"Hey, we're in Duluth"

A radio pirate-turned-country rocker who doubles as a nanny. A newspaper that rips the establishment. A deconsecrated church. And a very quiet band called Low. Notes on a tiny counterculture.

"Yeah, we had to take headlines like that out," Nelson says, smiling.

Before I leave town, Brad and Tim want to make a pilgrimage to the Sacred Heart Music Center, the hundred-year-old Cathedral with a lawn mower in the confessional. So we drive up the hill to Second Avenue West and Fourth Street, where we come across a soft-faced woman sitting in the passenger side of a van, alone, with the motor running. She tells us the person we want is just locking up, but we catch him at the door, a pleasant and rotund man with a thick beard of gray.

John Ward is eager to show us the blue, white, and gold interior of the chapel, with its grand piano up front where a marble altar once stood. As we walk toward it, bathed in stained-glass sunbeams, Ward wheels around and points to the 30-foot-high pipes of the Felgemaker organ in the balcony. The mighty instrument was built right into the structure of the church, and that, he says, was what ultimately saved the place. But his take on the destruction of monuments seems eminently practical. "I guess what makes places like this more valuable," he says, "is people tearing them down."

Teddy Maki

Low will play a concert here on Wednesday, February 7, and Ward reports that anything louder or faster than the slowest, quietest band on earth will just muddy up "the sibilants"--whatever sibilants are. But slow ballads work just fine with the room's acoustics. And, to demonstrate, he sits down at the piano and gives us an impromptu performance, singing and playing at length to his surprised guests and the empty pews. It's as if he has something he wants to reveal, and us being there is reason enough to do it. I don't recognize the song as it cascades through the vaulted arches. Outside, the van is probably still sputtering exhaust, its passenger still seated patiently. But, in the practical scheme of things, what's happening here this moment is as important as anything happening anywhere else.

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