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  • I PULLED UP TO THE CURB OUTSIDE A NONDESCRIPT OFFICE building around 1:15 a.m., happy to have found parking within a quarter-mile of Paisley Park. Just in front of me a couple of young men slithered out of a rusty station wagon, one of them clutching a bottle of bottom-shelf whiskey. "Hey, hold up, we'll walk with you!" called one of the flannel-bedecked dudes as I tried to hustle past. I'd hoped I could get by with just a friendly nod, but no such luck. We were all in this lonely expanse of Cha…
  • First Avenue is abuzz with an uncertain energy. It’s the annual Low Christmas show, traditionally a loose, celebratory showcase for the venerable Duluth indie legends and a selection of their talented friends from the Minnesota scene. Hippo Campus has just gotten the crowd amped up with a sneak-preview of material from their forthcoming album, and the headliners are right around the corner. Next up, however, is something called Ambassadors, an apparent local supergroup that few people in the a…
  • I PULLED UP TO THE CURB OUTSIDE A NONDESCRIPT OFFICE building around 1:15 a.m., happy to have found parking within a quarter-mile of Paisley Park. Just in front of me a couple of young men slithered out of a rusty station wagon, one of them clutching a bottle of bottom-shelf whiskey. "Hey, hold up, we'll walk with you!" called one of the flannel-bedecked dudes as I tried to hustle past. I'd hoped I could get by with just a friendly nod, but no such luck. We were all in this lonely expanse of Cha…
  • About two-thirds of the way through 1984’s aerobics-instructor-turned-unkillable-assassin epic, Ninja III, the small crowd in theater six at Mall of America breaks into applause. They’re not excited about one of the film’s many improbable low-budget stunts or inscrutable lines of dialogue. No, they’re excited about the appearance of veteran character actor James Hong. The average moviegoer might know Hong as Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China, the Chinese restaurant host from Seinfe…
  • About two-thirds of the way through 1984’s aerobics-instructor-turned-unkillable-assassin epic, Ninja III, the small crowd in theater six at Mall of America breaks into applause. They’re not excited about one of the film’s many improbable low-budget stunts or inscrutable lines of dialogue. No, they’re excited about the appearance of veteran character actor James Hong. The average moviegoer might know Hong as Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China, the Chinese restaurant host from Seinfe…
  • “ALL OF THIS COULD JUST BE A MASSIVE FAILURE, one never knows,” Alec Soth shrugs, his slim frame curled into a Thinker pose as he rests in a swivel chair in the converted garage space that serves as his studio and office. He’s speaking about the Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers, a recent arts workshop held at Little Brown Mushroom, the Saint Paul publishing house Soth co-founded. His “take it as it comes” attitude is fitting to the project, as Soth and his fellow instructo…
  • LET’S SET ASIDE FOR A MOMENT THE DEBATE on whether or not Venus DeMars and Lynette Reini-Grandell are professional artists. For one thing, the details and ramifications of the couple’s battle with the Minnesota Department of Revenue have been covered thoroughly in both local and national forums, and this piece is unlikely to bring any new facts to light. It seems more important, now, to focus on their work. Whenever an artist becomes a cause célèbre, there’s a real danger of the cause ec…
  • I PULLED UP TO THE CURB OUTSIDE A NONDESCRIPT OFFICE building around 1:15 a.m., happy to have found parking within a quarter-mile of Paisley Park. Just in front of me a couple of young men slithered out of a rusty station wagon, one of them clutching a bottle of bottom-shelf whiskey. "Hey, hold up, we'll walk with you!" called one of the flannel-bedecked dudes as I tried to hustle past. I'd hoped I could get by with just a friendly nod, but no such luck. We were all in this lonely expanse of Cha…
  • THERE'S NO MISTAKING THE EMOTION in Ben Koch's voice when he talks about The Warehouse, an all-ages, alcohol-free music club that's been a staple of La Crosse, Wisconsin’s youth culture for more than two decades. "My first show was in '92, when I was 12. My most recent show was last week,” says Koch, a longtime Warehouse volunteer and arts activist. “I started helping out around the Warehouse when I was 15, selling soft drinks at the bar, helping the bands load gear, whatever needed to be…
  • I'm nervous about Turf Club. The venerable Saint Paul music club has been closed for renovation for a couple of months now, with a re-opening slated for August 28. For Midway residents like myself, the club’s absence has made for an unsettlingly quiet summer on the local music scene. In the five years I've lived here, I've grown accustomed to strolling up University Avenue to catch a set at Turf Club at least two or three times a month, and often more frequently. Even when I don't know any of…