I got off the plane from Havana around 7 p.m. Sunday into the blessed cool of the Minnesota late spring. Immediately: A stream of conversations.
Everyone wanted to know: “What was it like? What happened? What did you see?”
My responses were easy: “It was amazing, intense. It was an honor to go. It was fascinating. You should see my pictures.”
I am telling the truth, but deep down I am still processing what just happened. To go to Cuba at this exact moment, when everything is in flux, with an orchestra that is recovering from what was arguably a near-death experience during an agonizing labor dispute is a lot to take in.
Euan Kerr’s recap of the Minnesota Orchestra’s recent trip to Havana – in which the ensemble became the first professional U.S. orchestra since 1999 to play in Cuba – struck a chord with us for a lot of reasons, even if its ties to First Avenue aren’t immediately obvious…
Take, for one, what would have been lost (here and in the world) had another of the Twin Cities musical landmarks not been brought back from the brink in time.
Broadly the orchestra exchange was a profound, touching testament to the far-reaching effects of Minnesota’s commitment to transcendence-via-music, both for those here in the North and those on the other end of the line.
In the end it reminded us of so many reasons we’re proud to call the Twin Cities home.
Lori Barbero is Minnesota’s Rock n’ Roll Princess. A raw and gritty drummer, she cofounded the legendary Minneapolis punk-rock band Babes in Toyland—the seminal all-girl group that paved the way in the 1990s for other important female rock acts: Bikini Kill, Hole, and L7 to name a few.
Like all fairy tale princesses, Barbero has had quite an adventurous journey. She moved to Austin, Texas, to start a record label (the late Spanish Fly Records), bartended, and worked as a DJ. Now back in Minneapolis, she’s poised to begin the next chapter. After a 12-year hiatus, Barbero and her two Babes bandmates, Maureen Herman and Kat Bjelland, have reunited with a new album and a world tour.
Robyne Robinson, arts and culture director for the Airport Foundation MSP, recently caught up with Barbero preflight (she and the Babes are off to the United Kingdom and Europe later this month) to get her take on music, Minnesota, and travel. Here’s what they drummed up.
RR: What are your favorite Minnesota music haunts?
Whitenoise is a Minneapolis band consisting of Jeff Dreblow, Travis Thorp, Brett Bjornrud, and Seth Conover. Grand Courriers began in February 2014 with their release of well received debut track, "Rejoice." Comprised of Minnesota natives, Donald Christiaan Lawson IV and Brady Lundy, Grand Courriers' use of warm brass woven in and out of their cinematic indie rock garnered attention from media such as NME, Line Of Best Fit, and HillyDilly. Lastly, the Minneapolis based indie/folk outfit with roots stemmed from the cold pines of northern Minnesota, Laulu will take the stage Wednesday night.
The Hand consists of Zak Sally, Shawn Walker (Gay Witch Abortion), and Dale Flattum (Steel Pole Bathtub). Paul Erickson (Hammerhead, Vaz) and Adam Marx (Arctic Universe, Seawhores) combine to form Jet Legs. While American Cream is has been described as drone, noise-rock, improvisation, kraut, ambient, experimental, 21st Century Dance, and Progressive.
Fury Things are a trio from Minneapolis, Minnesota, made up of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Werstein, bassist Devon Bryant, and drummer Andrew Carson. Werstein writes compelling lyrics and shreds fuzzy guitar solos while sharing the melody with Bryants bass. Carson slams on cymbals higher than his head and has broken too many drumsticks to count. Together theyre making fast, loud rock music reminiscent of Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr. and fellow-Minneapolitans Hüsker Dü. "Fragmented World" – the debut album from Split Single is a new project formed with fellow travelers Britt Daniel (Spoon, Divine Fits) on bass and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Mountain Goats, Bob Mould, Ben Gibbard, Robert Pollard), Split Single proves equal parts solo project and collective.
Sounds like: Divine Fits, Portastatic, Spoon, Superchunk, Bob Mould
Indie rock band The Damnwells came together 15 years ago in a downtown New York City storage unit hastily repurposed as a rehearsal room and imploded onstage at what should have been a career pinnacle: a live appearance to promote the release of a documentary about the band and its journey. Now, for the first time since 2006, the founding members have reconvened to release the band's most definitive album, appropriately titled, The Damnwells. "This album represents us rummaging through the debris and reclaiming who we are as a band and as a brotherhood," says primary songwriter, founder, and vocalist/guitarist Alex Dezen.
Sounds like: Butch Walker, Rhett Miller, Stephen Kellogg, Pete Yorn, Will Hoge
Actual Wolf's Sundays in May Clown Lounge residency continues. This week's special guest is singer/songwriter Robert Skoro, who will perform a full set of his own following an solo (aka #LoneWolf) set from Actual Wolf frontman Eric Pollard. Doors for the Clown Lounge show open at 8pm, but the free movie screening on the Turf Club's main floor will start at 7pm. This week's selection is director Dennis Hopper's 1969 counter-culture landmark, Easy Rider.
Monday night will feature a plethora of bands at the Turf club. Holy Wave is a band of multi-instrumentalists from Austin, TX. The band's sound has evolved into a unique blend of sun baked surf-psychedelia. Chui Wan is a four-piece experimental psychedelic rock band from Beijing, China. They get their name from Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi's "Qi Wu Lun" (齐物论), a mystical work on the relationship between nature and human life. Flavor Crystals are a four piece space rock based in Minneapolis, MN. Since releasing their debut album On Plastic (mpls ltd 2005), Flavor Crystals have continued to create engagingly floaty psych rock. Magic Castles are a five-piece psychedelic rock band from Minneapolis MN. Their sound has been described as minimalistic, dream pop & neo-psychedelic rock. Drawing from a myriad of influences, combining the hazy, "floaty" atmospherics of bands like Spacemen 3 and Galaxie 500, with the organ-drenched psych of the mid/late 60's--particularly American west coast folk-rock, Magic Castles continue to create an altogether unique sound.