Goodbye, Cruel Whirl
Northeast Minneapolis, Saturday, May 19
If it's not about the art for me, I guess that leaves the, uh, whirling. Art-a-Whirl has set up in my neighborhood like an occupying army, and without an educated appreciation for the visual arts, I'm feeling out of place in my own home. Then I actually become displaced from my own home.
Two neo-expressionists and a sculptor who works exclusively in horsehair demand temporary quarter in my living room. As they set up displays and lay price lists out on my coffee table, I abandon my house, looking for an expression of creativity that makes sense to me. Music. I understand the appeal of music.
Ritz Theatre, 7:00 p.m.
The underground music festival Heliotrope Four is on its third day, and right now bizarre film scraps screen on the wall behind Dreamland Faces.The trio writes throwback musical oddities, songs that might have been pulled off the sound reels of very early cartoons—you know, the ones where Mickey Mouse still acted like a nasty little varmint.
While Andy McCormick bows a saw (it makes a silly, outer-space sound, like a UFO on the Brady Bunch), Karen Majewicz presses a melodious and tubercular wheeze out of an accordion and sings in a madwoman's vibrato. When the old-timey falsetto warbling first comes out of her, I think she is just fooling around. But by the time she abandons singing actual words to mimic the saw's warped, piercing tones, I realize that I have not escaped art at all. I am still its prisoner.
"Now we're going to perform some old folk songs from China," promises McCormick, "and some 20th-century Bertolt Brecht."
331 Club, 9:00 p.m.
"At every show, there's one or two people who really make the experience, and I think we all know who they are tonight—let's have a hand for them, c'mon!"
Walker Kong's Jeremy Ackerman is playing directly to the two drunkest members of the audience. It seems his dark lyrics about the destruction of the planet have failed to put the slightest bit of cloud cover over the band's sunshiny jams. And so the urge to shake and bop along with the inebriates has spread throughout the converted parking lot. The scent of cigarette smoke and grilled hamburgers mixes in the sharp, suddenly cold air, and one of Ackerman's drunks comes by to enforce a request from the stage.
"He said clap, come on!" Whirl-weary foot soldiers, their children, and Kong fans all comply, keeping tempo for the band, slapping our palms together in block-party camaraderie.
Casket Arts Building, 11:00 p.m.
Sarcophagi manufacturing has dropped off in recent years, as it has become clear that everyone you love will live forever. Now this Northeast casket factory has been repurposed for more cheerful endeavors. While searching the halls for the Slideluck Potshow—don't actually repeat the phrase verbatim if you're asking for directions; you'll sound much more intoxicated than you actually are—we stumble upon a bookstore, which is cooler and more unexpected (considering the circumstances) than stumbling across, say, a janitor's closet or the Situationist movement.
Q.arma Building, midnight
A handful of sharply dressed young women dance as the Twin Cities' DJ Bach spins on decks that have been awkwardly tucked into a corner. The lights here, being bright enough to illuminate the prints and sculptures, make the environment too harsh for a proper dance party, although that's probably safer for the works on display.
Outside, trashcan percussionists sit around a bonfire, plonking out random rhythms and metallic pings that my ears interpret as a martial cadence: I am through living under the tyranny of art. It's time for me to return home and drive the squatters away—after I collect my very reasonable gallery fee of 30 percent.
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