Wrecking Balls, Meet the press, The rites of summer and Low-power readings.

Wrecking Ball: Last-minute Jitters and hard Times on Nicollet Mall

Despite all the talk about maintaining the "character" of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, two music venues that gave the narrow shopping strip its charm now have an imminent date with a wrecking ball. Both Jittersand the Times Bar and Café are closing for relocation on April 1, when the 1000 block of Nicollet begins its long transformation into a Dayton Hudson-owned office tower for Target employees. Drinkers and brunchers will miss seeing live jazz in the Times' brass-and-wood saloon, while downtown hipsters will miss Jitters' dimly lit, wacko-deco interior and free live music.

Neither Jitters nor the Times will be disappearing quietly into the night. On Friday, March 26, Jitters hosts its last installment of the electro-experimental cabaret The New Atlantis, which has had a home at the space for some time. The event should feature enough noisy and ambient sonic magic to psychically levitate the Target Center. Performers include soundsmith Radar Threat, DJ Ts, Rexor (a.k.a. John Vance), and many others. On the eve of destruction--Wednesday, March 31--a slew of other local musicians will hug the place goodbye, this time with a full-blown rock concert. Lifter Puller, Slug, Smattering, Baby Grant Johnson, and Reba Fritz are among the performers. (Call Jitters for more information; (612) 333-8511.)

That same evening, Judy Donaghy and the Wolverines Big Band will swing the house over at the Times. Stop by any night this week to bid the old building adieu and take in some live jazz. (Call (612) 333-2762 for details.) Managers at both venues say it's too soon to announce where the businesses will relocate.

Local music, pleased to meet the press

Minnesota's music has been getting nearly as much national media play lately as its strongman governor. Besides those inescapable photo spreads of little boy blues Jonny Lang and countless interviews with ex-local Paul Westerberg (who seems to get more mopey and agitated with each new release), there has been renewed attention to our music underground. DIY punk heroes Dillinger Four graced the cover of the January/February issue of the national punk mag Flipside after their Midwestern Songs of the Americas topped its critics' lists for best album of 1998. The new issue features an interview with the band.

Meanwhile, St. Paul hip hoppers Abstract Pack are profiled in the April issues of both Blaze and Rap Pages, which are on stands now. (Somebody should tell that stagnant "hip-hop bible" The Source to get with the program.)

The rites of summer

Speaking of local hip hop's growing national prominence, the ever-busy Rhyme Sayers Collectiveholds the Midwest hip-hop event of the week at First Avenue on Wednesday, March 24. Tonight's Soundset dance party doubles as a CD-release concert for Chicago turntablists par excellence Rubberoom, a crew whose album on New York's 3-2-1 Records, Architechnology, hits stores this week.

The young label has also signed Atlanta-via-Minneapolis hip-hop heroes Micranots, and both the 'Nots and Rubberoom will head to Austin, Texas, this week to play the South by Southwest music conference. A slew of Twin Citians are also playing SXSW, including Tangletown, the Hot Heads, Vic Volare & His Fabulous Volare Lounge Orchestra, the Honeydogs, Happy Apple, and Kevin Bowe & the Okema Prophets.

For more than a decade, South by Southwest has been a launch pad for new talent, especially live talent, but bands searching for a venue to showcase themselves on video should turn their attention eastward and enter this year's Eye-Ball Music Video Showcase at the Athfest Music and Arts Festival in Athens, Georgia, held June 24 to 27. (Early entry deadline is May 1; for more information, go to www.prometheus-x.com.)

Of course, the ultimate festival this summer will be the Sixth Annual Rock Fest, held July 15-19 in Cadott, Wisconsin. The lineup includes America, Blue Öyster Cult, Kansas, Def Leppard, Survivor, Sammy Hagar, Pat Benatar, Peter Frampton, Foreigner, and Journey. If a mad bomber (or deranged nostalgia addict) wanted to take out all the giants of '80s corporate rock with one blast, he couldn't ask for a better opportunity. (Call (800) 326-FEST for tickets.)

More low-power readings

By the way, anyone whose interest in low-power radio was piqued by my column two weeks ago ("Fight the Power," 3/3) should check out Lawrence Soley's new book, Free Radio: Electronic Civil Disobedience(Westview Press). The author is an occasional City Pages contributor who wrote a classic critique of business's influence on higher education, Leasing the Ivory Tower. His new tome is both a concise history of the micro-radio movement and a handy guide for starting your own station.

 
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