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Rock the Garden – Day 2 – June 21, 2015

23 Jun

By: Gabby Coll
Photos by: Justin Sengly

IMG_7685The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Sean Lennon’s musical project with significant other Charlotte Kemp Muhl, opened up day two of Rock The Garden – the field filled up quickly long before their set started, an impressive feat given the eight hours ahead for concertgoers. It’s easy to see the influence the ubiquitous Lennon Sr. has had on his son musically (anyone else think “Poor Paul Getty” bears a striking resemblance to “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite“?), and it might not help that physically, Sean looks like a carbon copy of his father infused with elements of his mother, Yoko Ono. But, there is no doubt that Lennon the younger has broken new ground and forged a successful music career for himself, staying true to this influence while managing to make it his own. This is perhaps in part due to multi-instrumentalist Muhl and Lennon’s collaborative process. GOASTT has taken the current obsession with light psychedelic rock (think Tame Impala and Flaming Lips) to new levels, with dense and intricate lyrics, and just enough mystique. The set on Sunday was cut off early – met with a booing chorus – and ended with an impressive standing ovation, even from those seated comfortably on blankets.

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It’s no doubt that J.D. McPherson has quickly become modern day America’s roots sweetheart – hearkening back to classic 50s rhythm and blues, McPherson and his band fully embrace and embody the appropriation, slicked hair and all (though the hair didn’t last too long in the sweaty heat). They pull at our heartstrings, and on Sunday they showed us what they know how to do and what we love about them; a boogying good time. McPherson is sweet and likeable, with just enough dorkiness to complement his rockabilly performance. His is a simplistic view of classic American roots, but it’s easy to understand how McPherson gets 8,000+ people dancing and clapping along on a blazing Sunday afternoon with that rambling rock n’ roll voice.

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Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 brought some much-needed color to an otherwise monochromatic lineup; it’s about time Rock The Garden feature an artist from the African continent. Like Lennon, Seun Kuti has inherited the legacy of an incredibly influential father, in this case Fela Kuti, founder of Afrobeat and iconic figure in the international music scene, and, like Lennon, Kuti has made a name for himself in his own right.IMG_8471

After an extensive and dedicated introduction of each performer in the band, Egypt 80 introduced the first song with the words “when we came into this world, we were naked, and when we leave, we are naked,” setting the tone for the intensively significant lyrics that are central in most of Kuti’s songs. The entire set was a party, only made more potent by the political and profound words in Kuti’s lyrics; at one moment he empowered us all by introducing a song with the words “I want to inspire all kinds of women…women are supposed to change the world, too.” Full band and drums invited everyone to move in passionate release along with Kuti, though it was apparent that the Minnesotans in the crowd were not entirely sure what to do with themselves. They tried, at least, and the whole hour of Kuti’s set was an uproarious celebration of life, rhythm, and beauty, set against a backdrop of the fading Minneapolis sunset.

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To say that this reunion was highly anticipated is a gross understatement. A Babes in Toyland reunion seemed too good to be true (and the trio themselves denied the possibility for a long time), so when the announcement was made that they would be back on stage together for Rock The Garden this year, Sunday’s lineup quickly became a hot ticket for veteran Minneapolis music lovers. I, as a mere 22-year old and non Babes in Toyland superfan (though an avid admirer), felt out of place because I wasn’t totally transcendently overtaken by excitement – I did not have the fortune of growing up during prime Riot Grrrl years. But damn, these women are fierce. It was like they were made to be onstage together, and like they didn’t actually take an 18-year break from performing. Lori Barbero is one of the meanest drummers I’ve ever witnessed, totally in her element atop that drum kit; Kat Bjelland a wolf ferociously howling and shredding her guitar; and bassist Maureen Herman an understated (in comparison to her bandmates) powerhouse. The Minnesotans in the mosh pit lost it, to say the least, and Chris Riemenschneider literally stole my words when he instagrammed a photo of Barbero and Bjelland with the caption “Palpable excitement.”

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The closing act for a full Rock The Garden weekend made a thunderous entrance – literally. There were simulated rain sounds, fog machines galore, and thunder – to an engrossed and loving field of fans. This particular act may have been a gamble given that they haven’t performed in a while, but it quickly became apparent that this was no issue. The boisterous orchestration, stellar light show, and theatrics made it a perfect closing set for an outdoor concert; just big enough to make sure we were all engrossed and entertained, but not so big that it was overdone. It became clear that this was the act many people had showed up for. Most songs had pretty much everyone around me singing along passionately, and I even saw several skipping/dancing to the beat down the hillside pathway. Modest Mouse treated us to their hits right off the bat – “The World At Large” and “Lampshades on Fire” – and closed out the evening with an encore befitting of the day – “The Good Times Are Killing Me.

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Rock the Garden – Day 1 – June 20, 2015

23 Jun

By: Gabby Coll
Photos by: Justin Sengly

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The youngest act to play Rock The Garden to date, producer Psymun and vocalists Bobby Raps, Allan Kingdom, and Spooky Black, collectively known as Thestand4rd, showed their chops to an enthusiastic crowd of early RTG attendees – a telltale sign these kids have already rallied a devoted following. Spooky Black – visibly the most uncomfortable (in the most endearing way) onstage – proved his vocal prowess, droning soulful and slightly haunting melodies over Psymun’s driving rhythms, contrasting Bobby Raps’ driving flow and Allan Kingdom’s signature falsetto. The boys bantered easily with each other, giving just enough back to their audience to keep them engaged. Though they may be relatively new to performing (this is not to say that they haven’t made their mark on the Minnesota music scene already), their chemistry and ease with one another already shows promising potential for the future of this group of genre-blending artists.

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Blazing sunshine and 80-degree heat did not deter an impeccably dressed and stylishly symmetrical Lucius from delivering their sweet melodies and sugary pop gems. With immaculately coiffed red hair and matching bright yellow dresses, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig delivered powerful harmonies with ease and grace, backed by Dan Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri dressed in crisp white suits. Providing just enough oomph to rally a dancing crowd, the group treated us to all of the hits from their Wildewoman, including “Tempest” right off the bat, and closing out with “Turn it Around” and “Genevieve.” With just enough spirit, a sprinkling of sweet banter, and excellent vocals, they showed us what a really good girl group looks like.

[As a bonus, before their set, the band perused the Walker special exhibition International Pop to see Evelyne Axell’s Ice Cream – the piece used as the cover of their first album]

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I had my doubts about Courtney Barnett. I can now safely say that these doubts have been effectively eliminated. Barnett was meant to be onstage, droning her witty lyrics in that compellingly drawling voice. Her ability to make the most banal statements (“Last week I turned 24/you don’t call me anymore”) seem poetic and of significance has put her at the forefront of the international music scene, and for good reason. At RTG, she proved us right. Barnett has impressive presence onstage, even with her signature deadpan performance (the delivery via those piercing blue eyes may have something to do with it). Finding an excellent balance between ebb and flow throughout her set, she knows when to be on and when to let her guitar or her backing musicians do the talking. If the reviews of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit are any indication, this babe of the contemporary rock scene has much in store

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Nebraska native Conor Oberst is a veteran to the Minneapolis music scene, and his appearance at RTG was overdue. By this point in the day, most everyone was pretty drained from the blaring sun, but it became clear that a good chunk of the attendees were here to see Oberst. I’m going to be honest, I’m not his biggest fan. I find his lyrics to be contrived (“We got a problem with no solution/But to love, love, love and to be loved”), his melodies not terribly original, and his voice slightly off-putting, though undeniably unique. I will also admit that I tend to hold white male artists to a pretty high standard. I warmed up to him when he affectionately mentioned his fondness for The Current: “They’re a station near and dear to my heart…because they actually play my music.” He closed the set with “Milk Thistle,” apologizing for playing a “quiet one – it’s a bad one for slam dancing or anything like that.” Frankly, I would have loved an entire acoustic set; this is where Oberst’s voice shone through, his musical talent crooning in harmony with the quiet summer evening.

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Scottish indie pop rockers Belle & Sebastian rounded out a full day of music with their addictively sweet tunes. Several musicians supported the set, including The Laurels String Quartet – a group from Minneapolis that recorded the string sections for the bands’s latest release Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance. The first half of set focused on the pop-funk tunes from this album, while the second half brought back many older classics, including “Another Sunny Day” and “Piazza, New York Catcher.” Frontman Stuart Murdoch is the most endearingly awkward human I’ve ever seen on stage – airily bopping around, he embodies the polar opposite of chronic fatigue syndrome, an ailment he suffers from. He also gave us charming and hilarious banter: introducing “Another Sunny Day”, he noted how the song was written on the Solstice when “it never gets dark. You stay up all night and it drives you to a kind of madness, you think about sex all night. I do, at least.”

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Murdoch closed out the set by inviting several audience members on stage to dance along with him – the joy was infectious and we couldn’t help but bop along with them, even if we weren’t on stage.

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Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Orchestra Hall

31 Mar

There are many New Orleans institutions – beignets at Cafe Du Monde, Mardi Gras beads, jambalaya and po’boys – but few travel so well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. On Friday night the seven members of the traveling band ventured to the northern shores of the Mississippi, playing two sets that linked their past and present, and filling Orchestra Hall with joyous, raucous, warm and enveloping Louisiana glow.

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For the performance, the band featured bandleader Ben Jaffe on upright bass and tuba, trumpeter Mark Braud, pianist Rickie Monie (one of three living Steinway artists from New Orleans, the other two being Dr. John and Harry Connick Jr.), ageless clarinetist Charlie Gabriel, trombone player Ronnell Johnson (a former highschool student of Jaffe’s), drummer Joe Laste Jr. (who, on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was pointedly introduced as being form the Lower Ninth Ward) and the sleek Clint Maedgen on saxophone. The first set of the night was taken entirely from the Sweet Emma and her Preservation Hall Jazz Band record, which was recorded in 1964 at the old Guthrie Theater on the band’s second trip out of New Orleans – the first trip had also been to the Guthrie in 1963. The Current MC Bill DeVille had been out to introduce the band, and had found out that there were a number of people in the audience who had been in attendance at the Guthrie when the Sweet Emma record was cut. That record was recently added to the Library of Congress, and Jaffe told the story that the tape machine had only been rented for one night, so his parents, Preservation Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, raced back to the apartment and spent the night rushing through and cutting the tape to make sure they had the record by morning.

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On the night, their renditions of tunes like “Yellow Dog Blues,” “Whenever You’re Lonesome,” “Basin Street” and “Closer Walk With Thee” featured a lighter, slower touch than maybe the frenetic pace of earlier recordings or the intimacy of Preservation Hall might afford, but there was nothing lacking. Languorously prolonged, trilling sax solos came out of Maegdan, and Johnson had star turns with his full-bodied, big-swinging, rasping, bellowing elephantine trombone. The whole effect was one of venerable tradition, but not simply for the sake of posterity, but because the songs still move, and still swing.

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The second set was taken from their recent record That’s It, the band’s first recording of original tunes. That a band whose mission is to preserve New Orleans jazz has recorded new material may seem out of place, but if any group of musicians is to add to the canon, it should be these musicians, with their New Orleans roots running deep. The best gardens grow with careful tending and new planting, and the songs from That’s It blossomed in Orchestra Hall, from the gospel-inflected call and response of Johnson on “Halfway Right, Halfway Wrong,” to the roaring, pulsing horn Braud brought to center stage in the title track, to Charlie Gabriel’s sweet, spare phrasing in the smooth charmer “I Think I Love You.”

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For a man about to celebrate his 83rd birthday, Gabriel closed out the night on a youthful, inviting note. After coming out for their encore with a swinging rendition of the traditional “Down By The Riverside,” Gabriel finished with the new song “Come With Me.” Jaffe noted that it was his wedding anniversary and his wife had asked for this song, and then invited couples to get up and dance, which a surprising number of people (for a Minnesota audience in Orchestral Hall) took him up on. “Come with me to New Orleans,” Gabriel smiled out to the audience as the couples shimmied, “I show you a great time. All your dreams will come true, with my by your side.” And for the night, they did, up at the northern tail of the Mississippi, coming back to that place that they had been before, to arms ready to welcome them back.

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Rock the Garden 2014

24 Jun

Review by Pat O’Brien

Saturday’s photography by Jenna Klein & Sunday’s photography by Mark Kartarik

This past weekend Rock the Garden once more took place, but for the first time it spread the wealth over two days—with scant, if any, growing pains to be had in the process. Saturday went off without a hitch weather-wise, and while rain threatened for a bit on Sunday (and even gently showered during Valerie June’s southern-fried, neat-as-a-pin set, the rock gods must have brokered a truce with the weather gods, leaving the crowd dry for the remainder of the day.

SATURDAY

David Campbell & Barb Abney

David Campbell & Barb Abney

 

What worked: Starting off with Lizzo’s 45-minute, atom bomb of a set was precisely the proper intro to the weekend. Nobody’s hotter locally right now and it’s no accident. The former Melissa Jefferson is on her way up at break-neck speed and her set mirrored that. Frenetic but on point for the entire time, Lizzo seems about six months from superstardom.

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Lizzo

 

Lizzo & members of GRRRL Party

Lizzo & members of GRRRL Party

 

What worked: Hometown boy made good: Local vintage-dusted pop-rocker Jeremy Messersmith had the distinction of having the weekend’s biggest entourage on stage with him and didn’t disappoint with a tight, rollicking set that had him revisiting many high points of his career thus far (and there are plenty to choose from), as well as showcasing some newer material. He’s always a treat, but Messersmith really put together a tight set for what was his biggest crowd to date.

Jeremy Messersmith

Jeremy Messersmith

 

Jeremy Messersmith

Jeremy Messersmith

 

What didn’t work: Best Coast’s set, while appropriate for Saturday’s late-afternoon sun, seemed to drag on forever. They have an amusing shtick, but it’s best taken in bite-sized pieces—an hour-long set of three-chord, mid-tempo stoner pop gets old fast. Cosetino’s voice eventually becomes about as interesting as an oscillating fan and twice I found myself asking, “Didn’t they play this song already?”

Best Coast

Best Coast

 

Best Coast

Best Coast

 

What worked:  Matt & Kim’s explosive, maniacally fun set on Saturday was the weekend’s highlight. From Kim Schifino’s penchant for between-song f-bombs and crawling on top of her drum kit, to Matt Johnson’s endless cheerleading of the crowd to have more fun, their set transcended their often too-goofy-by-half songs and made it seem as though they brought Saturday’s sun-drenched afternoon with them solely for our enjoyment.

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Matt & Kim

 

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Matt & Kim

Matt & Kim

 

Crowd at Matt & Kim

 

Crowd during De La Soul

 

What didn’t work: De La Soul, who I had been looking forward to seeing for weeks, dropped the ball as headliners on Saturday. The set was unfocused, muddy and they neglected to play their new single, which is the best thing they’ve had in a long time. They also managed to turn in an outright terrible version of “Me, Myself and I,” which was easily the biggest disappointment of the weekend. They seem to be on a creative resurgence lately, and I’m hopeful that there are just some growing pains involved in the process.

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De La Soul

 

De La Soul

De La Soul

 

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De La Soul

De La Soul

 SUNDAY

What worked – Ladies first: Both days saw a solo female open the show (Lizzo on Saturday, Valerie June on Sunday) but there were many more onstage during the course of the weekend, from Dessa who offered a heavy, thought-provoking set on Sunday and Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, who put on a fairly one-note set Saturday (cats, weed and California only lend themselves to so much diversified material) and Matt and Kim’s Kim Schifino, women were all over this year’s lineup.

Valerie June

Valerie June

 

Valerie June

Valerie June

 

What worked – Stunt casting: Kurt Vile turned in the weekend’s most intriguing set. His jammy, ethereal guitar rock seemingly tailor-made for a festival atmosphere like Rock the Garden. Spreading  just seven songs out over his set, and seemingly winning some new fans in the process–the crowd was abuzz about him by the time he walked off stage.

Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile

 

Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile

 

Middle Ground: Dessa put on a thought-provoking, heavy-handed set on Sunday and while it’s always a treat to see her, she felt just a bit out of place offering up domestic abuse ruminations just a few minutes before Guided By Voices. Maybe it was her placement in the lineup, or simply the nature of festivals where there always seems to be an odd man (or woman) out. She threw a jar of show-sponsor Talenti gelato in the crowd about halfway through and and at one point crowd-surfed, and even ended her set in the crowd, but, while Dessa is incredibly talented and has a lot to say, it’s hard to describe her as “fun.” This isn’t a knock, it’s grounded in the nature of the subjects (domestic abuse, etc.) she chooses to address.

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Dessa

 

Dessa

Dessa

 

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Dessa

 

Aby Wolf

Aby Wolf

 

Dessa & Aby Wolf

Dessa & Aby Wolf

 

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Dessa

 

Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard

 

What worked – Stunt casting: Legendary stalwarts Guided By Voices put on a pretty great set on Sunday, running through nearly two dozen songs both old and new. Lead singer Robert Pollard was slinging smart remarks (“We’ve played here at least twenty times and Paul Westerberg never shows up.”) while swigging from a handle of tequila and the occasional beer. It wasn’t their steadiest set and was easily the weekend’s most confusing for a good portion of the skewed-younger crowd. The short songs with odd names like “Cut-Out Witch” and “Tractor Rape Chain” are a love-it-or-leave-it affair, but they had the distinction of being the best example of what the Current is all about: new music that’s influenced by older, sometimes underappreciated music. GBV have the distinction of fitting on both ends of that spectrum.

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices

 

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices

 

Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices

 

Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard

 

Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard

 

What worked: Spoon closing Sunday’s show was also a masterstroke. Britt Daniel and company took a break for a few years but they’re back and the break seems to have rejuvenated them creatively – they show no signs of slowing down. From the opening notes of the new songs to old favorites like “I Turn My Camera On” and “Don’t Make Me a Target,”  nobody put on a more fully rounded and solid performance over the weekend.

Britt Daniel

Britt Daniel

 

Spoon

Spoon

 

Rock the Garden 2014

 

Overall, it was a pretty great lineup and, of course not everything can be a homerun. There were far more ups than there were downs and with roughly ten hours of music happening over the course of the weekend. It shook out to be a wise idea to host Rock the Garden over the course of two days. It had to have been a hell of a thing to plan, but the two-day format should be standard from now on.

 

Rock the Garden 2014

 

Photo Review: Haley Bonar CD Release at the Varsity – May 16, 2014

19 May

Photos by Jenna Klein

Haley Bonar released her new album “Last War” at the Varsity Theater last Friday night to a packed house. The beautiful Anonymous Choir with Nona Marie opened the show.

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Photo Review: Riot Fest – Denver – Day 2 – 9-22-2013

26 Sep

All photography by Kyle Matteson

For more information on RiotFest, click here.

Photo Review: Riot Fest – Denver – Day 1 – 9-21-2013

25 Sep

All photography by Kyle Matteson

For more information on RiotFest, click here.

Rock the Garden – Tweets, Instagrams & Videos

17 Jun

Tweets, Instagrams & videos from the CakeIn15 crew.

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@catiyas – So it rained, but then Dan Deacon played a magical garage show.

Dan Deacon on the Walker Art Center garage from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

@catiyas – After 13 minutes of buildup, @danhuiting switches from the Steadicam to a tripod for Low.

Low at Rock The Garden [SNIPPET] from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

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@Staciaann -More Mould. Always more Mould!

@catiyas “Is anyone getting gay married this weekend? It’s good for the economy. That’s what I tell my right-wing friends.” -Bob Mould

Bob Mould! from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

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@Staciaann – Look it’s my boyfriend Brian! <3 me some Silversun Pickups!!!

@catiyas – “I love Low” from Silversun Pickups sounds a lot like “I love lamp” from Anchorman.

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@catiyas – This is turning out alright.

@catiyas – Mark Wheat just KirbeeeeeePkt!’ed Philip Bither’s intro.

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@catiyas – Oh yeah Metric.

Metric & “Help I’m Alive” at Rock the Garden [SNIPPET] from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Metric & “Gimme Sympathy” at Rock the Garden [SNIPPET] from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

@catiyas – Why is this mud on me red, and why does it smell of Lysol?

ANTIBODY WANNA DANCE: A Benefit for Erik Hess

24 May

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We love Erik Hess – as a photographer, friend, competitor and collaborator, he’s the kind of generous and open-hearted documentarian that keeps the Twin Cities music scene vital and in the public eye. You’ve seen his photographs everywhere, as well as him – he’s one of the hardest-working guys in town, because he’s making photography his sole work. That means no safety net, and grinding out over-worked and under-paid gigs just to make ends meet.

All that would be hard enough for a fully healthy guy, but Erik suffers from an extremely rare immunodeficiency disorder called CVID (Common Variable Immunodeficiency), which affects his ability to fight infections and can turn fatal if untreated. Seriously, the guy has worked through 103 degree fevers, just to get that shot, but that’s no way to live – literally in Erik’s case. On top of this already difficult and expensive disorder, Erik recently faced gall bladder removal surgery after months of painful complications. He has been able to get some coverage and monthly treatments at the Mayo Clinic, but those treatments have been cut off until he is able to cover thousands of dollars of medical expenses.

So this Saturday, get to the Turf Club for ANTIBODY WANNA DANCE, a benefit for Erik featuring some of his favorite bands (including a live appearance of The Sevateem!) and auction items donated by awesome people (Neil Gaiman, anyone?). If you can’t make it out (and even if you can) you can donate to Erik’s fund via his YouCaring page. One party isn’t going to fix Erik – or the health insurance morass in this country – but it can help him right now, and support one of our own going forward. Stay healthy, Erik, you gotta dance.

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Photo Review: Cloud Cult at First Avenue – April 28, 2013

30 Apr

Photos by Jenna Klein

At the second of two nights of sold out performances, Cloud Cult gave the crowd a good taste of their new album “Love,” as well as a handful of favorites from the past. Some fans pushed toward the front for a better glance at the paintings being created live by Connie Minowa and Scott West, while others bounced around completely oblivious except for the rhythm in their shoes. Craig Minowa gushed happily about being back in the band’s hometown, while the rest of the band grinned from ear to ear.

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