The Minnesota Music Awards at First Avenue

Peter S. Scholtes

News flash: The Minnesota Music Awards' much-ballyhooed return to First Avenue last Wednesday was actually less fun than the previous three years at other venues--St. Paul's Touchstone Energy Place in 2002, O'Gara's in 2003, and the Red Carpet in St. Cloud in 2004. Those shows had problems, sure (a lot of nominees weren't even notified in 2002--I had to invite the C.O.R.E. myself), but they were undeniably well-orchestrated spectacles. Last year's free late bus back to Minneapolis ensured that a crowd danced until the end.

The 25th annual "Minnies" faced many obstacles, some beyond anyone's control. One act showed up late, forcing Kid Dakota to play long. The storm kept all but 198 ticket buyers away (another 497 people were on the guest list), and sent the plane of one presenter (Willie Wisely) to another city. ("This almost makes up for the maple tree that fell on my house," said Jake Rudh, accepting the DJ award.) This was also the drunkest MMAs ever: Joey Molland from Badfinger literally kicked the ass of host Mark Wheat, while Wheat's co-host, Lori Barbero, grew increasingly incoherent. ("I wish I had a copy of that speech," said presenter Chris Osgood.) Technical glitches and the lack of jokes onstage (not to mention music you could dance to) made five hours drag by slowly.

Then again, the night also rocked. Robert Robinson and the Twin Cities Gospel Choir opened big, while Stnnng's set spilled over onto the podium. Spider John Koerner (pictured) got the crowd clapping along, while longtime First Avenue stage manager Conrad Sverkerson looked genuinely touched as he accepted his Connie Hechter Award for lifetime achievement. Mentioning Soul Asylum's late founder, Karl Mueller, Sverkerson said, "I can feel his soul in the room." Too bad the room was mostly empty by the time R&B winners Mint Condition took the stage around 1:00 a.m. "I know you're tired," said singer Stokley Williams. He didn't know the half of it.

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