Best Of :: People & Places
When out-of-town visitors show up, we inevitably and unenthusiastically yield to their pleas to ogle the Mary Tyler Moore house, the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, First Avenue, the Art Institute....Then we take them to that dank stretch of Third Street in the shadow of the Metrodome where reposes Ray Crump's Original Baseball Hall of Fame Museum of Minnesota. Long ago, back when Calvin Griffith owned the team and things still looked good for Richard Nixon, proprietor Crump was equipment manager for the Minnesota Twins. The front of the establishment is a run-of-the-mill sports-apparel store, where one can browse the usual assortment of Randy Moss jerseys, Yankee caps--and, yes, postcards of Calvin Griffith. The museum consists of a large room in back. (Admission is free, though on cold days the clerk is hesitant to let you in "because of the draft.") Inside are some neat baseball items--a ball autographed by Babe Ruth, for instance, and a copy of Ray's autobiography, Beneath the Grandstands, which features a photo of the protagonist handling dirty Twins laundry. But the museum's glory is the colossal collection of vintage 1970s photos of Ray and a mélange of celebrity friends and acquaintances. Many of the snaps depict Ray in Bloomington's now-defunct Carlton Celebrity Room, wearing a leisure suit and ridiculous sideburns, and most are autographed with inscriptions that make it sound as if he fell on a grenade for his companions during a USO tour of Vietnam. There's Ray with Conway Twitty. Loretta Lynn. Liberace. George Burns. Muhammad Ali. Tony Randall. And that ain't all. The museum's centerpiece is Ray's shrine to Elvis Presley, a mountain of memorabilia and autographed doodads piled inside several display cases. The highlight: a Minneapolis Star story about Presley's concert at the Carlton in 1977, months before he died. Though he dedicated the concert to Ray and then-Twins owner Calvin Griffith, the bloated and moribund Elvis put on an abbreviated and terrible show. "That was probably the worst concert Elvis has done in a year," Ray told the newspaper, noting that Elvis had "apparently picked up a cold after jogging around Lake Nokomis Saturday night." Maybe Ray saw something coming...
If you think traditional American folk music is all about frogs and mama, go out and buy the American Anthology of Folk Music. Sex and violence are at the heart of our folk tradition, folks. But if the '60s revival did occasionally glance down at these darker roots, it more often set its sights on contemporary social struggles, forever associating the acoustic guitar with peace and justice. Three decades later the local acoustic scene has produced a number of ("post-")folk stars who mess with our ideas of what strumming sans amplifier should be about, including the Mason Jennings Band and Brenda Weiler. (Both, with any luck, will become giant pop stars in a few minutes.) Still, only singer-songwriter Pablo revives folk's first-person-narrative tradition of sex and violence, and he manages to do so without sounding either exhibitionist or boastful. He has a remarkable vocal range with a throat affectation that's in Dylan's tradition, not his style. Pablo's melodies sound like they've been thrown down a flight of stairs, jumping scores of notes, sometimes in a single syllable. "Goddamn the agile sexless dreams of imperfect history," he quavers at one point on his agile, sexful 1998 album, Vulgar Modalities. You tell it, brother.
Last fall when rumor began spreading that there was a 23-year-old drum 'n' bass artist working out of his parents' Edina basement, many local insiders assumed the music he made would be a fraction as interesting as that exotic home life. Well, we were wrong. The willfully elusive anti-beats and ductile, melodic structures found on Mandell's import debut Parallel Processes have made for the most innovative, if not just plain best, music this town has produced since the Jayhawks' heyday. Mandell's classically influenced "techno etc." is simultaneously as challengingly rich and accessibly hooky as that of his U.K. post-rave contemporaries Autechre. And even if it could stand an inflection of the wistful cutesiness evinced by his compositional hero Aphex Twin, Mandell's seriousness has an admirable integrity that's sorely lacking in the cheap ironists who parody techno's cheesy lineage in disposable disco. As music, Parallel Processes updates Schoenberg for the Twenty-First Century, making love to your ear hole just as passionately as it plays with your mind's eye.
It comes as little surprise that as the nation's latest baby boom passes into adolescence, all-ages venues such as the Whole Music Club on the University of Minnesota campus, Bon Appétit in Dinkytown, and the Coffee Shock in St. Paul are experiencing a late-'90s boom. But the Foxfire Coffee Lounge has managed to do something more than merely cash in demographic trends. The downtown Minneapolis club has remained both forward-looking and inclusive during its first year of existence, with early band bookings including little-known but highly acclaimed national acts such as indie-rockers Creeper Lagoon and punk-funkers the Make Up. The coffee-and-sandwich shop also gives its high-ceilinged, wood-floored space over to weekly teen Bible-study meetings, DJ nights, periodic hip-hop get-togethers, and hardcore punk shows. Chances are you'll find the widest age range of punk fans in the Cities here, sometimes scrunched into the same deep-cushioned couches.
The day after the Vikings' dismal loss in the NFC title game, McCombs's lieutenants met with state officials to begin pressing their case for a new stadium. It's only a matter of time until Vegas posts odds on how much longer the team will stay in town.