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“Drone, not Drones” Sounds this Weekend at the Cedar

Low’s set at Rock the Garden last summer sparked a surprising amount of controversy for a local music performance; everyone had something to say about the 27-minute, drone-infused rendition of their “Do You Know How to Waltz?” The band received harsh backlash online, was defended ardently, and inspired questions about performers’ responsibility to their audience. […]

Low’s set at Rock the Garden last summer sparked a surprising amount of controversy for a local music performance; everyone had something to say about the 27-minute, drone-infused rendition of their “Do You Know How to Waltz?” The band received harsh backlash online, was defended ardently, and inspired questions about performers’ responsibility to their audience. Philip Bither, the Walker’s Senior Curator of Performing Arts, called it Rock the Garden’s own Rite of Spring.

Something that Low’s Alan Sparhawk said during the show, delivered more calmly and eloquently than any of their naysayers, has had a lasting impact: “Drone, not drones.” Borrowed from his friend and Twin Cities music organizer Luke Heiken, the phrase has become a succinct pro-drone, anti-war statement.

In an interview with the Walker, Heiken detailed his position on drones: “I’m told [drones] are important to track down terrorists and to keep me and my family safe,” he says. “But there is a line crossed when we fly these things into sovereign nations and use explosives to kill people, without a trial, who are believed to be present and write off the loss of life and limb for any people caught in the blast.”  He also described his plans to organize a benefit concert, fueled by the attention his cause has received from the Low set.

After months of organizing, Heiken’s dream is finally coming together in “DRONE NOT DRONES: The Live 28-Hour Drone” this weekend, February 7–8. As the event’s Facebook invite states, “We don’t have the right words to stop ‘targeted killings’ or ‘collateral damages’ or ‘illegal assassinations.’ All we can do is drone on and on about it.” And drone they will.

The drone begins early Friday evening at the Cedar Cultural Center. Proceeds from the event will go to Doctors Without Borders. By the time silence falls late Saturday night, musicians like Paul Metzger, Tim Kaiser, Zak Sally, and Martin Dosh will have contributed to the sound. And of course, after last summer’s events, a drone festival in Minneapolis isn’t complete without Low, scheduled for primetime Friday night. If you loved their RTG set, grab a blanket and pillow and head to the Cedar this weekend.

Songwriting with Abraham: Minneapolis Artists Collaborate with Cruzvillegas for Music & Movies 2013

Abraham Cruzvillegas, La curva, 2003. Speyer Family Collection, New York. Photo courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.
Roe Family Singers. Photo by Sara Rubinstein

Roe Family Singers will perform on August 5.

For a band accustomed to old-time standards like “King Kong Kitchie” and its own original bluegrass numbers, the task might’ve been a head-scratcher: compose music to accompany lyrics written by a Mexico City–based conceptual artist and play it live. But Minneapolis’ Roe Family Singers – as well as two other acts playing 2013’s Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park — was up for the task.

Abraham Cruzvillegas‘ lyrics are different in that they are more abstract, and the meaning behind them seems more up to the listener to fill in or deduce,” says the band’s Quillan Roe. “This is closer to how we write our own music, with lyrics used to evoke an emotional response that the listener can fill in themselves with their own experiences, or with their responses to how the music makes them feel.”

The exercise shakes up a format that the Walker has presented for more than 30 summers: a band paired with a film. The past two editions featured commissioned live musicians accompanying classic films — Brute Heart’s score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 2012 and Dark Dark Dark’s score for Fritz Lang’s Spies in 2011 — but this year the Walker will try something new by adding collaboration with a visual artist to the film/performance tradition. Cruzvillegas, whose Autoconstrucción Suites  is currently on view at the Walker, chose the four films featured in Summer Music & Movies 2013: Roadways. He also provided lyrics for three of the bands to transform into a new song to debut within their Music & Movies sets.

The musicians are excited to work with Cruzvillegas’ words. A few members in the Roe Family Singers (August 5) studied visual art, so they’re particularly interested in working on this project, while Grant Cutler (August 19) chose to use Cruzvillegas’ working method as inspiration. About his creative process, Cutler says he’ll “attempt to put the song together a little like how Cruzvillegas puts together sculpture. With found objects (or in my case found sounds). Maybe using a lot of sampled sounds that are just ‘around,’ and then working in the lyrics over that.”

Abraham Cruzvillegas, La curva, 2003. Speyer Family Collection, New York. Photo courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.

Abraham Cruzvillegas, La curva, 2003.

Cruzvillegas’ interest in the transformation of found objects is rooted in his childhood in Ajusco, in the south of Mexico City. As Cruzvillegas explains:

The autoconstrucción concept comes from a building technique that is led by specific needs of a family and by the lack of funds to pay for constructing an entire house at once. People build their own homes slowly and sporadically, as they can, with limited money, with the collaboration of all family members and the solidarity of neighbors, relatives, and friends. Houses show the autoconstrucción process in their layers, through which it is possible to experience their transformations, modifications, cancellations, and destructions; they evolve according to changes in the lives of their residents.

In the summer of 2008, Cruzvillegas applied this concept of autoconstrucción to music during his residency at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. There, ten different musical groups worked with his lyrics to create and record original songs, with music ranging in genre from traditional choir and post-punk to ukulele and pop. It wasn’t finding wood to make a sculpture, but instead used human capital as a medium. The project also brought a local connection to his work. Unlike the usual process of making a sculpture in a studio and then transporting it to a museum, this project added local musicians who brought their own experiences and ideas to the lyrics and stories Cruzvillegas wrote.

In Minneapolis, in addition to providing lyrics for the bands, Cruzvillegas also selected the films, all road films in one sense or another. Although the bands were chosen independently from the movies, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like to think about the films they are paired with. Grant Cutler will perform alongside Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which he says might be one of his favorite movies growing up (despite the scariness of Large Marge). “I hope it comes across as a big crazy experiment,” Cutler says about the set. “Aby [Wolf] and Holly [Newsom, of Zoo Animal] and I were toying with the idea of covering Tequila, but we’ll see.”

Grant Cutler, Holly Newsom (of Zoo Animal) and Aby Wolf will perform on August 19.

Grant Cutler, Holly Newsom (of Zoo Animal) and Aby Wolf will perform on August 19.

Summer Music and Movies 2013: Roadways

Monday nights, 7pm, Loring Park. Free. Hosts from 89.3 The Current will be spinning between the bands and films each Monday.

July 29: Prissy Clerks; DJ Barb Abney; The Hawks and the Sparrows

Aug 5: Roe Family Singers + Charlie Parr; DJ Bill Deville; Cochochi

Aug 12: The Chalice; DJ Jill Riley; In the Pit (En el Hoyo)

Aug 19: Zoo Animal + Aby Wolf + Grant Cutler; DJ David Campbell; Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

The Prissy Clerks, Roe Family Singers, and Zoo Animal + Aby Wolf + Grant Cutler will each perform an original song based upon lyrics provided by Cruzvillegas.

“Drone, not Drones”: Behind the Slogan that Capped Low’s Infamous 27-Minute Set

Arguably the most buzzworthy moment of Rock the Garden this year — competing with Dan Deacon’s parking ramp rave and a homecoming set by native son (of sorts) Bob Mould — was a controversy-stirring performance by Low. Instead of giving an audio tour of its latest release, The Invisible Way (Sub Pop), the Duluth indie […]

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Arguably the most buzzworthy moment of Rock the Garden this year — competing with Dan Deacon’s parking ramp rave and a homecoming set by native son (of sorts) Bob Mould — was a controversy-stirring performance by Low. Instead of giving an audio tour of its latest release, The Invisible Way (Sub Pop), the Duluth indie trio filled its entire 27-minute set with one song, expanding the 14-minute 1996 tune “Do You Know How to Waltz?” by nearly double. As if by way of explanation, Low front man Alan Sparhawk concluded the set with three now-infamous words: “Drone, not drones.” Asked about it later that night, he told journalist Chris Riemenschneider, simply, “I got it off a friend’s bumper-sticker, and thought it was fitting.” Now that the dust has settled, we got in touch with that friend — Minneapolis’ Luke Heiken — to hear more.

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A fixture in the Twin Cities music scene for years, Heiken ran ScheduleTwo.com, a site (and record label) that up until mid-2008 livestreamed concerts from local music venues. One day in February, Heiken was playing around with an industrial sticker maker and came up with a phrase he liked: “Drone, not drones.” That same night, Sparhawk tweeted, “Mim sez these drones are bullshit. That’s all I gotta know. #potus” — presumably a response to news of a leaked white paper on the Obama administration’s justification for “targeted killings” using unmanned aerial vehicles. Heiken tweeted back, sharing his slogan and, the next day, an image of his sticker. He liked the phrase so much he bought the URL dronenotdrones.com and hatched a plan to do something with it — a benefit show or compilation album to raise funds for groups working to help the innocent victims of the war on terror. On June 12, he tweeted to Low, asking if the band might be interested in such a project.

Fastforward three days, when Sparhawk on stage “dropped that #TruthBomb on #rockthegarden,” as Heiken put it on Twitter. He wasn’t in the crowd, but Sparhawk’s words — which he later credited to Heiken — prompted action: “I really need to get on it now that Al has forced my hand by tipping it.”

“I was inspired by people caring about the message and wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so knowing releasing music would take a while to put together, I made the t-shirts,” he says. Proceeds from the shirts, as well as the compilation and benefit concert he’s hoping to pull off, will go to either Doctors Without Borders or the Red Crescent, or both. With bands and labels approaching him, he’s making good progress towards his dreamed-of Drone Not Drones recording, which, like the benefit show, he hopes to see released this winter. He’s hoping it’ll be released on vinyl, but acknowledges it may have to be a digital release instead. He’s already confirmed the participation of Twin Cities artists Take Acre, Paul Metzger, and Peace Drone (a side project by members of Flavor Crystals and Magic Castles), German musician/sound artist Stephan Mathieu, and Sparkhawk himself, and he hopes to have more confirmed bands to announce soon.

While Heiken’s stance on drones is nuanced — his personal view isn’t as bumpersticker-ready as the slogan on his t-shirts — his take on the mini-controversy over Low’s Rock the Garden set isn’t.

“I’m told [drones] are important to track down terrorists and to keep me and my family safe,” he says. “But there is a line crossed when we fly these things into sovereign nations and use explosives to kill people, without a trial, who are believed to be present and write off the loss of life and limb for any people caught in the blast.” He takes issue with the lack of clear governance of drone use. While manned flights are heavily regulated, he says it’s the “wild west” where drones are concerned.

Low's Alan Sparhawk at Rock the Garden 2013. Photo: Amy Fox

Low’s Alan Sparhawk at Rock the Garden 2013. Photo: Amy Fox

He calls the flap over Low’s droning set, however, purely “ridiculous.”

“If I got on the Internet every time I saw a band I was bored by,” he says of the online furor, before trailing off. “This shouldn’t be a tragedy. People creating Twitter accounts for it? I’ve never seen people dislike a set so much they’d go out of their way to do that.”

Heiken has seen Low perform “Do You Know How to Waltz?” before. “It’s one of my favorite musical memories: sitting with my now-wife under a blanket in the dark listening to that song. It’s ridiculous that so many are complaining about that at a modern art museum. Even without that, if Low played their normal set, the squares would’ve been turned off. Nothing they could’ve done would’ve made people who where there for Metric or Dan Deacon happy. But it made lots of Low fans happy.”

Meet the Minnesota Artists of This Clement World

Cynthia Hopkins has invited a slew of talented Twin Cities musicians to perform beside her in next week’s Midwest debut of This Clement World. This part-music, part-theater performance investigates expansive issues of climate change and more personal struggles with addiction. Pulled from various music scenes of the Twin Cities, Cynthia brings these twelve musicians to […]

Cynthia Hopkins in This Clement World, Photo: Ian Douglas

Cynthia Hopkins in This Clement World. Photo: Ian Douglas

Cynthia Hopkins has invited a slew of talented Twin Cities musicians to perform beside her in next week’s Midwest debut of This Clement World. This part-music, part-theater performance investigates expansive issues of climate change and more personal struggles with addiction. Pulled from various music scenes of the Twin Cities, Cynthia brings these twelve musicians to support her in the performances here at the Walker. We wanted to know more about this eclectic group of performers, so we asked them to tell us their most rewarding or memorable musical experiences and answer a more casual question related to their everyday lives. Check out their answers below (and learn such things as what they listen to, where they can be found on a Saturday night, and what they ate for breakfast)!

Crystal Myslajek, Piano

My most memorable performance is actually a toss-up between two performances with my band, Brute Heart. It would be either performing Brute Heart’s original score to the silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in August 2012 in the Walker’s Open Field for the Music & Movies series, or playing in First Avenue’s Mainroom for Minneapolis-based, Polica’s record-release show. For me, both experiences reflect the vibrant fabric of music and art in Minneapolis. The Walker’s movies in the park have been a longstanding summer staple for many a Minneapolitan and I had always wanted to play First Avenue having grown up in the Twin Cities going to many shows there since I was a teenager.

What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient music. Some of the artists on my playlist are Grouper, Stars of the Lid, and Tim Hecker. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying the newest release of local music duo Father You See Queen and the lovely guitar and vocals of Chicago-based singer-songwriter Julie Byrne.

Crystal Myslajeck (left) of Brute Heart, Photo: Sophia Hantzes

Crystal Myslajeck (left) of Brute Heart. Photo: Sophia Hantzes

Larry Zimmerman, Trombone

I’ll never forget the first time I performed with my quintet, Chestnut Brass Company, at the Jeju Seaside Arts Center in South Korea–an amphitheater full of (mostly) Koreans clapping in unison to our arrangements of George Gershwin & Irving Berlin songs. What a rush, and now we’re looking forward to our sixth trip to Jeju this August!

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?
There’s something really special about a bright sunny day in February, with fresh snow on the ground and in the trees. A lot of places you won’t ever see that, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Larry Zimmerman (second from left) of Chestnut Brass Company, Photo: abelcentral.blogspot.com

Larry Zimmerman (second from left) of Chestnut Brass Company. Photo: abelcentral.blogspot.com

Erica Burton, Viola

One of my most memorable experiences as a musician came when I played in-studio at the Hideaway for Lazerbeak of Doomtree. It was the very first time I had played music outside of the classical genre, and it was thrilling.

What have you been listening to lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” The Pharcyde’s “Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde,” and John Mark Nelson’s “Waiting and Waiting.”

Erica Burton, Photo : facebook.com/Laurels.String.Quartet

Erica Burton.  Photo: facebook.com/Laurels.String.Quartet

Zack Lozier, Trumpet

Last summer, as a member of Doc Severinsen’s latest orchestra, I arrived at a rehearsal to find a chart labelled, “Duet/Split-Lead.” I later performed “Well Get It,” a Dorsey classic, trading note for note, right next to Doc at the front of the stage! I sure hope it’s in the show when we go back out in April.

What did you eat for breakfast?
This morning I had corn grits with cotija cheese, a hard fried egg, dark roast coffee, and an orange juice.

Zack Lozier (right), Photo : Andrea Canter

Zack Lozier. Photo : Andrea Canter

Jonathan Sunde, Tenor Vocals

My band, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, got an opportunity to perform for 50 or so people on a rooftop balcony in Paris overlooking La Basilique du Sacre Coeur. The opening act was a two-person, one-act performance of a Bertolt Brecht play. It was absolutely as bizarre and romantic as it sounds.

What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been really excited about Nina Simone. I picked up her Pastel Blues record and am really enjoying. She’s amazing.

Jonathan Sunde (middle) of The Daredevil Christopher Wright, Photo: thedaredevilchristopherwright.com

Jonathan Sunde (middle) of The Daredevil Christopher Wright. Photo: thedaredevilchristopherwright.com

Karen Townsend, Alto Vocals

Last summer I played accordion for Open Eye Figure Theatre’ s Driveway Tour. It was incredibly rewarding to be part of these hilarious puppet shows that bring communities together for highly entertaining, free, outdoor, family friendly (yes, adults LOVE it too) entertainment in various backyards and neighborhoods. After performing 40 shows last summer in the Twin Cities and Tulsa, I still laughed at every joke and thrived off of the responses of the children and adults in the audience.

Which animal do you identify most with?
The snake. I was born in the year of the snake. I am about to give birth to my first child who will also be born in the year of the snake. I love encouraging people to shed what is no longer serving them. I like to visualize snakes and their movements when thinking about how to introduce concepts and ideas that people may not be open to if I just come right out and say it. I’m always looking to slither my way in, past the armor, to the most kind and compassionate part of the human heart.

Karen Townsend, Photo: karentownsend.bandcamp.com

Karen Townsend. Photo: karentownsend.bandcamp.com

Leslie Ball, Alto Vocals

My most memorable experience as a performer — over so many decades! — would have to be a three-way tie:
1) in the ’70s:  the adventure of weeks spent entertaining our troops on a U.S.O. tour in Panama, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and  several other Caribbean islands
2) in the ’80s: the privilege of singing  for Stephen Sondheim and others in a private presentation of a new work
3) in the ’90s: the honor of being a backup singer for Gene Pitney at his Carnegie Hall concert

Where can you be found on a Saturday night?
At the stunning Southern Theater hosting BALLS Cabaret, the longest-running weekly midnight cabaret in human history (now in our 22nd year). BALLS is a greenhouse for artists of any discipline or experience, nurturing creative community in a sober environment every Saturday night at midnight. BALLS was cited in the New York Times as a “must-see” while in the Twin Cities.

Leslie Ball, Photo: circleofgracemn.org

Leslie Ball. Photo: circleofgracemn.org

Parker Genne (Soprano Vocals)

My most memorable performing experience was busking on the streets in Edinburgh for fringe before my evening shows. There was this magnificent afternoon where I was singing away with my ukulele and this older Scottish gentleman who I noticed singing along to every tune I sang, accepted my offer to join me, and we busked together and made a killing for two hours. We had crowds as we belted our tunes, the best being “Down by the Riverside.”

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?
The people, my family and friends that I love so much, and the lakes we swim in, sail on, and run across in the winter.

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Also performing with Cynthia Hopkins are local musicians: Jesse Edgington (bass vocals), Jake Endres (bass vocals), Jason Sunde (tenor vocals), and Lauren Asheim (soprano vocals).

Cynthia Hopkins performs the Walker Commision of This Clement World March 7-9, 2013.

Tortoise Poised for Local Synergy Friday Night

The best way to understand Tortoise is to remember that they are a group formed entirely of bassists and drummers/percussionists. With background and side projects in grunge and hardcore bands, Tortoise emerged from the need to be creatively versatile, with the musicians pursuing ambience, math-rock, and dub in a heady and steady brew that adds […]

Tortoise

The best way to understand Tortoise is to remember that they are a group formed entirely of bassists and drummers/percussionists. With background and side projects in grunge and hardcore bands, Tortoise emerged from the need to be creatively versatile, with the musicians pursuing ambience, math-rock, and dub in a heady and steady brew that adds up to the retroactive label of “post-rock.”

Also it helps to place Tortoise among their contemporaries: Fugazi came a little bit earlier and aren’t usually associated with Tortoise, but Fugazi’s Red Medicine seems to be tapped into the same zeitgeist as both Tortoise and Slint (a member of whom left to join Tortoise in time to work on the album Millions Now Living Will Never Die). Slint seem like the paranoiac cousin to the kinder dub-math ambience of Tortoise’s earliest albums. Or to say it another way, Slint would never have named a track on their album “Ry Cooder.” Slint would also never have segued into positively Reich-ian repetitions like on the famous Tortoise track “Djed.” And it’s hard to imagine a band like Mogwai without Tortoise’s prior steps.

Tortoise’s newest album Beacons of Ancestorship remains just as intellectually gregarious as Tortoise’s earlier work (the track “Yianxianghechengqi” is a mix of what one music reviewer called “Schoenberg and hardcore”) but the music seems more immediate. They’ve stayed current with explicit explorations of dubstep ideas (on “Northern Something”), and the opening track “High Class Slim Came Floating In” even feels at times like a jaunty take on contemporary R&B instrumentals before becoming an extended jam sesh of rumbling minimalism.

For their Walker show Friday night, Tortoise will be joined onstage by the Minneapolis Jazz All-Stars: Douglas Ewart (formerly of AACM), JT Bates (of Fat Kid Wednesdays, the Pines, and Alpha Consumer), Mike Lewis (of Happy Apple, Gayngs, Alpha Consumer, Andrew Bird), Greg Lewis (trumpet guru of Redstart and elsewhere and father of Mike Lewis), and Michele Kinney (of Coloring Time, Jelloslave).

Seeking Local Actors/Singers/Dancers

The Lisps are seeking local actors/singers/dancers to join the ensemble of FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps, for performances at the Walker Art Center, April 26-28. FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps is coming to the McGuire Theater soon and is looking for local performers to join the ensemble to play soldiers, scientists, and members […]

The Lisps are seeking local actors/singers/dancers to join the ensemble of FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps, for performances at the Walker Art Center, April 26-28.

FUTURITY: A Musical by The Lisps is coming to the McGuire Theater soon and is looking for local performers to join the ensemble to play soldiers, scientists, and members of the chorus.  Strong singing, movement and acting skills a must.  Unfortunately, they are unable to consider members of Actors Equity Association.

FUTURITY tells the story of a soldier’s quest—inspired by Lord Byron’s brilliant daughter, Ada Lovelace—to save humans from themselves by inventing an omnipotent, steam-powered “brain.” Melding the Civil War with sci-fi and American folk with avant-rock, The Lisps have crafted a unique and compelling portrait of war, human imagination, and technological hubris.  The show arrives at the Walker from its much-anticipated premiere at the American Repertory Theater.

To participate, you must be available for all of the following rehearsals:

Friday, April 20, Saturday, April 21, and Monday, April 23 from 10 am–6 pm; Tuesday, April 24 from 11 am–6 pm; Wednesday, April 25 from 11 am–11 pm; Thursday, April 26 from 10:30 am–5 pm.  And for Performances: Thursday, April 26, Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28 at 8 pm (available 7 pm–10 pm).

Interested performers should send an email to FuturityTheMusical@hotmail.com with the link to an online video of themselves singing a song (3 min maximum) and performing a contemporary monologue (1-2 minutes) with a resume or paragraph describing their skills and relevant experience.  If you avidly play any instruments, please let us know that as well. Each performer will receive a small stipend and a pair of free tickets to one of the performances.

Deadline for submission is April 6. Chosen performers will be notified no later than April 9th.

More from FUTURITY

> Listen to music from the show: “How Much” and “Singularity”

> Read a Boston Globe profile about the show, its DIY aesthetic, and its mathematic background

> Hear a review from WGBH Boston

> Read more about the Steam Brain “Franken-drum set” from WBUR Boston

 

Unveiled: the trailer for Dark Dark Dark’s live score for Fritz Lang’s “Spies”

Grab a blanket and cuddle bud and join us on the Open Field this Monday, August 22, as Summer Music and Movies makes the jump across Loring Park  to the Walker. At dusk we will listen to the commissioned new score by local musicians Dark Dark Dark  accompanying the film Spies while relaxing under the stars. Here’s a great […]

Grab a blanket and cuddle bud and join us on the Open Field this Monday, August 22, as Summer Music and Movies makes the jump across Loring Park  to the Walker. At dusk we will listen to the commissioned new score by local musicians Dark Dark Dark  accompanying the film Spies while relaxing under the stars.

Here’s a great teaser vid about the piece made by Dark Dark Dark made (or 3D as we like to call ‘em)… Check it out!

The Details: 89.3 The Current host Barb Abney spins from 7-8:30pm and at dusk the captivating chamber-folk sextet Dark Dark Dark unveil their new live score for Fritz Lang’s 1928 classic Spies joined by over 40 musicians, singers, and dancers (The Modern Times Spychestra!) for a spellbinding evening of silent film and live sounds.

Spies is a viscerally thrilling tale of a criminal mastermind and his love affair with his secret agent operative by Fritz Lang, the audacious director of Metropolis. This will be a rare exhibition of silent film―in all its virtuosity. See a clip of the film here.

To read more about the film, check out Film/Video intern Matt Levine’s great blog here.

The Walker’s moody and glamorous Open Field by night

WACTAC chats with Tunng

  Marielle Foster of WACTAC recently interviewed Mike Lindsay, one of the founding members of the band Tunng, based out of London. Tunng will be performing tomorrow, Saturday May 7th at the McGuire Theater. W= WACTAC M= Mike Lindsay, one of the band’s founding members. W: The extremely reliable Wikipedia calls you “an experimental folk […]

photo Paul Heartfield

 

Marielle Foster of WACTAC recently interviewed Mike Lindsay, one of the founding members of the band Tunng, based out of London. Tunng will be performing tomorrow, Saturday May 7th at the McGuire Theater.

W= WACTAC

M= Mike Lindsay, one of the band’s founding members.

W: The extremely reliable Wikipedia calls you “an experimental folk band.” What sort of things (musically) do you experiment with?

M: Well, it’s a very broad term “experimental” and it can mean different things to different people. I guess in the early Tunng days we experimented with glitch electronica and unusual percussion (sea shells , bears toe nails, bells, bits of wood, keys) and we still very much use these elements. However, now we have expanded our sound with live drums and vintage synths which to other bands are perhaps the more usual line up. To us and to me as a producer it felt more experimental to be using electric guitars and synths because we never really had before.

W: What would you classify as “epic folk disco”?

M: Actually my friend coined that term the first time he heard the new album and I kind of liked it. I think its fairly self-explanatory, although I’m not sure any other bands are taking up the genre.

W: Snooping on your cover art and website I couldn’t help but notice the prevalence of sea horses… Is that your band mascot/an inside joke?

M: Hmmm. Well it’s only on this album and a single I think. The album is called “And Then We Saw Land” so there’s a nautical theme running through the record. And sea horses are amazing!! Especially the child-bearing men.
W: Where do you find inspiration for lyrics, tunes, etc?

M: Places we’ve been, people we’ve met, journeys accomplished, relationships failed, books read, drinks drunk with escapades to follow in the early hours. Hmmm well at least that’s where I get inspiration for lyrics. Everyone has their own method. I find with the music side of things that sitting in an armchair late at night with the TV on whilst playing guitar gives me “chordal inspiration” and then a dark basement studio lets me jigsaw puzzle it all together.
W: Have you ever been to Minneapolis (or Minnesota) before?

M: Yes, we came in 2007

W: If so, what was your impression? (fun fact: we had snow on Tuesday morning and by 4 o’clock it was all gone and about 15 degrees Celsius. I’m sure by the time mid-May rolls around the April snow will not be bringing May woe, no worries.)

M: It was cold!! I think it was March, so I’m sure we got a fairly good deal weather-wise, but I remember seeing overground tunnels between buildings so that in the winter people don’t need to step  outside. Very cool. Also an amazing record shop with a huge sign saying “applause.” Actually my desktop photo was me outside that shop in an “arms in the air” pose.

W: Where is the most exotic/unusual place you have played?

M: Tiranna island in the Arctic circle in the far north of Norway. 24 hour sunlight…whale meat… bands playing in caves. Some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.

W: Any funny stories about audience members?

M: We just played in Melbourne Australia in February and there were two girls about 18 years old right at the front of the stage singing along to every song SOOO loudly and out of tune that we could barely hear ourselves. The rest of the audience hated them. Then they did a mini stage invasion which was a little scary because they were kind of crazy. But man, we never have stage invasions so hats off to the Aussie young hot crazies. Afterwards they wanted us to write something on their arms and they said, “whatever you write we will get tattooed”!! This was worrying because my writing looks like a 3 year olds. I wrote something crap like “happy tunng night” and drew a dodgy face of a woodcat. There’s no way they got that tattooed
(I hope).

W: People always talk about what they look for in performing bands. What do you look for in audiences?

M: Well I guess enthusiasm is always great, fast nodding heads, true smiles. I guess it’s a two way thing. If we are sounding sweet and really feeing the wonky epic folk disco, then so will an audience. So then they should be head nodding and bouncing/beaming back at us. Oh, and loud applause when we come on stage is always a welcome feeling.

W: What are you looking forward to about the Twin Cities?

M: Well hopefully our old sound engineer from the 2007 tour called Matt Freedman will come and say hi. He lives in Minneapolis.

W: Thank you!

Tunng play Saturday, May 7th at 8:00 pm in the McGuire Theater, with special guests Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt of Sea and Cake

“Let’s Rip It Up!”: Tony Allen at the Cedar

Rob Simonds, the Cedar Cultural Center’s Executive Director, opened the second of Tony Allen’s two sets last night with this demand of the normally placid Minnesota audience. By the end of the night, most everybody in the house was doing some form of dancing, yet Allen and his 9-piece band more than made up for […]

Rob Simonds, the Cedar Cultural Center’s Executive Director, opened the second of Tony Allen’s two sets last night with this demand of the normally placid Minnesota audience. By the end of the night, most everybody in the house was doing some form of dancing, yet Allen and his 9-piece band more than made up for any lack of movement in the crowd.

Perhaps most famously labeled as “Fela Kuti’s drummer,” last night I really got a sense of just how much more Allen is. The style of Afrobeat he helped create with Fela was fully on display: the interlocking guitars, horn lines, and quickly-clipped clave pairs formed the bedrock of the night’s music. These songs were also infused much more with soul, jazz, and funk elements, including a wider-ranging harmonic palette and more intricate horn lines.

I was lucky enough to be close to really watch Allen’s drumming. It wasn’t like his hands were a blur, full of virtuosic pyrotechnics, ala Neal Peart. In fact, it’s the complete opposite: it almost seems like he’s not working while he’s playing. Polyrhythms and syncopations abounded, fills blended effortlessly into his time-keeping patterns (if one would even call them that), and isolating one element of his set (a hi-hat, kick, or snare) made it even more incomprehensible as to how those two hands and feet could lay down such a tight, infectious groove yet seem so disparate.

And then, of course, Allen sings on top of all this. His lyrics were few and far between, and most took on the character of proverbs, such as the song “Kindness” with its chorus of “Don’t take my kindness for weakness.” His raspy, growling baritone certainly reminded me of Fela, one example of how Fela’s presence is never that far away from his music. (He politely, yet directly declined when an audience member asked him to play Fela’s “Water Get No Enemy,” but later, his scruffy, trickerstery guitarist briefly quoted his “Sorrow, Tears, and Blood.”) Amp Fiddler, who played keyboard and keytar, took a turn singing lead on one song. This was the most explicitly political song, though it still came across as a lukewarm anti-war song, quoting  both “War” and “A Love Supreme.” In the end, it was his incredible voice that was more powerful than any words he sang.

The group’s performance at the Cedar last night was last stop of their US tour, their tightness and musical camaraderie display on every song. It was Allen, though, who everybody paid to see. People of all different walks of life took this rare opportunity to see Allen: hippies, yuppies, world music fans, Afrobeat connoisseurs, hipsters, and more than a few diasporic Africans who now call Minnesota home filled the Cedar to capacity. Halfway through the first set, a father put his son on his shoulders so he could a better view, while a few feet away, a grandma danced liked no one was watching, a testament not only to Allen’s acclaim, but also the Cedar’s incredible development of a diverse audience base.

During the second song of the band’s encore, a reprise of “Kindness,” I saw Simonds boppin’ through the crowd with a starry-eyed grin on his face. I’m sure many people in the audience felt the same way, and it was an incredible end to another year of great music from the Walker.

 

Tony Allen Tomorrow at the Cedar

  In a July 1999 article, Wire magazine called Tony Allen “the Human Loop,” and wrote  “Allen spins his polyrhythms into hypnotic swirls of Tantric proportions that recall both the infinity of the SP1200 and the long-lost skills of the Meters’ Ziggy Modeliste.” Allen himself has said that “when I play it’s like an orchestra […]

photo Bernard Benant

 

In a July 1999 article, Wire magazine called Tony Allen “the Human Loop,” and wrote  “Allen spins his polyrhythms into hypnotic swirls of Tantric proportions that recall both the infinity of the SP1200 and the long-lost skills of the Meters’ Ziggy Modeliste.” Allen himself has said that “when I play it’s like an orchestra in itself.”

 

Allen was the rhythmic force of Fela Kuti’s music from 1964-1980, and legend has it that four drummers were required to replace Allen in live shows after he left the band.

 

Many writers on Afrobeat attribute the sound in part to the funk of James Brown, but Allen will tell anyone that the influence ran the other way around. When James Brown played Nigeria in 1970, his arranger came to a Fela show and attempted to transcribe Allen’s foot patterns.

 

Tony Allen has lived in Paris with his family since 1985. A complete biography can be read here.

 

His show tomorrow is a co-present with the Cedar Cultural Center, he will be joined by nine other musicians, playing a mix of classic Afrobeat jams and tracks off his newest release, Secret Agent.


Doors are at 7 pm, show is at 8. Tickets here.

 

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