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THEATER REVIEW | BareBones serves up Metamorphosoup at Hidden Falls by Ann Treacy
October 26, 2014, 4:46 am
Filed under: TC Daily Planet

(Originally posted in TC Daily Planey and archived here)

THEATER REVIEW | BareBones serves up Metamorphosoup at Hidden Falls | Twin Cities Daily Planet//

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BareBones has been producing Halloween extravaganzas for 21 years. The themes embrace the time and space between two worlds brought on by the intersection of those worlds around Halloween. There’s always a look at the worst of humanity and glimmer of the best. The program outlines this year’s theme in greater detail:

Metamorphosoup is an emotional investigation of the process of loss–loss of community through conflict, love of loved one by death and loss of oneself as we flow through the grieving.

The show is performed outdoors at Hidden Falls, tucked away behind the former Ford Plant in the secret pocket of Highland Park. It’s dark, it’s near the River, though you might not know it in the dark except that there’s a watery chill in the air. The trees are old and it feels remote–even to someone like me who grew up nearby and once knew the park well. There are some 250 volunteers, actors, musicians, artists in the show and hundreds more come to see it–especially on an unseasonably warm evening like Sunday night.

The audience sits on hay bales–or on the ground close to the stage, which is really just a clearing. In past years, the show has moved between acts. This year we stayed in one location, which I loved since we had perfect seats up front! There is a camaraderie in the crowd. Lots of kids asking “what’s happening?” Lots of parents bluffing answers. In cold weather lots of stranger getting closer to keep warm.

The shows are conceptual and I go with the hope that I’ll understand the night more like a poem than a story. This year’s poem had some amazing lines and imagery! Including…

  • A volcano erupts when humans rustling under burlap present like a blister or volcano. The rustling bursts and out runs a stream of children in blood red costumes flailing fiery flags behind them.
  • The sea scrolls over the audience in the form of a large blue tarp draped like a parachute across the clearing. This is when sitting in front really matters! You have the feeling of being towed under.
  • My favorite image is the electric fish floating around the stage – prawns, jellyfish, crabs and more. It felt like an underwater world; the glowing creatures against the night sky with just a sliver moon were mesmerizing.

The show also included aerialists, fire dancers, other-worldly singing and music, fighting dinosaurs (which involved the metamorphous of the former White Bear Pedal Pub from the Ice Shanties event last year) and group singing. Something for everyone. I always enjoy the BareBones production—this year even more so than usual. It’s on over Halloween weekend. You should make time to go!

MUSIC REVIEW | Love over Gold, The Icicles, Erik Koskinen and the Real Phonic Radio Band at the Hill Library by Ann Treacy
October 18, 2014, 4:51 am
Filed under: TC Daily Planet

(Originally posted in TC Daily Planey and archived here)

MUSIC REVIEW | Love over Gold, The Icicles, Erik Koskinen and the Real Phonic Radio Band at the Hill Library | Twin Cities Daily Planet//

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Mayor Chris Coleman welcomed the crowd to Real Phonic Radio at the James J Hill Reference Library Thursday, October 16. And I have to say, our Mayor is a good sport, reading in the usual iireverant appraoch of regular spokesman, Thom MIddlebrook. He astutely observed that while we had enough entertainment for three shows in Minneapolis, it was all hitting one stage in St Paul—as it does every third Thursday.

Headlining the night was Love Over Gold, which is the combined talents of Pieta Brown, from Iowa and Lucie Thorne, originally from Tasmania, Australia. Both are singers, song writers and guitar players. Upon quick brush they seem alike—both attractive women with pretty voices who sing with a folksy Americana twang. (Maybe the Americana genre has a different name in Australia?) But at closer inspection they have very different styles. Thome has a whispery, almost husky voice. She seems to dance with her guitar to increase the vibration of sound. (An observation made by my 10 year old date.) Brown has a more subdued style and clearer, higher voice. The voices complement each other so well, adding a seemingly thoughtful dimension to their sound.

Thome writes songs about exotic places, such as Bimbaya, South Wales (population 4); while Brown writes about local haunts, such as a song about St Paul written about the time the 35W Bridge went down. Again a nice juxtaposition of stories from places as different as their voices—and yet with a similar tone and tune. To be fair, Thome also had a song about a National Park in Illinois, but framed through an Australian lens as someplace exotic. That was our favorite song as it borrowed from a Violent Femmes song we both love.

Leading up to Love Over Gold, The Icicles played; the band includes Minnesota musical stalwarts and gems—Jake Hanson, Jeremy Hanson and Jimmy Anton. They play sultry surf music. It’s like Los Straightjackets played at half speed. They have the groovy, wavy strong and by the third song the drums started to take front seat with a faster beach beat. There was something frustratingly controlled (in a good way) about their playing. Too cool for someone like me who would let loose in full speed—but again in a good way and great fit for the time and place.

Like last month, the poetry interlude was brought to us by Thom Middlebrook who read a surprisingly sad short story about a the power of a pen, found by a daughter, shared with a father representing the voice of a lost mother. The interesting question raised by the story: how dead was the mother really if her voice was still accessible to/through the daughter in the form of a quill pen.

The night began as it always does with Erik Koskinen and the Real Phonic Band, consisting last night of Paul Bergen, Frankie Lee and Jeremy Johnson. Koskinen allowed that he had just returned from a 22-hour drive home from Texas. It made for some interesting remixes of songs such as slower, darker version of Devil’s Blues.

MUSIC REVIEW | A joyful convert for JJ Grey and Mofro at the Varsity Theater by Ann Treacy
October 3, 2014, 5:03 am
Filed under: TC Daily Planet

(Originally posted in TC Daily Planet and archived here)


Last night I went to a revival meeting. It was unusual because there wasn’t a lot of praying and there wasn’t a lot of God but there was so much joy and music and dancing. That joy emanated from JJ Grey and Mofro as they played the Varsity Theater.

Grey is the preacher who drives the service through a range of emotions, who tells the tales of “Orange Blossoms”, “Sweetest Thing” (for his daughter) and leads us to “Brighter Days” after we survive “99 Shades of Crazy”. His voice is a little gravelly and very southern; sometimes soulful sometimes southern rock. There’s something churchy about a southern accent to me; Grey hails from Jacksonville, Florida. He plays jubilant instruments such as the tambourine as well as guitar and he is surrounded by musicians who appear to love what they do.

I see a lot of music that’s straight up loud. These guys had a sneaky loudness that comes from having so many people on stage – all so good at what they do. Throughout the night each musician got an opportunity to shine and they all did.

There’s a very cool horn/woodwind section with a trumpet and a saxophone. They brought exaltation to the sound. The Waterboys have line about “your love feels like trumpets sound”; I think they wrote it after hearing Mofro. The drummer was as much fun to watch and to hear – just the expressions and the content that shone through as he riffed with the bass player and Grey. The bass player held the same smile throughout the show. His playing was understated; he rose to the occasion when necessary otherwise he quietly kept the flow going. Of course the organ brought me right back to the church feel, although to a much cooler church than I have ever attended because it was more Hammond organ than pipe organ. The guitar player looked and sounded a little bit like he could step right on stage with Southern Culture on the Skids – which means more psychobilly and is high praise in my book.

They have a Southern sound – but swampy, not desert. I’ve spent very little time in that part of the world but Grey paints a picture of Southern life in his songs that makes you feel like you understand or at least you’d testify!

MUSIC REVIEW | Lily Allen pops in at Skyway Theatre by Ann Treacy
October 2, 2014, 5:24 am
Filed under: TC Daily Planet

(Originally posted in TC Daily Planet and archived here)


Lily Allen is pop. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to admit that until I saw her live at the Skyway Theatre on Wednesday night because her lyrics are clever and her music hold hints of deeper roots but the staging, costumes and audience all scream pop.

Lily Allen is also cute as button and has a voice that curls up at the corner like a smile. And you know how a smile just makes someone that much more attractive, well the curl in her voice makes her strong and clear tones that much more interesting.

But back to the pop. The stage was set up like a big Target-Center-type show with giant plastic baby bottles everywhere, a nod to Allen’s reason for staying home for a few years. Her chatter between songs spoke nearly as much to her children and her husband (who she is meeting on Thursday after a two weeks apart) as her music. It added a quirky, family dimension to the poppiness that countered Allen’s raunchies comments and British flare for swearing. (I’m a fan of British cussing!) Allen had a few costume changes – from sequenced shorts and leathery bra to a neon orange and yellow cat suit including ears and tail, which she claimed she bought in a stripper shop for $24.99.

Not just everybody puts on a skin tight cat-suit after a maternity hiatus – and few could pull it off as well. The ridiculousness of the outfit punctuated her humorous side. She has a team of dancers who are throwbacks to In Living Color’s Fly Girls. They came out for the encore wearing dog masks for “Hard out Here” (for a Bitch). The humor was over the top and subtle as the same time. The best moment for me was when the mic stand wouldn’t work and she observed with a squeaky-cute voice that she couldn’t work it, her hands were sweaty and shouted for the man who works the mic stand. She’s not afraid on stage or in her music to be clever at the risk being mistaken for taking herself too seriously.

She played a wide range of songs, starting with “Sheesuz” and reaching back to “Not Fair;” she played favorites such as “The Fear” and “Fuck You.” The crowd loved her in an everyone-in-the-room-has-a-crush way. Lots of “I love you” or “I have those shorts” from the audience. Although aside from a love of Lily the audience was pretty all over the place – lots of young people, plenty of older people. Men and women. The horrifically inebriated, the sober. (Saw one girl do a header down the stairs on my way in; I don’t think she’ll remember it, but she’s going feel it!)

Overall I enjoyed the show; I’m not going to sign up for a dozen more pop shows anytime soon but I’d see her again.

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