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St. Paul music club Vieux Carré to close; ‘Magnificent Desolation’ sci-fi series at the Trylon

ALSO: Flying Foot Forum’s “Heaven” to open at Park Square; Print Matters 2019 at Hook and Ladder; and more.

New Orleans clarinetist Evan Christopher
New Orleans clarinetist Evan Christopher performing at Vieux Carré in November 2018.
MinnPost photo by John Whiting

The Dakota’s media release arrived late Friday afternoon. It was short but not sweet.

We have decided to close Vieux Carré.

We’ll keep operations in place until after the Twin Cities Jazz Festival at the end of June.

This was a very difficult decision for many reasons, but after five years, we have not been able to establish the level of consistent business needed to justify its continuation.

We want to thank everyone who has contributed their time, energy, and art to make Vieux Carré the comfortable, welcoming space it is. This includes our great staff and patrons as well as the wonderful musicians whose talent has been a part of Vieux Carré. Thank you.

Owned and operated by the same people who run the Dakota in Minneapolis, Vieux Carré opened in the Artist Quarter’s former home in July 2015, a year and a half after the AQ closed on New Year’s Eve 2013. The intimate space in the basement of the historic Hamm Building in St. Paul seems made for a jazz club. There’s a big bar and a grand piano, high-enough ceilings and good sight lines. The Dakota spiffed it up, built a kitchen, gave the place a New Orleans sheen, brought in New Orleans musicians and some national acts, and booked many locals. Vieux Carré dubbed itself a “speakeasy.”

In October 2014, the Park Square Theatre opened its new Andy Boss Thrust Stage down the hall. So there was foot traffic. In March 2017, the Palace Theatre reopened across West 7th Place, the pedestrian mall that fronts Vieux Carré’s main entrance. So there were finally crowds in the area, people who might want to catch a drink at the club before or after a show at the Palace and return another time for an evening, once they had seen the place.

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Meritage is right upstairs; Great Waters closed last November but the Loon, a downtown Minneapolis stalwart, will move in soon. And while parking is bad, it’s not quite as bad as people think. There’s a large parking ramp down the block in Treasure Island Center, formerly Macy’s, where rates are usually reasonable, except when they aren’t.

Over the weekend, people weighed in on a Facebook posting of the media release. Many blamed the lack of parking; some discussed the saturation of the local artists who played there and other places around town. One musician observed, “It’s not primarily the club’s fault, or the artists’ fault, or the audiences’ fault. We’re looking at a compound fracture here. I would put lack of community/communication as a top problem. I’m terribly sad that this community can’t support a full-time jazz club that has an acoustic piano.”

Speaking of the piano, what will happen to it? When the AQ moved out and the Dakota moved in, they kept the AQ’s grand piano. There’s a lot of history in that instrument.

The media release said that operations would continue until after the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Jazz Fest’s last night is June 22. The final performance that night at Vieux Carré is a Jazz Fest Jam Session hosted by Jon Weber.

Vieux Carré’s schedule up until then is a mix of music styles; like the Dakota, it hasn’t been a full-time jazz club for quite some time. But these are the jazz shows you’ll want to book or plan for now, in case Vieux Carré, like the Artists’ Quarter, draws the kind of crowds in its final days that would have kept it open, if only they had showed up before.

Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8: Anthony Cox, Dave King and Brandon Wozniak: Acoustic Deathwish. A new band of three bada**es, Acoustic Deathwish played its first show at Crooners in May. Wednesday, June 12: Louis Armstrong Night with the Southside Aces Big Five. Wednesday, June 19: Marquis Hill Blacktet. We saw trumpeter Hill play at the AQ ages ago, when he was just a kid. In 2014, he won the Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition. June 20-22 will be given over to Jazz Fest related gigs – Weber’s jam sessions, the Omar Abdulkarim Quintet, Weber with Connie Evingson, the Jazz Central All Stars, the Explosion Big Band.

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The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, June 4) at Jazz Central Studios: Bill Simenson Orchestra 7th Anniversary. This 17-piece big band has performed the first Tuesday of every month for seven years, playing trumpeter Simenson’s original compositions. Imagine the logistics (and the commitment) of bringing 17 musicians together 12 times a year for 7 years. And making an album. “Big Alpaca,” the band’s debut recording, came out in 2017 and it’s awfully good. 8:30-10:30 p.m. FMI ($10 at the door, $5 with student ID).

“Forbidden Planet”
“Forbidden Planet” is the classic 1956 technicolor doozy starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen.
Tonight at the Trylon: “Forbidden Planet.” How will you celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, that incredible human achievement that took place so long ago it might as well be science fiction? You can go to the Bell Museum (see below). And you can go to the Trylon, where a summer-long series called “Magnificent Desolation” will feature 25 science-fiction films, from documentary to adventure, drama and horror. “Forbidden Planet” is the classic 1956 technicolor doozy starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen (“and introducing Robby the Robot”). Here’s a look at all the films. Note they’re screening the original “Solaris.” And that “2001: A Space Odyssey” will actually be shown at the Heights. And that you can see “Alien” one night, “Aliens” the next. FMI and tickets.

Tomorrow at the Bell Museum: Many Moons. In honor of the moon landing’s 50th, the Bell hung a giant moon from its lobby ceiling. You really ought to see it before it goes away (last day: June 9). And you really, really ought to see it at night. Lit from within, it’s incredibly detailed and totally captivating. You know it’s just a big printed balloon, but you don’t care. You want to circle it, stare at it, wonder at it and take a selfie with it. The last chance to see it at night is tomorrow, when the Bell hosts its third and final moon-related After Hours event. U of M Dakota language specialist Čhaŋtémaza (Neil McKay) and indigenous linguist Kaagegaabaw (James Vukelich) will lead a talk about indigenous perspectives of the moon. 5-10 p.m. Museum admission $12/10/9/free for UMN student and members.

Photo by Steve Campbell
“Heaven” is set among the violence and despair of the 1990s Bosnian war and follows a photojournalist who joins a man named Faruk on a journey to save his wife.
Opens Friday on Park Square’s proscenium stage: Flying Foot Forum’s “Heaven.” Percussive street dancing, Balkan party music and a love story, set among the violence and despair of the 1990s Bosnian war. First presented in 2011 at the Guthrie’s Dowling Theater, Joe Chvala’s emotional show features music by Chan Poling, Chvala, Victor Zupanc and Natalie Nowytski, and actors who sing and speak in English and Serbo-Croatian. The story follows a photojournalist who joins a man named Faruk on a journey to save his wife. With Orkestar Bez Ime. Park Square’s advisory: “for adults and possibly teens 16 and up – parental discretion.” 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25-60). Closes June 23.

Saturday at the Hook and Ladder: Print Matters 2019. A one-day show of pre-digital media: vintage books, comics, records, posters and more, plus handmade items from the book arts world. Presented by Rain Taxi, this is only the second Print Matters, a reimagining of the late, lamented Twin Cities Antiquarian Book Fair. The first took place on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in June 2018. This will be a day of bargains and treasures, plus music and activities. Among the dealers: Winona-based John Campbell, who will bring an illustrated first edition of “Twelve Years  Slave”; Once Upon a Crime; and the Rare Book Sleuth. $2 admission includes a raffle ticket. Free for kids 12 and under. Food and drink available. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. FMI.