Meet The Musicians
Maria May trades harmonies and instruments with her bandmates in the Owls, who played L.A.'s International Pop Overthrow festival in July. Their debut CD is Our Hopes and Dreams (Magic Marker Records).
Most memorable moment: We were mistakenly booked at the Rox in St. Cloud on the night when everybody in the entire town who plays rugby drinks for free. By the time we started, five guys were naked. They were dancing and pouring beer on each other. One said, "I've got a suggestion. Why don't you play something that doesn't suck?"
Local heroes: Best Friends Forever. They're sort of a prog band with homemade felt puppets. At one show, the drummer had a giant sun on his head, and each of the girls had clouds on their heads. They have a love song for Abe Lincoln about how they would take the bullet for him.
Helpful hint: Before we go onstage, [singer] Allison [LaBonne] and I always say mah-may-me-mo-mu and jump rope.
This year Brother Ali toured with fellow hip hoppers GZA, Brand Nubian, and MF Doom, and headlined First Avenue for the first time. His latest CD is Champion EP (Rhymesayers Entertainment).
Most memorable moment: I did a show in New York with MF Doom. I went out to the merchandise table, and Mos Def was sitting down about 10 feet away from me. This girl was having him sign something. Right when he was in the middle of signing, she looked up and she was like, "Oh my God, Brother Ali," and she snatched it out of his hand. He looked at me like, "What the fuck?"
Local heroes: [Former Micranots rapper] I Self Devine is just a great MC in terms of his writing, his topics. He basically has his own slang language, which certain great MCs have. He's just a commanding presence.
Helpful hints: I used to go to all the high school dances early and wait for the DJ to show up. Then I'd help him carry all his shit in. I always brought a microphone and a tape with my music. Right as the dance was about to start, I'd be like, "You want to take a 10-minute break, go have a cigarette or something? You should really let me get on the mic. I promise I won't curse." I can't remember a time when that didn't work.
Willie Walker has been singing sweet soul music in the Twin Cities long enough to know Slug's and Josh Hartnett's fathers. But he enjoyed an international revival this year with the reissue of his 1960s Memphis recordings, volumes one and two of The Goldwax Story (Ace Records), and the release of his first real album, Right Where I Belong (One on One Records), recorded with Curt Obeda and the Butanes.
Most memorable moment: I played Amsterdam a couple weeks ago. To have people that have been listening to my music for years, to be in their presence, and see them with tears in their eyes for certain songs, it just emotionally broke me up. It was one of the new songs from our CD, and it's all about crying. I guess everybody's got some crying to do.
Local heroes: I see Billy Holloman a lot. I get together with a bunch of guys on Thursdays to go see him at Dixie's [on Grand]. It's kind of difficult not to sit in--they won't allow me to walk out on them.
Helpful hints: I talk to young performers every opportunity I get, and I tell them all the same thing. Learn as much as you possibly can, then start over. The more you learn, the more you realize that the less you play, the better off you are. Because the people who enjoy music don't care how much you know. They like it simple.
Sean Smuda for City Pages
Amanda Harris is the 18-year-old powerhouse vocalist for rockers Gingerjake, who played the main stage of the 93X-sponsored RiverFest this summer and released an eponymous DVD. The band's debut CD is Paralysis E.P. (self-released).
Most memorable moment: We'd just got done playing a show at the Rock in Maplewood, and this girl comes up, bawling her eyes out. She's like, "You guys have no idea how much you mean to me. I just broke up with my boyfriend, and I listen to your record all the time. You're making me so much stronger." That's what it's all about.
Local heroes: B!--the letter "B" with an exclamation point. They're like King's X meets Lenny Kravitz meets heavy rock.
Helpful hints: We nearly sold out the Quest because we market the shit out of our shows. We have 150 people on our street team. We'll have a big street-team party at our studio and make them feel welcome and comfortable, and then we'll all go out and flyer.
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