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I AM IRRESISTIBLY ATTUNED to music played in public, for better or worse. Out of car windows and radios, in bookstores, cafés and record shops, rocking minigolf DJ sets and sweaty karaoke boxes. Often this entails suffering (Eagles, Wham, Christmas tunes, Wham Christmas tunes). Sometimes surprise—an old frat rock anthem shout-sung by a dude chorus: joyous moment (ya probably had to be there).

With the dam of pent-up spring vibes finally breaking, this crow-sourced concert has been all For Better.

Bill Callahan/Smog

The Au Pairs

Brand Nubian

Stevie Wonder

Paul Revere & the Raiders

Kim Deal

Buzzcocks

Jack White

Joe South – Games People Play

icecream

AT THE CASUALEST CAFE IN SOUTHEAST MINNEAPOLIS you enter to find young men lying on couches. One stands to greet you. He resurrects a cold pot of coffee with blasts of frothing steam and, without discussion, hands you a cup. “No charge.” You sit. Cryptic wisecracking as he nukes a plate of bacon for a customer consulting a vintage PC. The barista paces, munching handfuls of pepperoni (“gotta have protein, right?”) and smoking not-quite-surreptitiously from a pipe he wears on a lanyard. As you rise to leave, your tepid mug barely touched, he grabs a blanket and returns to his couch, giggling.

You will never go back to this place. But that it exists—ungoverned by the rules of commerce, the law, or basic expectation—is reassuring. Mysteriously beyond failure, it lives without striving.

>> Download: “Live from the Plasma Bank”

LFTPB_cover_smTracklist:
01 The Everly Brothers – Turn Around
02 Roxy Music – All I Want Is You
03 Eleanor Friedberger – I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight
04 Wild Billy Childish And The Spartan Dreggs – The Fighting Tameraire
05 Shuggie Otis – Ice Cold Daydream
06 Bananarama – No Feelings
07 The Suicide Commandos – Complicated Fun
08 Black Lips – Dumpster Dive
09 Mission of Burma – Trem Two
10 The Electronic Anthology Project – Eels
11 Theophilus London – One Last Time
12 J Dilla – Two Can Win
13 Death Grips – I’ve Seen Footage
14 Son of Bazerk – Part One
15 Broken Bells – Meyrin Fields
16 A.C. Newman – Hostages
17 Julie London – Yummy, Yummy, Yummy
18 Nellie McKay – Adios
19 Sly & The Family Stone – I’m An Animal
20 Thee Oh Sees – Flood’s New Light
21 Television – Friction
22 METZ – Get Off
23 Flying Lotus – Heave(n)

MY STATION PRESETS ARE SYNCED across my car, clock radio and home stereo. I have more feedback for pledge-drive volunteers than they can politely absorb. I’m known to plan road trips around FM schedules.

That is to say I care about radio—that most public of media, mobile before we demanded everything be, and democratic in ways TV never was. “The medium for surprise, for connection with people you might have nothing else in common with, for creating strange social alliances,” as Simon Reynolds put it. I might add: the medium for obsessives, daydreamers, and misfits (proudly!).

In the vast territory between 88 and 108 MHz, I’m tuned to a fairly narrow band: local/public/community/analog-broadcast (don’t get me started about Satellite and Pandora, no friend to real FM). Here are my dial highlights. Listen on actual radios during scheduled timeslots for best results.

Good ‘N Country / KFAI 90.3 FM / Saturdays 3 – 5 PM

I’ll put my bias out there: I thought Country-Western music was all crap. But G’n’C has made me a fan. While the era of Hank and Patsy and Cash is easy to warm to, such is Ken Hippler’s impeccable taste that even post-classic-era artists go down easy (it’s like Buck Owens is a gateway drug to Bonnie Raitt). Not the first time my judgments have proven unreliable (litany of stuff I was wrong about = fodder for another post).

Classic Hip Hop w/ DJ Divine / KMOJ 89.9 FM / Saturdays 12 – 2 PM

I blogged this once before, so psyched was I to find a jam-filled gem amid Saturday’s FM doldrums (when Prairie Home stalks you down the dial all damn weekend). KMOJ’s DJ Divine is deep in 1987-’94, my golden age of hip-hop listening, with a playlist bumpin’ enough to get me over the odd R&B detour. Growing up a mall-fed rap fan in Des Moines, this is as much education as nostalgia for me (Whodini? Nice N Smooth? Who knew?).

On The Media / KNOW 91.1 FM / Sundays 3 – 4 PM

Like a lot of folks, I have a crippling cynicism hangover from the Bush Era. So I need a show that clarifies the messy mechanics of newsmaking and the biases that shape the conversation about politics and corporatism and war. The more I listen to OTM, the less it seems like “inside baseball” for journalists and more like a guidebook for conscience consumption. I’ll also give props here to Counterspin, the other media gadfly in our market that’s just as vigilant as On The Media (if comparitively humorless).

Off The Record / Radio K 104.5 FM or 770 AM / Fridays 3 – 5 PM

Minneapolis is lousy with bands, many of which are good, and none of which I drag myself out to see at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday. So a program like Off The Record is essential. I get a compact rundown of uncompromising local music, including experimental and unhinged stuff. Local Sound Department on KFAI used to do a similar thing—with a subversive acronym, to boot—but in this arena I prefer Radio K’s student DJs who aren’t as in thrall of Minneapolis’s musical glory days. They’re all over Right Now so I don’t have to be.

RSE Radio / KFAI 90.3 FM / Saturdays 9 – 11 PM

Another rap show on the list? The second of the day, in fact. RSE Radio is like a “chef’s choice” taster’s menu to DJ Divine’s backyard BBQ. A live hip-hop mix spanning 3+ decades, the show eschews crowd-pleasers in favor of underground B-sides, remixes and deep cuts. I used to hate that they don’t say what they play. Now I’ve found it makes me a more careful listener. It’s a proper schooling in independent ‘00s rap, a decade I mostly tuned out; shame on me.

The Takeaway / KFAI 90.3 FM / Weekdays 5 – 8 AM

Am I the only person who finds AM drive time on Minnesota Public Radio insufferable? Listening to Cathy Wurzer for me is like drowning in marshmallow schmutz. So when WNYC’s The Takeaway started on KFAI last year, I rejoiced. Contrasted with MPR’s lulling banalities, The Takeaway pulses with curiosity and Real Talk. Even the audience-response segments feel fresh and insightful. It’s a perfect segue in to Democracy Now! at 9 (with possibly my favorite tagline: “The Exception to the Rulers”), which completes my power morning of gritty truthtelling. My day’s concerns can’t possibly compete.

To be continued.

>> David Bowie – Station to Station

jnIT’S A TRUISM OF 8TH GRADE ART CLASS (AND EVER SINCE) that sketching faces is the hardest. Which makes sense with the evolution of face perception—how we’re born to read people through their faces, and interpreting expressions successfully has social advantages. When a face is drawn with details awry, even a little bit, it looks instantly, appallingly wrong. You don’t just fail to recognize the likeness, it offends your understanding of people. Or of the person, if you know the face. It’s most disorienting when you’re the person drawn. Portraits have been known to hurt feelings.

This is one of my better self-portraits, and I don’t love it. I over-emphasize eyes. And put them in the wrong places. If my subjects don’t look startled or quizzical, they seem stoned or asleep.

A good time to do portraits is when people’s heads are still, like when making art or playing cards. I drew some friends the other night (all wearing mesh caps as it happened; I wore a Stetson, as seen in Paul’s Witt’s sketch). As usj, nobody was very convinced of the likenesses, though nobody seemed offended.

 

ps

 

>> Black Lips – Don’t Mess Up My Baby
>> Tegan & Sara – You Wouldn’t Like Me
>> Dee Dee Warwick – You’re No Good
>> Small Faces — Song of a Baker

 

SOMEBODY WISHED ALOUD that July could be twice as long (on Facebook, of course, where summer’s progress is logged competitively, so I see the 1,000 camp-outs, festivals, and bike/bar crawls I didn’t do). It’s an appealing thought, even sweating through sixty-two 90° nights. The calendar being fixed as it is, we made July the longest month purely through high-capacity living.

Winthrop

A family visit in Mazama and North Cascades NP in Washington State was not our first pick, but a solid Plan B (parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite fill up quick, way quicker than my extended family can make decisions). This alpine valley is inaccessible half the year, and still feels sparse in the high season—mostly populated by that weird Western mix of cowboys, extreme-sports buffs, Harley riders and affluent retirees. Round here, the marshal drives an IRoc-Z.

Don’t these peaks just make you want to yodel?

I left Seattle eons ago, so joining the hordes at Pike Place Market (left, with Sarah and my sister Emily buying, like, 10 lbs of salmon) no longer feels like a gimmicky yawn; I see it all anew. Like the brilliant S.A.M. sculpture garden (center, with my brother Ben in front of Richard Serra’s Wake), which I remember as an walled-off graveyard for shipping containers. Our Associated Friends of Ballard—who all live on the same block, considerately, and even have a killer cottage where we can flop—threw us an Independence Day party, finished with a Family Pack of Chinese fireworks (right), all duds except for the Bang Snaps.

Four days later we were in Clermont, Iowa, for Xmas In July #4—different family culture (red meat, weaponry, ATVs), different climate (fierce sun, biting flies, minimal shade). Sounds fun, right? This year my grandfather devised a relay race: two teams move empty 2-liter bottles using only yard sticks. Not likely to be a runaway fad, but there was enough absurdity and smack-talk to keep it interesting.

Gramps and Johanna, in amazing hats, before the kite flying competition. I won, but when my kite was nearly invisible, the string broke. My cousin and I scoured 10 acres on an ATV looking for it, but the kite seemed bound for another county.

Back in Minneapolis, with favorite visitors from Des Moines at Lake Nokomis—another great place to be if you hate shade.

Backyard Bananagrams (left, a novel performance with PYRO ZOOTS and PUBIC CLOT) and successful Make Sh!t sculpture experiments: Beer, Detergent, Baby Bottle, Lemon (along with some busted failures: casting an intact whiffle-ball bat and lightbulb using concrete proved beyond our powers).

Johanna’s weeks at Urban Arts Academy have produced art by the armload, like a misty shadowbox with butterfly puppets (left). At Highpoint Center for Printmaking for Sarah’s 38th birthday (note the cake, lower-left), a group of us cut rubber blocks to make stamps and practically got kicked out for having too much fun.

Brontosaur

This monster in Lake Hiawatha has its own website.

Exhausted yet? I haven’t even gotten to re-roofing my garage (me dressing the part, left). As an able-bodied person, I didn’t relish watching others suffer through my hot, backbreaking work—a position I regretted as soon as I’d sweat through my leather boots. For the interior improvements (right), I called in some low-wage backup.

In other unpaid labors, I helped mow the Walker Art Center’s lawn as part of a half-baked performance by L.A. collective Machine Project. Something about the elaborate ritual of American lawncare? Mastery over nature through technology? The triumph of suburban values? For the performers, it was as captivating as… mowing the lawn.

“The American Lawn and Ways to Cut It.”

Art Mowing followed by rooftop drinks with your crew. Isn’t Minneapolis grand?

>> Chuck Berry – Come On
>> Vast Aire – Take Two
>> The New Pornographers – July Jones