Four Local Arts Things to Watch Instead of Click to Pick
Despite a number of worthy musicians slated to take the fleeting glory of this year’s City Pages Pick to Click, the poll remains an exercise in buddy-buddy back-patting and industry ass-pinching. In lieu of guessing the winners (you know who they are anyway) and grumbling afterward about the politics of the “contest,” I present four new-ish things in local music and arts culture that are worth your nail-biting.
— Will Wlizlo
Snarky Minnesota Artists Being Needlessly Controversial – Back in August, Minnesota artists John Maus and Elite Gymnastics got all of our knickers in a twist. Maus, the darkhorse electro-starlet who blindsided the internetz with a short album of epic karaoke, argued that record stores are the rapacious hedge fund managers of the music industry. Later that month, when prompted to say a few words about the Minneapolis music scene, Elite Gymnastics sputtered that “There isn’t a scene.” (That’s probably why you’re reading this right now—because you don’t care about Minneapolis music.) Brace yourself for the next breakout local band interviewed by Pitchfork. That night you’ll be trapped in endless dithering about Justin Vernon calling Mark Wheat a “petite bourgeoisie neo-Fascist” or Ryan Olson accidently slipping the deets of a bootleg Roma di Luna sex tape.
The Cedar Seeder – Kickstarter has changed the way art is made and culture is disseminated. Likewise, the Cedar Cultural Center’s Seeder project hopes to have a revolutionary effect on Minneapolis music. (Full disclosure: I am on the advisory board for Seeder, so excuse the hyperbolic language.) Earlier this year, the Seeder rolled out its first few full-blown projects—a community bike-ride, a renovation project at the Cedar, and a concert that brought performer Mount Eerie in on Labor Day—all of which were crowd-funded by Minneapolitans. It offers the chance for anyone to put on the musical project of their wildest dreams—as long as it’s accepted by peers and patrons. Have a good idea? Want to see Dosh perform an original score to Citizen Kane? Want Dessa to read children’s stories while Lazerbeak lays down the beats? Send your project idea to Seeder.
The Triple Rock Dwindling Into Irrelevancy – I still remember my favorite concert of all time—Holy Fuck opening for Do Make Say Think on a chilly Monday in February 2007. For me it was the beginning of three years trying (and failing) to avoid the Triple Rock three times a week because I was broke. I had so much trouble because every band I wanted to see was gobbled up by the T-Rock’s excellent booker, whoever it was at the time. Experimental and post-rock, forward-thinking punk, metal of every sub-genre, and even the more interesting bands en vogue with the hipsterati played that rough stage on the West Bank. Now, two short years later, I don’t even bother to check the calendar on their website. The best metal bands head to Club Gleb, experimental acts started playing art galleries, the Cedar snatches anything with soul, and the 7th Street cleans up the rest. The only two shows I went to this year were both to see stoner-gods Weedeater. Here’s my dilemma: the Triple Rock can always bring in the big names in punk and metal—the Social Distortions and High on Fires. But instead of fresh sounds, the T-Rock embodies a lazy, nostalgic approach to concert going, akin to “remembering the good ol’ times” with high school buds over a can of subpar beer. In short, the Triple Rock is the neckbeard of Minneapolis.
The Hennepin Avenue Cultural Corridor – This is a fairly new, ambiguous kink in the arts scene that may have a good, bad, or unnoticeable effect on local music. According to an article on MinnPost,
In July, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the recipients of its new “Our Town” grants to 51 communities in 34 states. Otherwise known as the “creative placemaking” grants, the Our Town funds were awarded to organizations that have “created public-private partnerships to strengthen the arts while shaping the social, physical, and economic characters of their neighborhoods, towns, cities, and regions.” Among the recipients is the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which received $200,000 in support of a one-year planning process to “re-invent Hennepin Avenue as an arts-inspired cultural corridor stretching from the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to the Mississippi Riverfront.”
To summarize, the thrust of the project involves strengthening the Minneapolis community by invigorating its liveliest public space with homegrown arts and music. Here are how the outcomes might play out. The good: The independent amazingness of Walker’s Open Field stretches two miles to the north, turning the vacuous expanse of Hennepin asphalt into a creative, comfortable, experimental zone. The bad: during the projects planning meeting, Jeff Hnilicka, executive director of Kulture Klub Collaborative, raised a critical question: “Who are the gatekeepers for class and race, arts and culture during a planning process run by several large institutions?” Or in other words, is it problematic that the project is planned to change the landscape of a street frequented by plenty of poor minorities going to be spearhead by creative class whites? Um, probably. The unnoticeable: Hennepin Theatre Trust gets the cash, committees are held, arts community infighting rages, Rybak looks stern and suave at the same time, nothing happens, The Orpheum announces another season of Wicked. Hey where’d that money go? Ah, whatever. . .