MUSIC REVIEW | Vieux Farka Touré at The Cedar Cultural Center’s African Summer series: Music is life

The Cedar Cultural Center’s African Summer series rolled on the night of July 9 with a concert from Malian guitar whiz Vieux Farka Touré. Touré and his band are on tour in support of their new album, Mon Pays, which translates to My Country. Over the past 18 months, Mali has been partially overtaken by Islamic extremists, who have brought violence and additional suffering to an already poor nation. The album, a tribute to the musical heritage of the country, had been planned before the violence began but sends a political message as the extremists have banned music in areas they control. Like Femi Kuti, another musician who was part of the series, Touré is the son of a legendary African musician and carries on the family tradition. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Femi Kuti and the Positive Force prove Afrobeat music is as good as it’s ever been at The Cedar Cultural Center’s African Summer series

Femi Kuti and his band the Positive Force stopped through The Cedar Cultural Center on June 26 as part of a North American tour in support of his new album, No Place For My Dream, and The Cedar’s African Summer series. Over the course of the raucous, nearly two-and-a-half hour set he made it very clear the Afrobeat music coming out of Lagos, Nigeria is as good as it’s ever been. The son of Nigerian legend Fela Kuti, Femi played the parts of conductor, preacher, social commentator, and comedian, while showing off the musical chops that he has gained in his three decades plus in the business since joining his father’s band as a young man. Despite turning 51 ten days before the show, he displayed incredible power in both his singing and saxophone playing, and danced around the stage with the energy of a man much younger than him. Femi’s band came out bit by bit to start the show, first the rhythm section, who started on a song and then introduced the horn section, who came out together with a flourish before joining in. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | It’s a Felabration! “Fela!” shines at the Ordway

From the moment the lights go down and Fela Kuti strolls down an aisle towards the stage with both hands balled in fists, held high in the air, until the “encore” after the cast take their bows, Fela! is a triumph. The Broadway musical, which features the music and story of Nigerian musician and political figure Fela Anikulapo Kuti, has it all. The already energetic music played by an onstage band is given even more power by the blazing-fast moves of backup dancers and singers. The set and costume design are great. There are plenty of laughs and plenty of tragic moments, and they are all part of a compelling (and true) story.

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MUSIC | Gene Ween digs deep and delights fans at the Triple Rock and the Turf Club

Disclaimer: Ween are my favorite band. There was pretty much no way this review was going to be negative. If you have a problem with that—and if you do, I can’t blame you—then you might want to stop reading here. With his “brother” and Ween co-founder Dean Ween occupied with nautical endeavors, Gene Ween (real name Aaron Freeman) has been keeping busy between Ween tours by playing smaller, more intimate shows on his own or with a friend or two to back him up. He pulled off his second two-night tour of the Twin Cities in about 26 months, playing sold-out shows on June 17 at the Triple Rock Social Club and on June 18 at the Turf Club, each with a capacity less than one-tenth than that of the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, where Ween has played the last two times they came to the Twin Cities. Continue Reading

A first-timer discovers African drumming and dance in downtown Minneapolis

Not knowing quite what to expect, I showed up at the Hennepin Center for the Arts on Saturday to participate in Duniya Drum and Dance’s Fakoly African Dance and Drum Workshop. Three hours later, after both a dance and drum class, I left a sweaty mess complete with a bruised ego and sore hands, but man oh man, did I have some fun along the way! I love to dance and was very excited to take this assignment. I knew right when I walked in the studio for my dance class that I was not prepared for what was about to happen. All of the other participants were in dance clothes or sweatpants. Continue Reading

MUSIC | Cut Copy at First Avenue: 2011’s show to beat

Life must be pretty good right now for Cut Copy. The Australian synthpop outfit have played in a bigger venue each time they’ve visited the Twin Cities, and they were recently named as one of the top acts at this summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival. On April 9, they stopped through First Avenue in support of their third album, Zonoscope, which was released by Modular Recordings earlier this year.

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World’s Toughest Rodeo at the Xcel Energy Center: Say your prayers, Clovis Crane

It took me all of one-tenth of a second to say “Yes, please!” when presented with an opportunity to cover a rodeo in the middle of winter. Having once been to the local Hamel Rodeo, I was interested to see whether the bigger, badder, nationally-touring World’s Toughest Rodeo would live up to its name. I saddled up with a riding partner and headed down to the Xcel Energy Center on Friday night to see what all the fuss was about.

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MUSIC | Pauly D, “Rhode Island’s most well-known DJ,” shuts up and doesn’t dance

MTV’s Jersey Shore is a very polarizing show. There doesn’t seem to be much gray area between love and hate when it comes to this Italian-flavored, loud-mouthed, mostly-obnoxious reality television show. One of the show’s stars, Pauly D (born Paul DelVecchio), has been described as having “the mouth of a shark, the hair of a house fire, and the subtlety and class of neither.”

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MUSIC | Deadmau5 at Epic: 3,600 Mau5keteers can’t be wrong

Joel Zimmerman, who is better known as Deadmau5 (pronounced dead mouse), is arguably the most popular actively touring electronic dance music act in the world right now. His popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years behind headlining slots at festivals like Coachella, as well as a recent gig as the house DJ for MTV’s Video Music Awards. Of course both of those pale in comparison to the Snooki factor; the Jersey Shore “star” is a big fan. Still, despite Deadmau5’s recent success, I was surprised that his Wednesday night show presented by Sound in Motion at Epic sold out in advance and that people were offering $75-100 for a ticket after it sold out.

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MUSIC | Insane Clown Posse at First Avenue: From the Juggalo tree-shaking to the grand Faygo-nale

I made my best effort to go into this concert with an open mind. We’ve all heard the stories about Insane Clown Posse and their fans (known as “Juggalos”), and a lot of us have had a laugh at their expense. Recently, an interview published in The Guardian was passed around the Internet to show the rest of the world what many Juggalos already know: the rappers from Detroit are evangelical Christians. Their recent hit song, “Miracles'” has forever ruined the word “magnets,” much like Dave Chappelle ruined Rick James. Still, I was ready to write a positive review if the show called for it.

And, in fact, here is a positive review of the Insane Clown Posse show at First Avenue. I can’t believe it myself.

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