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Live Music Isn’t Quite Dead Yet
You’re not gonna find a lot of pro-COVID voices over here at Racket. We’ve been pretty clear from the start that this thing is Not Good. And in addition to the death, long-term disability, and social upheaval it’s causing, it’s still taking its toll on local culture too. If you scroll on down to this week’s listings (I’ll wait up here for you to get back) you’ll notice fewer shows than you might expect. Partly that’s just a seasonal lull—it always takes venues a few weeks to ramp back up in the new year. But the spread of the Omicron variant, with Minnesota’s infection rate hitting a record 15.6% today, has also led to a series of postponements and cancellations, even pushing First Ave’s treasured Best New Bands showcase to March 4. While this might give you uneasy flashbacks to the full shutdowns of 2021, the idea is that a momentary pause might be enough to keep more drastic measures at bay. Let’s all hope this will “flatten the curve,” as we used to say in the early pandemic days. Many shows are still happening, but if you do go out, double check to guard against last-minute cancellations.
RIP Alan Jesperson, godfather of Twin Cities bluegrass
If you know Twin Cities bluegrass, you know Alan Jesperson. A mainstay of the scene since forming the Middle Spunk Creek Boys in the late ’60s, he hosted a long-running show on KFAI, booked bluegrass at Dulono’s for years, and organized the annual Labor Day weekend Laughing Waters Festival at Minnehaha Park. This week, it was reported that Alan Jesperson died, age 74, of natural causes on December 30, 2021. Jon Bream has a nice obituary for Jesperson over at the Strib to round out the story for ya. And if Jesperson’s name sounds familiar to the non-rootsily-inclined, that’s because you know of his brother, Peter, who nurtured Minneapolis music as Twin/Tone Records co-founder and Replacements manager. Neat detail from Bream’s obit: Peter J. rented the mandolin that Paul Westerburg played on “I Will Dare” from brother Alan’s bandmate in the Boys.
Residen-Season Soldiers on
The rise of winter music residencies seemed like a nice new little tradition to ease us through the dark and frigid months, but these showcases, like a whole lot else, have been endangered by our old friend SARS-CoV-2. Andrew Broder has cancelled two of his planned residency shows (though he’s still on board for the latter two), and Kiss the Tiger has postponed their weekly series of rock ‘n’ spoken word performances, Stone Baby, till March. But rest easy, fans of musical regularity: Charlie Parr and the Cactus Blossoms are still residencing away (on Sundays and Mondays, respectively) at the Turf Club. The latter, who have a new album, One Day out next month, just released a video for one of its tracks, “Everybody,” which features vocal assistance from the great. As Stereogum put it, “A lot of cool people seem to be very impressed with the Cactus Blossoms.”
It’s Never Too Late for an Record Release Show
Annie Mack’s Testify EP came out almost a full year ago. But, as you may remember, last January the live music scene was shut down for real. So the Minneapolis-born, Rochester-based bluesy, gospel-tinged singer will be at the Dakota tonight to belatedly celebrate her recording’s birth. What is time anymore anyway? (Without looking, tell me what year it is. See?) A lovely rootsy recording, Testify was cut during the pandemic, with great playing from drummer Noah Levy, bassist Aaron Fabbrini, and guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker and vocal support from Tonia Hughes and Sara Renner. If you haven’t listened yet, you still can. That’s the great thing about recordings. You can listen to ’em years after they’re made. You can even buy the EP here.
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