days, and I only crossed about half of the items off my to-do list.  I always have such big dreams for my kid-free days, like the freedom of not having a little one trailing after me wherever I go (or arranging for her to follow someone else around for a while) will make anything possible.  In the end, though, it’s the little things that make me that happiest.  For example, I spent one evening lounging around reading while my husband was at band practice.  I was able to finish a whole book in an evening.  That used to be a common practice for me, but these days it’s pretty rare.

sigurrosIt wasn’t all small stuff this time though.  There were a couple of big events I was very happy I was able to attend.  The first was Sigur Ros at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and I do not feel like I am over-hyping the event by saying that it would be on my top ten concerts in 2013 list, if I were to make one.  It was my second time seeing them live, and it was just as amazing as it was back in 2005 at the State Theatre–though I will say that the theater seating was more comfortable than the general admission floor at the Roy Wilkins even if it does make me feel every bit of my age to admit that.  There are some photos and thoughts on the show here, and video a friend took from the show here for those that are interested.  Photos and video can’t really do justice to the experience though.  I wholeheartedly recommend seeing Sigur Ros live if you can.

The second big event for my kid-free week was a chance to give back to my community.  Mikey Max Heals the World is an annual birthday charity event that features local music and supports local causes.  This year the lineup featured some of my friends’ bands, and the charities were organizations I was very happy to support.  My personal highlight was Fort Wilson Riot, who have been featured on this blog several times before.  It had been way too long since I had seen them live.  They have been touring an awful lot in the past year.  Great for them, not so great for me.  In any case, they played a great set of their indie-pop awesomeness.

fortwilsonriot

I have yet to hear the final total of money raised for the charities, but there was a great turnout.  It is one show that I don’t mind when the audience gets a bit crowded.  I’ll endure a bit of crowding for the knowledge that we’re all there supporting organizations like the Neighborhood Involvement Program (provides health services for the uninsured), Perspectives (supports at-risk families trying to break the cycle of poverty), and the Chicago Avenue Project (a theater mentoring program).

Life gets back to normal tomorrow.  Fewer nights out, more time at the park.  That’s okay too.  There’s plenty of time to read while my girl bikes circles around me.  Maybe I’ll get through this book club pick yet…

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I might not make it out to all the shows that some of my childless (childfree?) friends do, but I can’t help but think it’s a good life.  :)

Weekend Picks: April 5th & 6th

It has been a while since I’ve posted Weekend Picks on the blog, but I can’t resist promoting a couple of cool events I’ve been excited about for a while.

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  • Mikey Max Heals the World at Cause Spirits and Sound on Friday, April 5th.  Mikey Max is a friend of mine, and this is the third year that he has turned his birthday into a charity event.  This year all proceeds go to benefit the Neighborhood Involvement Program, Perspectives, and the Chicago Avenue Project.  The line up includes some local favorites and friends of mine.  It’s going to be a great show, and it’s supporting great organizations.  
  • Icehouse Kids Concert Series with the Bunny Clogs on Saturday, April 6th.  I have been wishing some venue would do a regular event like this for a while.  It should be tons of fun for families looking for some musical entertainment on a Saturday morning.

 

 

Friday Find: Pratfalls of Parenting

“We make cool stuff. We make people too. How has that affected you?  Along the way we try to stay creative types at the end of the day.” –The Pratfalls of Parenting theme song

pop-itunesI recently discovered the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast about life as a parent in the arts, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with the show.  I am far from being a working artist myself–that isn’t even on my map really–but that doesn’t matter.  The sense of camaraderie in the casual conversations between the artists in the podcast extends to the listener, and turns people whose names I see on advertisements for gallery shows or theater performances into real people whose struggles are not far off from mine.

All the interviews that I’ve listened to so far seem to circle back to the idea that you have to be you to be a good parent.  You might be able to put parts of you in the background at times, like when your kids are quite young, but you have to keep making things or whatever it is you are into.  For me that means writing and making zines.  For my husband, it means making music.  We’ve made these things priorities in our house, and it’s nice to know that there are other families out there who are making the same kinds of priorities we are.

But I don’t think you have to be some sort of artist to know the tension between keeping your pre-parent self alive and being a good parent, and I don’t think you have to be an artist to appreciate the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast.  For one thing, it’s a fascinating angle on the Twin Cities arts scene.  I’ve discovered so many artists and arts organizations in the few weeks I’ve been listening.  :)

Here are some of the highlights I’ve found so far:

  • Seniz Lennes (improvisor/actor/photographer) talks about parenting as part of her creative practice and the way that her work as an improvisor informs her parenting.  She blogs about this at Yes And Parenting.
  • Carolyn Swiszcz (painter/video maker) references children’s books as a great inspiration, and she mentions several illustrators in particular that she likes.  While I’m on the subject of books, I’ll also point out that Susannah Schouweiler mentions that having free reign of the library as a kid influenced her decision to become a writer and William Alexander (children’s book author) talks about writing, the book industry, and all sorts of other things kidlitgeeks like me love hearing about.
  • Jena Young  (comic/theater producer) brings up the topic of humor in that what is funny to kids is often not the same as what is funny to adults.  I wonder what she and host Levi Weinhagen (of all-ages theater company Comedy Suitcase) would think of my assessment of Kid Humor in picture books. ;)

I highly recommend the podcast to parents of all sorts, but especially to those who make stuff and make that a priority.

Friday Find: Glam Doll Donuts

glamdoll

I have fond memories of bakeries and donut shops from my childhood, and I tried to share my donut-related memories with my family while we waited in line at Glam Doll Donuts this week.  But my 5 year-old was more interested in the sweets in the display case than in my old stories of being her age and hanging out in the back room of the bakery where my mom worked at the time.  Once our donuts had been consumed, she just wanted to explore the shop’s unique decor.  The photo booth was a great source of curiosity, and the stage-like steps leading to the back door were screaming “put on a show” to anyone under age 6 or so.

You don’t have to be a kid to let Glam Doll capture your imagination.  It’s retro and stylish, and the idea that you can drink coffee and eat sweets into the wee hours is a good one.  It’s well worth checking out.  I know I’ll be back.  There is a donut with bacon on top that I have yet to try… :)

Happy Birthday to Me

February is a good month for a birthday.  At least here in Minnesota, where it is cold and snowy, it is nice to have a reason to celebrate in the middle of February.  I am grateful to my lovely friends for celebrating with me with music at the Whole on the U of M campus on Friday night.  We just couldn’t resist seeing Now, Now play a rare show at a small venue here in Minneapolis, even if it meant being the oldest people there.  I am not lying when I say that I overheard a couple of students saying “she was at least 30″ when talking about weird it was to see a University librarian at a show.  At first, I tried to pretend I was not a 30-something librarian, but then I figured that at least I’m a 30-something librarian with good taste in music. :)

Speaking of my taste in music, Prissy Clerks opened for Now, Now, and they are a recent favorite of mine.  When I first played one of their songs for my husband, he put it best: “I think this is what it would sound like if you and I ever started a band.”  He has a point.  It’s cute and kinda girly, but it’s noisy too.  We like it.

Here is Prissy Clerks performing “No Sir” for Radio K in January 2013:

Monday Morning Music with Low

greatdestI’ve been listening to the Local Current radio stream lately, and I’ve been thinking about how long I have to live with things to give them a chance.  Low, Local Current’s Featured Artist of the month, has been around for 20 years, and I’ve known of them for at least 10-12 of those years. I never really gave them a chance until they released The Great Destroyer in 2005.  It was a departure for them, and I loved it immediately.  More than that, though, it put their backlist into context for me.  Everything clicked.   The songs that had been in the background for years weren’t background anymore.  They were the ground, and they have been ever since.

I didn’t get it for a long time, and now Low is a band I will always come back to.  Their latest record, The Invisible Way, will be released in March.

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