Best of the Twin Cities®

Best Of 1999

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Best Of :: People & Places

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY

As the birthplace of Bob Dylan, Duluth is destined to go down in literary history like Joyce's Dublin. The Twin Cities, residents of which rarely deign to even notice their neighbor 150 miles to the north, will meantime be remembered as some hick burg from a 1960s sitcom. Plan on spending several hours sifting though the Babel of vinyl at Young at Heart Records (22 W. First St.; (218) 722-2365), where owner Richard Wozniak will sell you an original Stax/Volt recording of Otis Redding for a buck just because you care enough to sing for him both Otis and Carla Thomas's parts on "Tramp." And by all means take a tour of stately Glensheen, one of the grandest of the Duluth mansions, built long ago by the port city's version of St. Paul's pig-dog robber barons. Besides being a nifty crib, Glensheen is where 83-year-old Elisabeth Congdon was murdered by her son-in-law in 1978. Roger Caldwell, who smothered the invalid heiress with a pillow, conked the maid on the head with a candlestick, killing her, too. (Authorities suspected, but weren't able to prove, that Roger's wife Marjorie was a party to the deed.) Understandably, the other Congdon heirs saw fit to turn over the house to the city. Reservations are strongly recommended for the tour; call (888) 454-4536. At night head over to Wade Stadium, a beautiful all-brick baseball edifice constructed during the Depression by the WPA. Not one brick seems to have been moved since--or one pothole filled in in the outfield--though the stadium underwent a renovation in 1992 when the Dukes joined the Northern League. By calling the team in advance, at (218) 727-4525, one can also find out when Ila Borders--the only woman to hurl (and win) in a men's professional league--will be pitching. Here you'll also see the new riot grrrls: eight- and nine-year-olds with baseball gloves, wearing their ponytails Ila-style and begging their hero to come say hi. She always does. (Warning: Do not say hi to Ila on game day. She won't see you. Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes did it last year and barely lived to tell about it. "She looked at me," Wallace later recalled, "like I was a hair in her soup.") Romance, in summertime Duluth, demands reservations made well in advance. It's especially worth the hassle to get in at the Canal Park Inn (250 Canal Park Drive; (218) 727-8821 or (800) 777-8560). The Inn sits right on the Duluth Harbor leading into Lake Superior, and is within crawling distance of the heart of Canal Park, two sights that will make you believe in God again. Finally, to jump-start with beautiful vistas the discombobulated feeling of new love, begin the evening with champagne at the spinning restaurant atop Duluth's downtown Radisson.

BEST ACOUSTIC PERFORMER

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.

BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS

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.

BEST ALL-AGES VENUE

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.

BEST BAD TIMING

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.

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