I think it is getting warmer. Is it just my imagination or an exercise in learning the meaning of the word “relative”? I will be content to be content with what I feel, even if it results in my being a typical Minnesotan and wearing shorts when the State High School Hockey Tournament comes to town. I can’t wait, though. While some of the snowbirds are getting their own dose of hockey tournament weather to our south, we have some ideas to keep us warm until Minnesota’s spring is sprung from its blanket of ice.
Coming Almanac Events
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, it is time for “Readings by Writers” again, curated and led by Almanac icon and Saint Paul Poet Laureate Carol Connolly. This month is a post-Valentine’s event that will showcase more than a few love notes from poets, essayists, and singer-songwriters. Readers will include Anna George Meek, Leslie Adrienne Miller, Martin Kihn, Mary Moore Easter, Phyllis Goldin, Wanda Brown, Lynette Reini-Grandell, and Dara Syrkin. Music by violinist Mary Scallen and flutist Jim Miller begins at 7 p.m. The reading starts at 7:30. As usual, the reading will take place at the University Club at 420 Summit Avenue. Everyone is welcome! Books will be for sale after the reading.
Influenced by artists Audre Lorde, Marvin Gaye, Last Poets, and more, Kaoz Moore describes himself as “The Love Child of James Baldwin and Lauryn Hill.” He is an educator and a hip-hop and spoken word artist and will be headlining this week’s Soul Sounds Open Mic. Kaoz will bring his lyrical style and energy mixed with wordplay and humor to the Golden Thyme Cafe on Thursday, Feb. 20. Kaoz’s jaw-dropping style has hit the big stage, where he has opened for major label acts such as Mos Def, hip-hop duo Dead Prez, MIMS, and Syleena Johnson. He says he is an artist dedicated to mobilizing communities, resurrecting The Real Hip Hop, and the “death of the ‘N’ word as an actual state of being.” Things get underway at Golden Thyme at 6 p.m. The shop is located at 921 Selby Avenue.
Literature and Readings
Right: Heid Erdrich
If you missed Heid Erdrich last time she made waves with her new book at the January Lowertown Reading Jam, you will have another chance with the latest edition of the Fireside Reading Series. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library will host Heid as she talks about her recent book, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest. Taking current interests in local food a couple of steps deeper, Original Localshows the living traditions of indigenous peoples and how, through food and life, they have always made the most of nature’s gifts. This event takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Hamline Midway Library, 1558 West Minnehaha Avenue and begins at 7 p.m.
Kids and Family
On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Minnesota History Center presents its seventh edition of The Big Wow Family Variety Show. This event has gained a reputation as a cacophony of music, dancing, comedy, stories, and songs featuring multicultural, intergenerational performers. This year’s host is Tou Ger Xiong, and he will be joined by the Café Accordion Orchestra. Serving as the backdrop will be hula hoop acrobatics, yo yo comedy, Hawaiian ukulele songs (for the all-important winter warm-up), and fun mechanical sculptures. Pre-show fun starts at 1:15 p.m. in the History Center rotunda. The show starts at 2 p.m. Registration is suggested but not required. (Follow the link above to let them know you’re coming.) The History Center is at 345 West Kellogg Boulevard. (Also continuing this weekend is History HiJinx: Black History Month at the History Center.)
Get back into some jazz on Monday, Feb. 17, as the Fantastic Merlins make their regular appearance at Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar. The Merlins will bring their “highly orchestrated passages and improvisational flights of fancy” to the Dog. The group—Nathan Hanson (saxophones), Brian Roessler (bass), and Pete Hennig (drums)—will help you feel their mix of jazz and chamber music, and put you in a film noir mood. The Black Dog is at 308 Prince Street, kitty-corner from the Farmers’ Market in Lowertown. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, you can follow the Green Line from the Black Dog to The Best Steak House for Medium Rare: Music for the Best Steak House. The Light Rail Green Line will not open until June 14, but don’t wait for the trains to test the route yourself. Thankfully, Irrigate Arts has been working to keep the stretch of street, track, and sidewalk alive with anticipation through their placemaking initiative. This is one of the many artist-driven events with the support of communities, artists, and businesses nearby. This event features Lowertown regular Todd Harper and Andrew Foreman. Pianist Harper and acoustic bassist Foreman will play dinner music spanning many genres—jazz based and full of quiet surprises. Stop by Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 860 University Avenue West. The event is free and open to the public.
Need more Jazz? On Friday, Feb. 21, the the Donald Washington Quartet will be back at the Black Dog. This month, Donald Washington brings in a lineup that includes some of our best local improvisationalists: Eric Jacobson on sousaphone, Brian Roessler on bass, and Davu Seru on drums. Washington’s gigs are an important part of the Twin Cities Jazzscape. If you haven’t seen them, be sure to check this out. They start at 8 p.m.
Art and Exhibits
Earlier this month, OBJECTS: MMAA opened at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. It is a textured, ambitious feast for the eyes that might be bigger than the mind can stomach. The exhibition engages us in the conversation of how fine artists borrow from craft traditions and craft artists move away from functional objects. With fifty artists included, some minor deconstruction might be in line. On Saturday, Feb. 22, MMAA Curator of Engagement Christina Chang will give a gallery talk and guided tour. Learn about the exhibit and hear Chang talk about some of her favorite pieces in the show. The talk takes place in the MMAA Project Space at 332 North Robert Street. The event is free and open to the public and begins at 2 p.m.
Of course, there is much more to do. I challenge anyone to do it all, but if you decide to take on the challenge, or even if you are curious about what else is going on, check out the Almanac arts calendar to keep up. See you on the town!
At top: Pianist Todd Harper and Best Steak House co-owner Mike Hatzistamoulos.