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On ‘Dead Flowers,’ Romantica’s magic — and zydeco in the afternoon

The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” (cut from “Sticky Fingers”).


A few of my favorite things from the week that was:

The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” (cut from “Sticky Fingers”).
It was a weekend of outdoor gigs and block parties and campfires, and, given the sublime weather and all-around last-gasps-of-summer desperation, I’m betting there were more than a few spirits-fueled versions of this G-D-A classic sung on porches and stoops all over the state. Take me down …

Romantica, “St. Paul City Lights” (Sept. 15, Café Barbette). There’s a moment in every good bar gig when the room tilts and transforms into a funhouse barrel or careening boat deck, and the music, people, drinks and conversation all coalesce into one magical cinematic scene. There were many such life slices in this two-set evening with Romantica, who someday soon will be mentioned in the same pantheon of song-oriented bands as the Waterboys and Wallflowers.

The day had brought the news of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the political discussion had devolved into white-versus-black noise, and inside a yuppie bar in Minneapolis to a packed house of moneyed young men and women, Ben Kyle, the young father, husband, and troubadour, sang this ode to a working-class bar in St. Paul (chorus, I think: “Everybody’s down at the Turf Club”) and all the people he loves and summons in song. Nothing short of heart-shaping.

Joshua McDermott, “The Science of Music” (Sept. 16, Bryant-Lake Bowl).
Presented by the Bell Museum of Natural History, this latest installment of the BLB’s Café Scientifique happy hour was the sort of mind-expanding trip that only happens in classrooms, lecture halls, and opium dens. More on all that later. Much more.

The Diamond Lake Ramblers “Amaze Me” (Annunciation Septemberfest, Sunday).
In a Midwestern Catholic school  parking lot under a tent, three latter-day church ladies gave new life to this sweet Girlyman tune, and new context to the lyrics, written in 2001 in the days following 9/11: “Amaze me, America/Save me from Armageddon/High road to heaven.”

Peter Jesperson, liner notes The Replacements, “All Shook Down” (Rhino Records reissue, in stores Tuesday). The band’s manager/producer/mentor/archivist puts it down once and for all, in an essay worthy of inclusion in the Minnesota Historical Society. The conclusion:

“To borrow a line from distinguished music journalist David Fricke (describing ‘Mats brethren Faces), The Replacements were purveyors of a sort of ‘happy, roaring imprecision.’ With their anything-goes-as-long-as-it’s-great-or-funny-or-both-philosophy, through songs that affected so many people so deeply, they invented a style, a way of being oneself with no apology that is still present in music today. Bless their stinkin’ hearts … goddamn, they were a great rock ‘n’ roll band!”

Hennepin Avenue after midnight (Minneapolis, Saturday night/Sunday morning). “This city has no grit,” lamented a table of bored night-lifers at the 112 Eatery around midnight the other night. Meanwhile, the best people-watching party and more was taking place not two blocks away, with mounted police looking on bemusedly at a parade of characters lit up by the moonlight and the urge to merge.

The Rockin’ Pinecones (Annunciation Septemberfest, Sunday). In which Minneapolis’s finest zydeco outfit  turned a sunny afternoon in the construction war zones of Lutheran Valley into a slice of beer-at-noon Mardi Gras (aka heaven).

Fifth Element (2411 Hennepin, Minneapolis). When this hip-hop hub opened almost a decade ago, it catered almost exclusively to the Twin Cities nascent underground scene. These days, I hear story after story of parents going in there with their kids and running into Slug or Brother Ali or one of the other members of the Rhymesayer royal family, and having a quick chat with a hero. I had a similar experience last week, as my son and I were in browsing the vinyl and shirts, and the dude behind the counter regaled us with copies of Frank, a beautiful collectible ‘zine. Thanks, guys.

Dan Wilson, “Free Life” video (from the Parkway Theater RNC hootenanny, Sept. 4). I already wrote about this here, and now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can see and hear it all over again below. Keep in mind that, as he plays and his intensity rises, the opener for his set was John McCain’s acceptance speech, blared over the Parkway big screen.

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