MUSIC REVIEW | George Strait at the Xcel Energy Center: A straight-up legend

After 30 years of touring, releasing award-winning albums and racking up the most number one singles of any artist ever (not just in the country genre), George Strait is hanging up his cowboy hat. No worries; the 60-year-old Texan, affectionately referred to as “King George,” still plans to release new music. But his boots are getting worn out and the cowboy is riding away; Strait made his final Minnesota stop last night at the Xcel Center. Strait is a straight-up legend, no ” buts” about it. He remains one of the most influential, respected and referenced working musicians in country music today. Continue Reading

REVIEW | World’s Toughest Rodeo at the Xcel Energy Center: Horses, bulls, and some really dumb sheep

Kara Nesvig: OK, Marcus. This was year two of the two of us (plus my trusty sidekick brother Dylan and your friend Lindsay) hitting up the World’s Toughest Rodeo at the Xcel Center. I was excited because I could actually say, “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!” and mean it.
 Marcus Michalik: You would have thought we’d retain some knowledge of rodeo scoring from the year before, but I think we were both confused as ever. I tried to look up how they do it on my phone at one point but that ended up just confusing me more. Did you know that half the score is given to the animal? Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | WE Fest Country Music Festival at Soo Pass Ranch: Singing and partying in the rain

When you go to WE Fest during a thunderstorm watch, you will find yourself watching the looming clouds above the Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, Minn., and wondering when they’re going to unleash a torrent of rain. You will watch a few minutes of a fledgling young buck country singer, Brantley Gilbert, as he wraps up his set. As you watch the hordes of people, young and old, and observe license plates from Montana and Iowa alike, you will agree with his song: Country must be country-wide. And everyone is gathered in the heart of lake country to celebrate.

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STYLE | Ann Taylor broadens its appeal with a fresh new look for Mall of America store

If you told me one year ago that I’d be shopping at Ann Taylor, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Me, shopping in that stalwart work-a-day ladyland? I don’t think so. Well, I’m eating my words now after taking a tour of the newly redesigned Ann Taylor space in Mall of America (MOA), which had its grand opening Saturday, June 2. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to buy things at an Ann Taylor. Continue Reading

MUSIC | Miranda Lambert at Target Center: The new Queen of Country

Miranda Lambert presents herself as a country “bad girl,” a chick with a pistol tucked away in her jeans, a flask of whiskey in the glove box of her car, and a broken heart seeking revenge against those good-for-nothing cowboys who’ve done her wrong. Where Taylor Swift simpers sweetly and Carrie Underwood yowls like a 2-D pop star in sparkly minidresses, denim-clad Lambert speaks her mind, tells us all to go to hell and then pleads for us to come back. She’s a modern day Loretta Lynn, a country star in the old-school vein without the slick of pop polish. She may have shacked up and settled down with her own Conway Twitty—The Voice judge and fellow country star Blake Shelton—but those edges are always gonna be a little rough.

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MOVIES | Michelle Williams enchants in “My Week With Marilyn”

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I am, and have been for quite some time, a Marilyn Monroe superfan. I’ve read almost every biography, have watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Misfits about 7,000 times, may or may not have been slightly influenced to bleach my honey blonde hair to platinum because of her…I could go on and on. (I even had a cardboard Marilyn once upon a time.) I have very strong opinions on movie Marilyns (and worse, TV movie Marilyns), so to answer your question, the one I know is burning inside of you as it was for me: Yes, Michelle Williams does a very good job playing Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.She’s not perfect. No teeny-tiny Brooklyn-based actress waif with a pixie cut could quite fill out the swells and swoops and swishy hips that were the trademarks of Monroe. But there’s padding for that. Continue Reading

MOVIES | “The Muppets”: It was wonderful! It was great! Well, it was pretty good. It could have been a lot better. It was bad. It was terrible! Take ’em away! Booooo!

I really, really wanted to love The Muppets. It sounded so promising: new songs by one of the dudes from Flight of the Conchords, Jason Segel, Amy Adams, the beloved Muppet gang…what doesn’t sound magical about that? But if I’m being 100% honest with myself and with you, dear readers, I didn’t love it.It’s not the Muppets’ fault. The Muppets are great. They haven’t changed in 30 years, and that’s a good thing. Kermit, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and the rest of ‘em may have different puppeteers’ hands up their torsos, but they remain quite similar to the Muppets who took the world by storm in the 70s. Continue Reading

MUSIC | WE Fest Saturday: Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, and rattling port-a-potties

DETROIT LAKES, MINNESOTA—Day two of my WE Fest adventure began with former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker, who made a seamless transition from 90s favorite to country star; seriously, every other song on country radio seems to be by Rucker. The crowd was already raring to go by his early evening performance, judging from all the girls falling over into the dirt that I saw upon entrance to the Soo Pass. Rucker, in a purple t-shirt and baseball cap (not the kickers and cowboy hat his contemporaries favor), swept through his repertoire and included a couple Hootie jams too, much to the delight of his audience. But my favorite part? Rucker’s rollicking cover of a Nesvig family favorite, Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition.”Post-Rucker, I visited a WE Fest campground. Continue Reading

MUSIC | WE Fest Friday: Sugarland, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, and leathery tans aplenty

DETROIT LAKES, MINNESOTA, August 6—If you’re from the Midwest and you haven’t experienced WE Fest yet, what are you waiting for? It’s your duty as an American citizen!Well, okay, that may be a bit of a stretch. But each year, thousands of folks from all over the nation gather together in Detroit Lakes (about three and a half hours north of the Twin Cities) for three August days of camping, beer drinking, and good ol’ country music. (I’m not kidding; I met people from Montana, Florida, and even Ireland.)The Fest, which began 29 years ago, takes place at the sprawling Soo Pass Ranch right outside of Detroit Lakes, a relatively small lakeside town. Through the years, such massive country stars as Alabama, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, and Tim McGraw have taken the stage, and the festival continues to attract the biggest names in the business.Though I have a history in the Detroit Lakes area, I’d never been through the gates of the Soo Pass before. Continue Reading