Arts Briefs: Musicians in masks

A graphic with the state of minnesota and pieces of art
The MPR News arts and culture team's arts briefs offer a weekly guide to the ever-evolving art scene in Minnesota.
Sam Stroozas | MPR News

TC Summer Fest at Target Field in Minneapolis has ironed out an issue with the stagehands union. 

According to the Minneapolis Union Local 13 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the venue hired non-union stagehands to work the event instead of contacting them. 

IATSE Business Agent Wendell Bell says the two parties have come to an agreement to utilize some union members, though they will only be setting up and taking down seating. Bell says for other venues in the future, communication is key. 

“We can certainly sit down to come to the table and talk about agreements,” Bell explained. “But to simply not include us at all — that is not acceptable.”

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Bell also says there are talks with the Twins about future events the union can work on. 

According to the Twins communications team, there are currently 200 hours of union work at this weekend’s TC Summer Fest out for bid, with the intent to have those filled within 24 hours.

Let’s dance

The Walker Art Center has announced its 2023-24 season of performing arts. The season includes the return of composer/saxophonist John Zorn, who celebrated his 60th birthday at the Walker in 2013 and will celebrate his 70th at the institution in September.

Zorn will offer a variety of performances, including a free midnight show at the Basilica of Saint Mary featuring the venue’s 1949 Wicks Opus 3047 organ.

The season will also bring back the Walker’s annual Choreographers Evening in November, this year overseen by Twin Cities choreographer and dancer Darrius Strong. 

Highlights of the rest of the season include choreographer Dianne McIntyre debuting a piece drawing from the poetry of Ntozake Shange, dance artist Trajal Harrell presenting a piece choreographed to jazz pianist Keith Jarrett’s epochal “The Köln Concert” and performer Aya Ogawa bringing her Obie Award-winning, one-woman show “The Nosebleed” as part of the Out There series.

a man plays saxophone
John Zorn at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 28.
Courtesy of Alan Nahlgian | 2013

American woman

Twin Cities musician Lucy Michelle has been working on her solo album “Womanly” — released for digital streaming today —  for seven years. It’s a reflection on contemporary woman- and motherhood and a mix of folk and rock. She says it’s more intimate than her work with bands the Velvet Lapelles and Little Fevers.

In the song “American Mom,” Michelle sings about her young son’s realization about mortality during the pandemic, that everyone will die someday (AI permitting).

“It's a really hard thing to grasp as a kid,” Michelle says. “How can we recognize that's what happens, but not dwell on it and not dwell on that our existence is not forever. I think in ‘American Mom’ specifically, it's like this sort of feeling where: our children are getting older, we're getting older, but at the same time, in the chorus, I kind of talked about ‘Ahhh, I just want to experience everything; I want to live life to the fullest.’ And not think about the fact that someday I'm not going to be here. How can we get our kids to sort of live life like that?”

On “Womanly,” Michelle works with a local all-star band including John Munson, Dylan Hicks, Chris Koza and Richard Medek. They will join her, along with the Brian Just Band, at an album release show July 16 at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis.

“I just feel so lucky,” Michelle says. “I've been in the music scene for the last — oh my gosh — I think 16-17 years, and I've just accumulated all these wonderful friends and musicians that have so many different skills and talents, and I'm kind of able to pull them in.”

Fun fact: The album cover features a sketch Lucy Michelle did of a woman with some sort of critter’s head. It comes from a picture her uncle took of her wearing a piñata head left over from her son’s birthday.

Person poses in front of bookshelf and piano
Portrait of Lucy Michelle
Hannah Lynch

Absolute Bleeding Edge

The MPR News arts team offers suggestions for the best in avant-garde, experimental and off-the-beaten-path arts and culture.


Tokyo rock band Man With a Mission’s music typically sounds like the opening or closing theme to an anime television show: It’s bright, upbeat, propulsively cheerful, with musical swooshes and crashes that might accompany the strobing zooms and star wipes of an especially frantic credit sequence.

Better still, it often is anime theme music. “Kizuna No Kiseki,” from this EP, is the opening theme to the third season of “Kimetsu no Yaiba,” a series about a secret society battling demons. Man with a Mission’s themes have introduced such animated fare as “My Hero Academia,” about a future earth where 80 percent of the population has a superpower and “Hentai Kamen,” which roughly translates as “pervert mask.”

But the most outre element of the band is that they insist that they aren’t an ordinary rock back, but instead were created in the late sixties by Jimi Hendrix, who, in their version of history, was a wolf biologist.

As a result, the band members don wolf masks when they perform, which they maintain are their actual faces. In this backstory, they were frozen in Antarctica, finally emerging to join the Japanese rock and roll scene as “ultimate life forms.”

I’m not sure that I would especially care for the music on its own, although I respect the band’s willingness to make music that is poppy to the point of being irritating. But with the backstory and the masks, I find it irresistible. This is often how it is with my favorite art. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to it, but start digging, and it gets really weird, really fast.

— Max Sparber

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment‘s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.