MUSIC REVIEW | Usher’s #URXTOUR elicits fun at the Xcel Energy Center

When I sit down to try to gather my thoughts to describe last night’s Usher show at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, only the most idiotic exclamations come to mind.“Wow,” “Holy Crap,” and “Awesome,” leap forth ahead of more poignant prose, and I find myself drowning in an excitement that seems to induce only the most monosyllabic of descriptors to juice out of my mind grapes.So let’s just try to get this out of the way immediately and see where we can go from here: Usher is a fantastic live act. Just great. Energetic. Vibrant. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | The Glitch Mob crush it at Myth

When I arrived at Myth in Maplewood on October 16, I was completely worn out. I was dead tired from a long day, feeling the first symptoms of a cold coming on, and finding myself more or less in a state of mind that was probably completely the opposite of what I should have had heading into The Glitch Mob show. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, slightly grumpy, and more than a little ready to be annoyed.But oh my, did that show ever kick me right out of that stupor. The Glitch Mob, The M Machine, and Chrome Sparks absolutely crushed Myth with a dynamic and energetic show from beginning to end that was more than enough to take a sickly, exhausted 30-something and send him back into the night hyped and ready to go.It’s just too bad the night they sent me back into was a Thursday.Chrome Sparks opened the show at 8 pm and instantly I was sucked into their sweet, sweet sound. Call it the onset of a fever, but my brain instantly leapt to two completely nonsensical yet unshakeable observations: First, that their sound was something like Röyksopp’s Melody A.M met a bit of the 16-bit glory days of Nobuo Uematsu, and second, (and the one that makes the least amount of sense), that if Paul Verhoeven were to have made Starship Troopers today, these guys would have been the ones playing in the background of the prom scene.I know. Nonsensical fever thought. Continue Reading

The Paradigm Symposium 2014 seeks truth and money at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis

The Paradigm Symposium, a four-day journey into the realm aliens and the paranormal, descended upon the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis this last weekend, and while the themes of the event were truth and bridging the gap between the fringe worlds of Ufology and paranormal studies with mainstream society, the theme just as easily may have been “everything you know is a lie” and “the world is out to get you.”From “black budgets” and “breakaway civilizations” to modern shamans and spirits, the Paradigm Symposium was a headfirst dive into the sort of topics that the modern History Channel would absolutely love to make programming about. The event was attended by individuals who have made frequent appearances on History’s Ancient Aliens series, such as Richard Dolan and Graham Hancock, as well Ghost Hunters International’s Barry Fitzgerald. All in all, roughly a dozen individuals, self-proclaimed experts in their fields, were on hand to give presentations and attend panels on all manner of subjects, but in the end it all boiled down to the idea that they were the keepers of a secret truth that they had unraveled a grand theme and that if you would only buy their book and listen to what they had to say, you, too, could be in on the secret.While the Paradigm Symposium’s stated purpose was to bridge the gap between the fringe and the mainstream culture, the presenters would often vacillate between an open desire to engage with the general public and be taken seriously and a total contempt for a society which they perceive to be willfully ignorant of the secret hand that guides the world and keeps them down. The entire concept of openness seemed contradictory in the face of what seemed to be going on, which was an insular community reaffirming all of their own notions without being critical of one another’s ideas at all.The cause of bridging the gap was also not terribly well served by the constant use of weasel words to constantly avoid being pinned down to a claim. You will never in your life see so many people use words like “maybe” and “possibly” with so much confidence as you would if you attended an event like this.Who would attend such a conference? Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo a must-see at the Weesner Family Amphitheater

One could not have asked for a more perfect evening for an outdoor concert than the one people enjoyed on August 13 at the Weesner Family Amphitheater as Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo brought their amazing classic rock sound to the Minnesota Zoo.Giraldo and Benatar, playing in Minnesota as part of their 35th anniversary tour, sounded incredible last night, entertaining a very energetic and engaged audience for roughly an hour and a half of almost straight blistering rock. Giraldo and Benatar fired off incredible renditions of hits such as “We Belong,” “Love is a Battlefield” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” that served as proof that the pair are still very much on top of their game after all this time,Neil Giraldo’s musical talents were on full display as he maneuvered (almost) seamlessly between unbelievable rock guitar riffs and solid and beautiful piano work, Pat Benatar’s voice is still as powerful as ever, and the pair show a chemistry on stage that can only come from the sort of connection the pair has shared for more than three decades. Benatar told a few stories here and there, bantering playfully with Giraldo over their marriage, while professing an affection for Minnesota as the place that their first daughter took her first steps. These playful moments served the show well, giving both the band and the audience a bit of a breather between what was often relentlessly ripping rock.There were a few hiccups here and there, most notably a section of “We Belong” where Giraldo’s guitar wasn’t working (the song still worked without it, but it was definitely better when that little glitch was fixed), and more of a hiccup with the band, the poor drummer had to get sprayed down with bug spray as he was being harassed by bugs all night. But, that’s a Minnesota summer for you.Also, while the crowd was lively and engaged for Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar, they were a bit rough on Tim Mahoney, the opening act. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Paul McCartney heats up Target Field on cool summer night

“Oh my God, this is actually happening.”This was the first sentence I overheard upon my arrival to Target Field on a chill, damp evening that brought the Paul McCartney experience into perspective for me. As I watched the young woman embrace her partner, her body shaking, her eyes close to tears, the idea that Paul McCartney’s arrival in Minneapolis was something larger than a simple show was driven home. Here is an individual whose body of work spans half a century, who was one quarter of arguably the most popular and influential musical act of all time, and whose fame and appeal crosses generational boundaries. Paul McCartney is one of the last true musical icons alive, an individual for whom the term “legend” is accurately applied. His stature is evidenced by the emotions felt by certain individuals, this young woman in particular, for whom the simple act of holding a ticket draws forth such powerful emotions that she felt the need to make a very loud public exclamation and to draw a loved one near.Paul McCartney’s performance at Target Field was far beyond a simple show, instead becoming an historic, almost spiritual experience for those in attendance. Continue Reading

REVIEW | Wrestlepalooza IV at First Avenue: Wrestling’s best-kept secret

The stars of Midwest independent wrestling converged on First Avenue on Saturday, June 14 for what might be local wrestling’s best-kept secret, F1RST Wrestling’s Wrestlepalooza. The event, the fourth of its kind, was sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon and spanned roughly three hours. The show brought wrestling stars such as journeyman indy superstar Colt Cabana, Arik Cannon, Ariya Daivari, and Horace the Psychopath, together with local group Banner Pilot and the burlesque stylings of Queenie Von Curves and Sweetpea, to create the well-paced variety show which has become the signature of Wrestlepalooza events. Of the wrestling action that was served up, two matches stole the show. Horace the Psychopath and Pete Huge electrified the crowd with an excellent back-and-forth brawl, while the tag team bout featuring The Northstar Express and Zero Gravity brought the crowd to a vocal frenzy with a flurry of high-flying action. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Backstreet Boys at the Xcel Energy Center: Backstreet’s back, alright!

My first thought after grabbing my tickets from will call for the Backstreet Boys at St Paul’s Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday, June 10 was simply “What the hell am I doing here?” Looking out over the crowd, and for the first time in my life I could actually look OVER them as I was taller than most of the people there, I couldn’t help but notice that I stood out like a sore thumb: a scruffy 30-something amidst a sea of women who were predominantly dressed more for a night of hitting the clubs. The feeling of being on the outside was very strong as I watched a sea of people excitedly take selfies, making damn sure to get the stage in the shot.That feeling washed away in the wake of the tremendous energy that the near-capacity crowd brought to bear last night for the Backstreet Boys. The show kicked off with an unexpected opening act: Brian Littrell’s 11-year old son, Baylee Thomas, rocked a few choice stylings like “My Girl,” Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy,” and The Jackson Five’s “Give Me One More Chance.” No knocking the youth, the kid’s got some pipes and the performance was a good way to warm up a crowd that was still slowly trickling into the arena.Avril Lavigne hit the stage next, shoving more coal into the engine of this odd little nostalgia train. She got the crowd singing along to hits like “Complicated” and, yes, “Sk8er Boi.” It was something of a humbling experience to watch Avril point the microphone to the crowd and suddenly realizing I was the only person in the entire arena who didn’t know the lyrics in the midst of a crowd of thousands all singing along.Finally, the Backstreet Boys took to the stage, and in a lot of ways it was like traveling back in time. The choreography may have been a bit more stiff and dull at moments, but all five of the guys are performers who thrive in front of a massive audience. Continue Reading

Prime Time Wrestling at Knights of Columbus in Bloomington: A clash of two worlds

I arrived at the Knights of Columbus in Bloomington on Friday, April 25 at roughly 6:40pm, twenty minutes before the advertised bell time, and already there was a line out the door, stretching into the parking lot. The line was full of kids and adults of all shapes and sizes, standing in near total silence, having small, whispered conversations within their own groups, gazing awkwardly at one another from time to time. It was an odd scene to step into, a confusing sense of discomfort hung in the air, a discomfort which tends to hang at these events before the show, but which evaporates when the bell rings. Continue Reading

REVIEW | Wrestlepalooza III brings the best kind of bizarre to First Avenue

Friday, March 14th’s Wrestlepalooza event, the third of its kind, saw three distinct Minnesota scenes converge on historic First Avenue for a rare and amazing variety show which provided an experience like no other.The event, which drew roughly 500 attendees in a mostly standing-room-only crowd, was sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. The sponsorship was made incredibly obvious by the overwhelming amount of PBR signage, merch, and even a PBR photo booth in case you were one of the only individuals in Minneapolis who didn’t have a photo with you and a Pabst floating around on the internet somewhere already.Combining the musical talents of Iowa’s Lipstick Homicide and Minneapolis’ own Bloodnstuff, the burlesque stylings of Queenie Von Curves and Sweetpea, and the over-the-top wrestling antics of local stars such as Arik Cannon, Ariya Daivari, Wildcat, and Horace the Psychopath, Wrestlepalooza III was a showcase of the bizarre in the very best way.The evening was all about fun from top to bottom—no moment took itself too seriously. Case in point: The opening match was an extension of the epic and timeless battle of cats versus dogs, as Wildcat took on Yellowdog in a delightful farce which featured a chew toy, a ball of yarn, and alternating crowd chants of “woof” and “meow.”Intense, almost overwhelming action was the theme of the evening, with high-spots galore as the wrestlers constantly sought to outdo one another. The high-flying antics were non-stop as the likes of CJ Esparza and Yellowdog took risk after ridiculous risk in an effort to bring the crowd to their feet, an effort which was not in vain as the energetic crowd was vocal and engaged in every match. Of course, the $4 Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys probably had a bit to do with that enthusiasm as well.The music and burlesque performances were brilliant means of breaking up the wrestling card, creating a variety-show atmosphere which recalled hints of wrestling’s carnival attraction roots. Bloodnstuff and Lipstick Homicide were interesting counterpoints, with Lipstick Homicide providing a rather pop-punk sound akin to the likes of Green Day and NOFX, with possibly even hints of The Pillows, while Bloodnstuff’s instrumental work seemed like something which would accompany a modern zombie horror flick, while their vocalized jams had musical similarities that would be better left to someone more musically versed to identify.While the night ended rather abruptly with no announced main event and the frontman of Bloodnstuff simply declaring that the final song would be “the last thing happening tonight,” it was overall a brilliant and distinctly Minnesotan event, with the only downside being that it happens but once a year.Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Continue Reading