Best of the Twin Cities®

Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: People & Places

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR--ST. PAUL
The Muddy Pig

An intrepid (and/or hard-drinking) anthropologist could spend a lifetime chronicling the rich and varied social life of St. Paul bars without ever hitting bottom (at least in the sense of running out of things to chronicle). Few establishments on either side of the river equal this relative newcomer to the bustling Selby/Dale corner in charm or diversity, though. A recent early-evening visit found a couple of empty-nesters playing a spirited game of Yahtzee in one of the Pig's comfy, well-worn booths, while regular Joes in their 40s discussed Harleys and sushi (simultaneously!) at one end of the long semi-rectangular bar, and a trio of Newcastle-sipping hipsters talked film at the other. (Best line overheard: "Have you ever seen Robert De Niro in an interview? Most self-conscious motherfucker you'll ever see!") Undoubtedly, the room itself, a spacious high-ceilinged study in tranquillity, is part of the Pig's draw, as are the nearly 60 bottled beers (including 20 Belgian and Belgian-styled brands), and a wine list that offers 10 bottles for 20 bucks or less. The house-prepared food (served till 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) is nothing to turn your snout up at, either. Nine bucks gets you a huge bowl of creamy risotto dotted with chunks of roasted vegetables, while a heaping plate of walnut-crusted walleye, mashed potatoes, and grilled veggies goes for a few dollars more. But ultimately, it's the vibe that makes the Pig truly exceptional. As with the food and potables, music runs several cuts above regular bar fare, with the likes of XTC and Wilco dominating the stereo. And service, whether you're in the big room, or in the nonsmoking section, or on the cozy outdoor patio, is consistently fast and friendly. Plus, Yahztee is just one of several games, including Scrabble, chess, and backgammon, that the Pig provides for its patrons. Clearly, this is a pig that wants you to linger.

162 N. Dale St., St. Paul, 55102
MAP
651-254-1030
BEST ACOUSTIC PERFORMER

This man is out of his era. Looking at "Lonesome" Dan Kase, with his spare suit, fedora, and battered guitar, thumbing the blues from his own lead belly, you realize he's completely from another time. He's stepped from a grainy film still or a distant stage. Fortunately, though, he's right here, almost weekly. In an era built on gimmicks flatter than a Bazooka Joe comic, not to mention as sugary as the bubblegum it's wrapped around, Kase goes down like moonshine. His grand stomp is the tom drum of a lost art, built by those with genuine stories to tell. It's real, and it's unplugged.

BEST ADULT VIDEO STORE
Sex World

Granted, the lighting is a bit intense. But that's all the better to see this multi-level palace of iniquity's pornucopia of video delights. While the focus lately has been on amateur productions, Sex World's vast holdings touch nearly every, uh, base, imaginable--from '50s tighty-whitey gay spanking reels to the flavor-of-the-moment Loadman Cummith series. And with a respectable selection of '70s high-concept feature classics like The Devil and Miss Jones (as well as the five sequels!), Sex World excels in the kind of adult fare that even grownups can enjoy.

241 2nd Ave. N., Minneapolis, 55401
MAP
612-672-0556
BEST ALBUM OF THE PAST 12 MONTHS

"First there's violence, then there's silence." When Craig Finn uttered those words on "La Quereria" in 2000, the same year Lifter Puller broke up, he could have been singing his own band's epitaph. After playing and recording together in Minneapolis since 1994, feeding the after-hours carnage of slobbery hookups, in-crowd affectations, and bad times with good drugs through their sputtering amps, the former Minneapolis indie rockers pulled the plug, with Finn moving to the city he once chidingly referred to as "Kool NYC." Still, the four years in between were great ones, and they're captured in all of their slack-motherfucker fervency on Soft Rock (Self-Starter), a double-CD collection of singles, demos, compilation tracks, and chunks from previously released albums. All the recognizable Lifter Puller elements are there: tales of Katrina and the Eye-Patch Guy, as performed by the art-school Archers of Loaf. But somehow, every recording sounds manic and nearly live, with Finn spitting his stream-of-consciousness monologues as if he were the dream-logic polemicist from Waking Life. (His endless tirades jolt the punk-rock kick below, a herky-jerky dance move that keeps slipping into a Benzedrine limp.) And then the songs snap in half, often ending abruptly and unexpectedly, much like the band itself. But after every silence, the violence returns--which might explain why Lifter Puller is coming back home for two reunion gigs at the Triple Rock Social Club on June 6 and 7. Forget Kool NYC: For two nostalgia-filled summer nights, we'll be Kool MPLS.

BEST ALL-AGES VENUE

This year saw a resurgence of all-age clubs in the Twin Cities: The Whole at the U of M's Coffman Union reopened; the Babylon in Minneapolis has evolved from the Bombshelter's pepper-sprayed ashes; the Dinkytowner continues to host its "In the Garage" Sundays; First Avenue and the 7th St. Entry also have their frequent all-ages events; the Speedboat Gallery, a '90s favorite, is back in business in the Midway area; and the Fireball Espresso CafÈ also hosts several all-ages shows a week in St. Paul. What moves Eclipse Records, located on Grand Avenue near Macalester College, to the top of that increasingly crowded list is its intimate space and its pure tenacity. Because of a St. Paul ordinance prompted by the record store's neighbors, Eclipse was put out of the live-music business a couple of years ago. But Eclipse fought the law and actually won; they took their case to the City Council, which ultimately voted to change the code. To keep the peace in the neighborhood, live shows end at 8:00 p.m. weekdays, and 10:00 p.m. weekends. Rock on.

381 Wabasha Street N., Saint Paul, 55102
MAP
651-224-2500
BEST AVANT-GARDE ARTIST

Unlike many experimental sound artists, Cordell Klier hasn't labored in vain. Until a couple of months ago, though, when he finally moved to Minneapolis, the leonine 28-year-old labored in faraway Bloomington. While relative isolation and apparently untreatable workaholism have largely kept Klier off the local Dinkytowner circuit thus far, his prodigious output (upward of a dozen CDs in the past year, on labels ranging from Germany's prestigious Ad Noiseum imprint to Klier's own Doctsect Media) has paid off handsomely on the international front. Not only does a Google search on his name yield 203 distinct entries (mostly interviews, reviews, and chart listings in European publications), but Doctsect is starting to receive submissions from likeminded spirits with equally promising reputations--Italy's tu'um, for example. Klier's underground popularity undoubtedly stems in part from his protean nature; releases run the gamut from drones so gentle you can forget they're playing to the kind of ear-blistering power electronics that might easily drive the faint of heart to cower under the nearest mattress while they pray for a power outage and/or temporary deafness. But Klier isn't merely versatile or prolific. The quality of his work is consistently high, and it landed him a spot on an East Coast tour with a number of European heavies last fall, as well as a place on the bill at the groundbreaking God Blast America festival in New York. Intrepid souls who want to wet their ears in Klier's end of the pond would do well to start with Apparitions, a meticulously constructed exercise in texture-based atmospherics so subtly sinister, it'll likely inspire any pets in your home to start sniffing for prowlers.

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BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR--ST. PAUL: The Muddy Pig

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