MUSIC REVIEW | Joe Pug, Malamanya and Erik Koskinen on Real Phonic Radio at the Hill Library

This month was an eclectic lineup for the monthly Real Phonic Radio performed at the James J Hill Library with some Cuban salsa, folky Americana, alternative country and a little poetry thrown in for good measure.Joe Pug headlined the show. He plays guitar and harmonica and sings like a non-whiny Bob Dylan. His voice or maybe the way he sings is imploring and almost urgent, especially in a song like “I am the Day I am the Dawn.” The guitar playing is a much gentler, easier steady plucking.His songs are stories that seem much older than he is. Even a song like “I do my Father’s Drugs” seems like the song of an older generation or an earlier time. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera showcases the magic in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”

To call the Minnesota Opera’s current production of The Magic Flute “a reimagining” would be a gross understatement and a disservice. “Outstanding” would be a better word, “revelatory” another, and “hopeful” maybe the best yet. A friend working on the production told me that at the final dress rehearsal last Friday a huge crowd of students “screamed at the end like it had been a One Direction concert.” I think Mozart would have been very proud to see this production, even if he wouldn’t know who Harry Stiles is.For the last decade when I’ve told my twenty-something friends that I attend the opera on a regular basis they’ve either assumed I was kidding or been completely confused. I don’t speak the languages they’re written in and I am not a member of AARP—what could I possibly be doing there? Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Loud at the Library with the Cactus Blossoms

I feel like I may be becoming an expert on library concerts. I always enjoy the monthly Real Phonic Radio at the James J Hill Reference Library and Thursday night I enjoyed my first Loud at the Library concert with the Cactus Blossoms at the Hill Library.Loud at the Library is a fundraiser for the Friends of the St Paul Library. The evening included a music trivia, a cash bar and a band. It’s funny what a different feel the Loud at the Library concert has compared to the Real Phonic Radio; both events are fun. Real Phonic Radio is produced by musicians. Continue Reading

REVIEW | Morgan Thorson’s “YOU” officially opens the Bedlam Lowertown space

As Sheila Regan reported at the beginning of this month, Bedlam has had access to the space in Lowertown Saint Paul directly across from the Union Depot for almost two years. The slow renovation process she describes is ostensibly almost finished (to wit, the paint and floor were off-gassing this evening, as part of the festive atmosphere). With Morgan Thorsonn’s dance production YOU, the space is officially open for business and there will be more soft openings as they add a bar and full kitchen to complement the performance space.Bedlam’s offerings always embody the independent spirit of their mission. The theater space is extremely flexible with all variations of seating available to fill the wide-open space – seating plan on demand. For this show, the seating was layered with the front row of low slatted, just-off-the floor seating supplied the beach-chair feeling. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | You really don’t want to meet the Dicks at Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America

I’m not one to cry. Truth is, I rarely cry, but during a visit to Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America I was literally reduced to tears! The bartender was abusive, abrasive, and mean as HELL. I wasn’t sure why he was in a bad mood, but later found out that it is their “niche” to be mean as spitfire. Were they really trained to treat people like this, to the point of harassment? Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Real Phonic Radio: Honey Honey and Brandon Sampson

I heard three kinds of country at Real Phonic Radio this month: steamy, wholesome and bluesy – in that order. The night capped off with some bluesy country with Honey Honey. Not all of their music was bluesy but it’s what distinguished it from the other bands tonight. Honey Honey is a band out of Nashville featuring Suzanne Santo (vocals/banjo/violin) and Ben Jaffe (vocals/guitar). They’re young and personable on stage. Continue Reading

B.J. Novak In Conversation with Kerri Miller at the Fitzgerald Theater: What happens when Hollywood comes to Minnesota

The crowd wasn’t large but it was palpably excited to see B.J. Novak In Conversation with Kerri Miller at the Fitzgerald Theater on Wednesday, February 26. I loved Novak’s newly released first book of shorts called One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and was prepared for an evening of mutual admiration. Novak tweeted earlier in the day about being excited to perform “in the shadow of Garrison Keillor” and walked out in a blazer and jeans, delightfully similar to what Miller was wearing. I wrote down “adorable and respectable” of Novak, and that’s about where my comfort with the evening ended.First, know that Novak’s book is very sharp—the stories, while hilariously funny at times, are frequently unsettling and embedded with the small moments of dissatisfaction in life. He even includes discussion questions at certain points for good measure. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Erik Koskinen record release and Chastity Brown at Real Phonic Radio

Real Phonic Radio on a Saturday night? Something must be special – like the record release of Real Phonic Radio member Erik Koskinen. Or a boatload of snow on ice of the third Thursday of the month. Or a little bit of both. Either way the show was worth the wait, battling the Crashed Ice traffic and an inch of ice on every road in St Paul!As my nine year old (Aine) is quick to point out whenever we go to a record release of a favorite band: these songs aren’t new. Continue Reading

Winter in the Twin Cities: Outdoor fun

The Christmas tree, lights, and tinsel may be put away, but Jack Frost is here to stay…for a while. The early arrival of frigid sub-zero temperatures this season have made parts of December feel a lot like January. But no, we’ve only just begun, folks.Maybe the old saying, if you can’t beat it, join it is the best mindset to adopt when battling winter blues and cabin fever. Why not add a bit of outdoor winter fun to your fitness and social routine? Bundle up and try something new!Below we’ve compiled a few outdoor winter activities in the Twin Cities (and beyond), from cross-country skiing and ice skating, to winter festivals and sled rallies, that provide an incentive to get out in natural light and engage the snowy landscape. Continue Reading