The Audio Bonsai Concert Series got underway with three different shows over two nights. Family was the source of the first selections for the series as you can read about here. It is important to note that the seed art competition is one of my favorite parts of the fair, so I took some pictures to share with you. Especially of note are the music related contributions, but I also like the Spock one above.
The first show was Communist Daughter on Twin Cities Public Television’s (TPT) Front Porch stage at the Minnesota State Fair. It was TPT’s first outing at the fair with such a large presence, but they did a good job attracting local artists like Communist Daughter and Greg Grease among others. The setting was less than ideal for a concert. The stage was situated right next to one of the busy roads around the fair that gets used for pedestrian traffic only during the event. There were four rows of white rocking chairs facing the stage, then a sidewalk followed by a few benches facing the road. Many of the people that started in the chairs were clearly there for TPT rather than Communist Daughter and so there was a pretty steady flow of early concert goes being replaced by walk-by enthrallees. Regardless of the swirl of people of wildly varying interest levels, Johnny, Molly and the rest of the band put on a good show, even if it was aimed at a TPT audience rather than a usual show for them. They also announced that their new album, six years from their debut album and four from their last EP, will finally be released early in 2016.The evening, surprisingly enough to me, heated up with Terri Clark. Thanks to being at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell, I made my introductions to Leinie’s India Pale Lager. After a long, pleasant day wandering around the fair it went down easy. Perhaps a bit too easy. While I don’t think I will ever find myself queueing up Clark’s music for a casual listen, she is a good live entertainer that knows how to put on a show. By the end of the night, after many beers, my dad and I joined the crowd near the stage. It was odd to look behind us and see Minnesotans doing their best Minnesotan cowboy impressions. Stoically, unflinchingly, sitting in their seats. With cowboy hats. Regardless, I found myself “dancing” basically with a guy in a NRA hat and another guy that looked like Santa, but was dressed as Mario. So, yeah, fun was had.
Jenny Hval and Briana Marela got the official start of the series with friends along for the journey. Music Under Glass is what I’m calling this section. Marela started the evening beautifully, building delicate loops with only her voice to start the first few songs. The band, acolytes to the high priestess, went dutifully about their contributions. At the first break, two or three songs into the set, the audience broke their reverie to attempt applause just as Marela gathered herself to launch into the next song. The spell broken she stumbled, the audience stuttered to a halt and she murmured, ‘Oh, yeah, you can clap.’ From then on, not a word outside of lyrics was uttered. Not in the crowd, not on the stage. I’m not sure the band members even made eye contact until just before the last two songs when Briana introduced them. The performance felt as though it were being performed in a terrarium with the audience as caretakers. Everything seemed fragile to the point that you didn’t want to move lest things come undone.
Finally, the main act, Jenny Hval made her way to the stage in front of about 30 intrepid Twin Cities music fans. Much to my surprise the exercise ball from the cover on the album came with her. I had gone into the performance with a slight concern that perhaps as a live act, Hval might prove more performance artist than a musical performer. That proved to be closer to my experience. Which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but on that night, that wasn’t really where I was. Jenny is certainly talented and as a provocateur she is very effective. My favorite parts of her performance, however, were much more traditional performance of songs. I will continue to enjoy her recorded works.
All in all, I consider it a successful start. I feel a great deal of optimism for the future of the series! The next concert we’ll attend will be unveiled shortly.