Kevin Steinman says farewell and thanks to the Twin Cities
Photo by Laura Dart
I sit at a dining table we're about to sell, heaped with things we'll throw in suitcases in two days, amidst a mounting sea of packing boxes. Above the crinkling din of paper being wrapped around our kitchenwares, a chorus of packing tape unrolls in full-throated harmony. It's 10 a.m., and I just barely saved my laptop charger from 5 weeks of international shipping purgatory.
Since publishing a piece in this space on my struggles with the US health care system, I've been deluged with sympathy and well wishes. The compassionate responses outnumbered the critical ones 50:1, and I have been moved by every one of them. I feel so encouraged, and thankful for the deep display of humanity.
So today, in a spirit of gratitude and before my final concert tonight as a Twin Cities resident, I write from between the boxes to say thank you.
To you believers in the magic of live music who pay your hard earned money to see concerts, thank you. To the club bookers who respond to booking requests, thank you. To the ones who don't, thank you for not letting us become too satisfied. To the bar and club owners who still appreciate the joy that can happen when you let music in, thank you.
Thanks to all the print journalists and radio DJs who tirelessly cover the beat of this thriving scene: yours is a grueling, sometimes thankless job, but you manage it with grace and élan.
Thank you, Adam Levy for your dazzling performing and songwriting excellence. Thank you Dessa for daring to let your brains hang out. Thank you Heiruspecs for sound checks that sound better than most concerts.
Thank you Ellen Stanley, Brianna Lane, Sarah Morris, Zach Spirov, and Katy Vernon, (whose debut full length will astound you with tragic beauty when it comes out this fall) for inviting me to engineer/produce your records last year. Thanks, too, Ellen, for your songwriting circle and boundless energy.
Thank you Jim Walsh for being absolutely crazy for music. Thank you JT Bates for standing up when you play cause you love the music so much you can't always sit down. Thank you The Pines. Just, seriously, thank you.
Thank you Matthew Zimmerman for building Wild Sound into a magical studio for recording music. Thanks to Lance Conrad, Eric Blomquist, Matt Patrick, and a host of others studio managers, who help make so many amazing records come to life. (I notice no women's names there. Dessa, get on that.)
Thank you Pam Hill-Kroyer, for epitomizing what community radio is about at KFAI. Thank you Lily Troia for your hustle and smiles.
Thanks, Jeremy Messersmith for setting such a high standard for pop songwriting. Thanks Rogue Valley for the inhuman artistic achievement of four beautiful records in one year. Thanks, Andy Thompson, Justin Hartke, Matt Novachis, Linnea Mohn, Luke Anderson, Alicia Wiley, Ryan Paul Plewacki, Robert Mulrennan, and all the other fine players I've performed with for your passion and commitment. Thank you Chris Koza for your friendship, on and off the basketball court.
All right, I'm gushing. But it's hard to overstate the inspiration I have drawn from the Twin Cities' music community since moving here.
Watching Mason Jennings play $5 shows every Thursday at the 400 bar was an auspicious start to my time in Minneapolis. I remember standing transfixed, together with 15 - 20 people, thinking, "There's no way this guy should be playing to this few people." Then the first time Mason filled 7th Street Entry, I congratulated him awkwardly in front of the bathroom. He thanked me, and confessed that he'd "been working towards this for 5 years." That night I realized that building a music career from the ground up could be a very noble pursuit if pursued with integrity. So thanks, Mason for that object lesson, taught humbly in real time.
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Photo by Laura Dart
The boxes are gone now, our house is empty, save for the table I'm writing on. Tomorrow it too will be gone. I recently realized I forgot to include in our shipment the rear wheel of my bike, and the bike pump. But it doesn't matter -- my father-in-law's garage is a sort of Scandinavian REI.
Last night, as I drove east down Lake Street at 2 a.m., past a happy group of Somali men sitting outside and chatting near Pillsbury Avenue, I realized that in just a few days I will join the ranks of new immigrants to Oslo. Regardless of where we will have come from, we'll be united in seeking better fortunes there, just as was the case for so many who came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That long list of souls included my grandfather, who settled in Minneapolis in the 1920s as a young boy fresh from Eastern Europe.
Because he passed before I was born, I never met the patriarch of my Minneapolis roots. Now the notion of returning to Europe as a 21st century American emigrant resonates as uncannily postmodern. I look forward to exploring some connotations of that role, and I promise I'll write in this space from time to time, to let you know how it's going, and how good the fish taste.
Before I go, just a couple more thanks: Sebastian Joe's, your Oreo ice cream is easily one of life's most consistent, indulgent pleasures. And Minneapolis, thank you for your beautiful parks and endless bike lanes. Maybe I'll hang my orphaned wheel by Mr. Little Man's tree hut, where it can be a UFO in his world. The bike pump can be his rocket to the moon.
Finally, thank you for taking the time to read, and respond to the story of my health struggles. It's a very personal story, inconsistent with the typical poses of rock and roll. So I appreciate your indulgence and sincerely value your support in response.
Let's continue to nurture that beautiful kernel of concern for one another. The baby steps of the Supreme Court's upholding of the ACA will move us toward a more compassionate and just health system for all Americans. I believe we have it in us to do even better. Let's keep going.
Kevin Steinman's Farewell Concert. 9:30 p.m. Monday, July 23 at Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. Tickets here.
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