Archive for September, 2007

Strange Love

I saw “Strange Love” (by Skewed Visions) at the Northwestern Casket Company last night. It was not a musical, as I claimed in my previous post. It’s a performance art piece, mixed with an installation.

It was brilliant. It was site-specific, so the Casket Company was mentioned a few times, and the used the space to its fullest benefit. Most of the action took place in the basement. However, the action began right after we got there. The performance was sold out, but we were told that we could wait around and see if anyone doesn’t show up. So, we waited by a window and a few minutes later, a man in a doctor’s smock with his face painted white exited the elevator and approached us. The ticket guy cut him off to tell him we weren’t ready yet. I was enthralled. Luckily, some people couldn’t come so we got tickets. In the meantime, the doctor would survey the crowd and decide who to bring down with him.

Finally, our turn was upon us. The doctor gave us and two other a spiel about surveillance and war and Dr Strangelove himself. Your first stop in the installation is a modified photo booth where you watch a short video in the cramped space. The video included a movie clip and bits of the  surveillance the artist did on her friends. You crawl out the non-curtain side of the photo booth — just a tiny door in the booth. Then you walk through a maze and some dilapidated doors. Everything is divided by black tarp so it becomes a disorienting maze. The next station provides a transparent opening through the tarp to watch videos of friend surveillance. But there’s also a big screen that it takes a minute to understand: it’s the people in the photo booth! So you were being watched without knowing it, while you watched the short film.

Finally you get to a bigger part of the basement that resembles the war room from “Dr Strangelove”, except the tables are made from the doors of the casket company. The door next to me had a casket checklist. For example, “Are the pillows in order?” The doctor who led us down to the basement then comes on and a video begins. Basically he goes through bits of the movie mixed with news footage from the cold war to today. He recites bits from the film, his own dialog, and I think possibly bits from political speeches. The guy is great at voices and impersonations, which is very appropriate considering Peter Sellers’ three roles in “Dr Strangelove”. Most of the time he was in the “Dr Strangelove” character, but he’d switch between Mandrake or the President, or any of the characters at different times as he did the same sequence of dialog almost three times. After the first two times, leading to the destruction at the end of the film, he’d retreat to a red box.

While he was in the box, a girl in tube socks, hot pants and a yellow house coat came on to “dance” to cheesy ’80s songs. Her dancing was basically moving her arms a bit and walking around fairly slowly. After she left, the doctor guy would try to do her dances but manage to mess it up. It was absolutely hilarious. My friend Emily didn’t quite agree with me, but I think the “dancing” was supposed to be war, which makes me love it even more. I believe this because she only came on while he was in the red box, and he went inside the box because 1)the bomb in the movie went off 2)the Vietnam War began 3)the Iraq war started.

“Strange Love” is continuing for a couple more weeks, so please support locals artists and check it out! I guarantee you will not regret it. Here’s an MPR story to whet your appetite even more (the vacuum cleaner bit was not in the performance I saw).

Twin Cities Happenings

A lot has been going on in and around Minneapolis since my last post, and I’ve been partaking in some of those events. The Twin Cities truly are a haven for artists and lovers of art. That gets forgotten a lot, especially nationally. I’m here to give you some examples of the cool culture offered by our fair cities.

Last Saturday, I saw the deservedly highly praised “Idigaragua” at Bedlam Theatre. Dubbed as an “indie rock musical”, this production was easy to love if you’ve been wondering “‘Tommy’ sucked, so why hasn’t a band tried to write a musical since?” The band is Fort Wilson Riot who, at only two years old, sound so tight you’d think otherwise. The production went something like this: band plays, actors mime along, puppets go in and out, a screen is assembled and a film is played, more puppets, more lip syncing, and lots of great indie rock. I bought the CD hoping it would clue me into the story, but it hasn’t. Still, the mix of their major talent and proud oddness could make them big (indie) stars someday.

Last Sunday was my first time dealing with the I-35W detour to Hwy 280. The first Msp Music Expo in a while was back at the Four Points Sheraton in “Minneapolis” (whatever, it’s totally Roseville). I ended up taking home a jazz compilation that once belonged to Gene Goldenfeld of Los Angeles, CA. I don’t know who that is either. I’m trying to familiarize myself with some jazz. I also purchased a first edition paperback of my buddy Tim Riley’s “Tell Me Why”. Just what I needed – another Beatles book.

This past week included a couple shows. The first was the band I “manage”, Formula Three (and by “manage” I mean suggesting they have a CD release party earlier this year) at the Uptown Bar. I’d never been to the Uptown before, and I can’t see myself going back just for kicks. Punks, blah blah blah. My favorite was a guy in a brand new hoodie and a huge NOFX patch safety pinned to the back. I shouldn’t tease, maybe he doesn’t consider himself punk. I guess all hoodies are new at some point. Codger opened, and I found them very annoying. I just can’t get into bands who think they are really really funny. That bores me to tears. If you’re going for the funny bone instead of the spirit with your music, at least be clever. An “I want jaundice” t-shirt is not even “funny weird”, it’s just dumb. And yelling out an inside joke repeatedly does not make me want to know more.

Even more culturally significant was seeing St. Vincent and The National at the stupid Fine Line. How does the Fine Line keep to fire codes? The two times I’ve been, there’s easily 200 extra people crowding up the place. It’s nearly impossible to walk anywhere. Luckily, we splurged for the golden table seating deal where you get food and drinks and a good place to sit. It’s the only way to do the Fine Line. They were even kind enough to provide a chair for an extra person we had.

Re: St. Vincent, I normally can’t stand her music. I saw her open for Midlake earlier this year, and it was just plain weird. She looked like a bag lady. Since then she’s gotten tons of buzz, washed her hair and has been here about 16 times so far this year, she says. But St. Vincent’s set was really brilliant this time. The songs on “Marry Me” shone when all stripped down to mainly her electric guitar and beautiful voice. But what really sold me was her quip, “And here’s a song I wrote back in 1969…” before delving into the semi-obscure “I Dig a Pony” from the Beatles’ “Let it Be” album. She is the LAST person I’d expect to do a Beatles cover. Loved it.

The National were everything I hoped they would be. As my new favorite band, I had high expectations. Matt Berninger puts on quite a show…he’s moody, kinda crazy, and extremely passionate. His voice sounds even better in person, which I didn’t think was possible.

An added feature was an incredible violinist/pianist, who clearly loves the songs as much as all the fans in the audience. The annoying girl quotient was pretty high (“You’re awesome Matt” repeated between every song), but luckily our table kept us fairly safe.

Tonight it’s “Strange Love“, a musical/performance art piece inspired “Dr. Strangelove”. God I love artists.

Photo courtesy jcbehm.