UPCOMING FEMALE ARTISTS SPOTLIGHT: SUZANNE VEGA AND MIRAH

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While we don’t always think of the music industry as an industry dominated by men, the truth is that it is. By a lot. According to a survey done by the Association of Independent Music and PRS respectively, only 15% of label members are majority-owned by women and only 13% of writers registered are female. Yes, it’s true that there are many famous female artists. However, many women in the music industry have voiced frustrations about misrepresentation and objectification as a result of their gender. Last October, for instance, singer Charlotte Church made headlines when she called the music industry out for its “juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality”. Church, like many other females in the music industry, believes a core problem with the industry is the way women are hypersexualized in order to sell records. While the sales might say it’s a success, at what cost? On the other hand, it’s important to remember that a lot of female artists make active decisions to not be objectified on stage.

While there are many female artists that accomplish this skill, two artists that I believe particularly do it well are Mirah and Suzanne Vega. Their music is just eccentric and enjoyable and isn’t too inappropriate for me to play in front of my 4-year-old niece. And fortunate for us, they will both be playing the Cedar Cultural Center in the very near future. Mirah will be playing alongside Loamlands and Led to Sea Friday, May 16th, and Suzanne Vega will be playing alongside Ari Hest Saturday, May 17th. While Mirah and Suzanne Vega are both very different artists and have had very different careers, I think it’s important to support female musicians like them in order to empower women and show that they can be successful in the music industry without relying on sexual attraction, something that women in the music industry today are frequently associated with.

Suzanne Vega, famous for “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner”, has actually been a large voice when it comes to the discussion surrounding how female musicians are treated within the music industry. Late in 2010, actually, she accompanied female rapper Bahamadia in an episode of NPR’s Talk of the Nation where they solely discussed working in an industry dominated by men. Now 54, it’s clear that Vega has been around long enough to know how it is. Vega, who has released 8 studio albums to date, recently released her first new album in 7 years called Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, an album that she’ll be performing at the Cedar May 17th. To hear more about her comeback, check out Rolling Stone. In addition, if you want to get a preview of what you’ll hear at the Cedar, check out Vega’s performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.

Another female artist that will be coming to the Cedar sometime soon is Mirah. Her fifth solo album, Changing Light, is coming out May 13th, a couple of days before May 16th when she’ll be playing the Cedar. Previously, Mirah has toured and recorded a record with Thao Nguyen, in addition to collaborating with various other artists on projects and albums. To hear more about Mirah’s upcoming album, in addition to one of the tracks called “Oxen Hope”, check out Pitchfork. To get a better sense of who Mirah is, I would also highly suggest checking out her music video for “The Forest” off of her 2009 Album (A) Spera. Frolicking about in what can only be described as meadows, Mirah shows herself to be a “wood-nymph-esque” creature capable of hitting just the right notes.

And lastly, it goes without saying that in order to get the true Mirah and Susan Vega experience, you should simply come by the Cedar on 416 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis May 16th and 17th. And keep in mind, I’m not telling you to come because they’re women. I’m telling you to come because in addition to being women, they’re fantastically talented musicians who know how to put on a show.

Mackenzie - Marketing InternThe Cedar Cultural Center

JUANA MOLINA AT THE CEDAR THIS WEDNESDAY

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No plans this Wednesday? Tryin’ to listen to some eerie, hypnotic Argentine music? I knew it. Lucky for you, this Wednesday (April 9th, 2014), Juana Molina will be coming to the Cedar Cultural Center with Rajjjar SeptetShow starts at 7:30pm and tickets are only $15 ($18 the day of the show). Juana is currently touring with her 6th album, Wed 21, which came out last October (2013). The particularly haunting music video for the first track of the album, Eras, can be found here.

What’s cool about Juana Molina’s music is the way that she not only “flirts with Argentine folk” music but also incorporates “trance-inducing industrial electronic beats”, two things that I can’t say I’ve ever heard combined together in my pre-Juana days. She’s like that one friend we all have whose always making weird combinations of food, saying “just try it once, dude, c’mon”, and of course, it somehow always tastes good. Another interesting aspect is the way that she layers and weaves all of her musical elements into her songs. She frequently loops her voice, allowing her to both play and sing with herself. A really great example of this can be found in a live performance of my personally favorite song of hers, Vivre Solo, here.

In an interview on her latest album, Wed 21, Juana says she deliberately chose to “step out of her comfort zone”, choosing to focus on rhythm and texture, and she’s the first to admit that she hasn’t always been able to “experience such freedom in expression” when it comes to music. In other areas, however, it’s possible she’s always felt very comfortable. Regardless of her six albums, many of her fans will forever remember her as a comedian and actress on her own sketch comedy show, Juana y Sus Hermanas. Saturday Night live fans, check it out. However, be warned: for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, some of the humor might be lost on you.

Ultimately, whether you’re a die-hard Juana fan, or whether you’re simply intrigued by her oddly entrancing music videos, I suggest you catch her this week at the Cedar. Regardless of whatever else you do this week, I can assure you it will be the most truly fascinating, if not enjoyable couple of hours you encounter.

Mackenzie - Marketing InternThe Cedar Cultural Center

THE JAM BAND SCENE & THE BIG WU LAST WEEKEND

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As a 20-year-old college student, I’ve been to my fair share of concerts in the last couple of years. I’ve bobbed my head and grooved to the occasional acoustic set, but also been in the midst of moshing fans at a few rap concerts. Music festival wise, I’ve dabbled my toe in. I’ve been to Lollapalooza in Chicago multiple times, and last year I went to Summer Camp in Chillicothe, IL. What’s interesting about concerts to me is how easy it is to predict the environment once you become familiar with the scene. For instance, ska shows are always going to include bright colors and over-the-top dancing, and it’s unavoidable that half of the guys (or girls, for that matter) at a folk concert are going to be wearing plaid.

For these reasons, I can’t say I was very surprised last Saturday (3/29/14) when I showed up to the Cedar to see the Big Wu, a rock ‘n’ roll jam band from MN, and was greeted with what I would consider fondly the classic jam band scene. While I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of jam bands, I went to Summer Camp, famous for its jam band scene, and I’d say I’ve picked up some things. To make the broadest of generalizations here, simply, jam band shows are just a huge party. Everyone’s trying to have a good time, and everyone’s in the friendliest of moods. Big Wu was no exception.

Made up of a bunch of longhaired guys by the names of Al Oikari, Andy Miller, Chris Castino, and Terry VanDeWalker, you could say the somewhat middle-aged men of Big Wu are that kind of rare species that somehow manage to get cooler with age. The night that I saw them, it happened to be Terry’s birthday, to which Terry jokingly told the crowd, “27 and never felt better”. They played two long sets, including a fantastic rendition of the classic, “Up On Cripple Creek”. There was a lot more than just lively music, however. Artist Chuck Hues was there, displaying his original blacklight paintings, as well as painting a live piece on the spot. Hues said that he had never painted at the Cedar before, but that he’s painted for Big Wu shows many a time and at various festivals. In addition to Hues, I was even lucky enough to see a couple of “hoopers” hanging around the show.

Ultimately, I like going to jam band shows even though I’m not a die-hard fan because when it comes to being a music-lover, I think it’s important to experience all different types of music. If you’re bummed you missed the Big Wu, they do host their own music festival, Big Wu Family Reunion, at Camp Maiden Rock West in Morristown, MN. This summer, the festival will be held Aug. 7th-9th, 2014, and will feature two nights of Big Wu, as well as Robert Randolph & the Family Band. If you’re looking to broaden your music range in general, however, don’t fret. The Cedar Cultural Center has your back. Check out what we have coming up! I assure you we’ve got quite the variety of acts in our event calendar that won’t disappoint.

Mackenzie - Marketing InternThe Cedar Cultural Center

Just announced and on-sale Fri at noon: KILL KANCER benefit April 18th #davepirner #communistdaughter #williemurphy #silverbackcolony #tajraj

Just announced and on-sale Fri at noon: KILL KANCER benefit April 18th #davepirner #communistdaughter #williemurphy #silverbackcolony #tajraj

Coming up @thecedar

Coming up @thecedar

From Art to Local Music to the Emot Record Release this Thursday Night

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I recently listened to a story from NPR’s Morning Edition entitled “Good Art Is Popular Because It’s Good. Right?” which discussed how much chance had to do with making art famous, as opposed to simply quality. In the story, they situate the argument around an experiment done by Matthew Salganik where 30,000 teenagers were given 48 songs from unsigned artists and asked to listen to them and download their favorites. However, there were 9 different “worlds” the teenagers were randomly assigned to. In one world, the teens couldn’t see what their peers were downloading. In the other 8 worlds, they could. If quality of music was the largest factor in what music became famous, you would think that the same songs would be coming out on top. However, in the end, each “world” had completely different songs downloaded the most. The conclusion drawn was that “After you meet a basic standard of quality, what becomes a huge hit and what doesn’t is essentially a matter of chance.” 

In this day and age, we all know the trendy thing to do is to listen to bands that are unsigned, alternative, and unheard of. What I’ve found, however, is this is not what people actually like to listen to. They like to listen to bands that have already been established as good musicians. We want to appear like we care about the underdogs, but what underdogs are we actively going out and supporting? I get it, concerts are expensive and we’re all busy. Keep in mind, though, if we don’t take the time to support our local up-and-coming music, the rest of the world is going to miss out too. There is sometimes a tendency to discredit musicians that we haven’t heard of, but what Salganik’s experiment shows is that a lot of getting famous has to do with luck. Do we want to let that happen? Or do we want to be active supporters of the up-and-coming music that will one day be selling out shows everywhere?

Now that I have you convinced upon the importance of supporting local music, I’ll give you your first assignment: attend the slow-core indie band Emot self-titled record release at the Cedar tomorrow night (3/6) at 7:30pm, where Emot will be accompanied by the Cairo Gang and We Are the Willows. This will be their 3rd record, so if you live in the Twin Cities and haven’t heard of them yet, you’re missing out. I recently inhaled their last two albums and was thoroughly pleased. Not to mention, this album was produced by Brian Moen, notable for his involvement with bands Peter Wolf Crier, Shouting Matches, and Laarks, so you know it’s going to be good.

On the topic of supporting local music, band member Matt Leavitt told me that, “I, and I know the others feel, incredibly fortunate to be involved in the Twin Cities music scene…The potential for cross-pollination, honest help, and reinforcement are seemingly never ending.” Through the collaborative music scene, members of Emot are given plenty of room to have multiple projects and bands at once. However, Matt also said, “With the volume of art being created, events taking place, and records being released, it can be difficult to chart a course that allows the maximum amount of folks to listen to the end result.” Though it’s hard for everyone’s albums to be listened to and concerts to be attended, I urge you to take a chance right now on Emot. Living in the Twin Cities, we have a lot of opportunities to see live music of aspiring bands and musicians, and this is my ploy to all of the music lovers out there: go to the Cedar tomorrow night. Take a risk on an artist you might never have heard of. Don’t leave it up to chance. Support your local music and decide who makes it big.

To read more about EMOT, their upcoming record release, and listen to their music:

Mackenzie - Marketing InternThe Cedar Cultural Center

POST-SHOW RENDERINGS: Ryan Montbleau with Natalia Zukerman

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Last Wednesday (the night of Feb. 19, 2014 to be precise), I stopped by the Ryan Montbleau / Natalia Zukerman show playing at the Cedar. Previously a Cedar show virgin, it was quite the enlightening experience, let me tell you.

First, there was Natalia. Sarcastic, hilarious, and sporting blue polka dot pants, she sang songs in between an entertaining commentary about her travels, her friends, and the inspirations for the songs she was playing. In my opinion, her strongest asset by far was her versatile voice. The Boston Globe said it the most accurately, calling her performance “a strutting brass band one minute, a sighing lover the next”. Her variety kept us entertained, but in the end, I think we stayed for her talent and her passion.

After Natalia, there was Ryan. In some ways, I found him to be completely her opposite. Humble and endearing, his whistling was inferior to none but Andrew Bird. Recently having gone solo, his music is currently undergoing a transition. That being said, I loved his performance. Vermont’s Burlington Free Press labeled him as “difficult to describe, tough to resist”. Going off of that, I think there’s just something about his voice that was so honest and unadulterated that you can’t help but want to listen.

Ultimately, it was a good first experience. Yeah, I could’ve gone to a concert on a Friday or a Saturday and found a bigger crowd, a rowdier crowd, but you know what’s nice sometimes? Refreshing, almost? Going to a concert for one thing: the sheer joy of listening to live music. I think sometimes we underestimate the value of the casual Wednesday night concert. In an effort to urge everyone to change that, I recommend everyone reading this check out a show at the Cedar next time you have a couple hours during the week. 

In addition, for music / more information on Ryan and Natalia:

Ryan:

Natalia:

Mackenzie - Marketing InternThe Cedar Cultural Center

Local Artist Michael Thomsen Creates Work for the Cedar

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We’re excited to announce that local artist and longtime fan of the Cedar Michael Thomsen recently created a donation box for us. Thomsen, a musician himself, says he used various objects he had around his studio, which is always “full of all sorts of odds and ends, vintage furniture parts and such, as well as old musical instruments”.

In the day and age of what I like to call “pack rat shaming”, it’s nice to see Thomsen giving a good name to people who consider themselves collectors of odd objects. Thomsen says his inspiration for his work started when he was just 7 years old, when his grandfather, an auctioneer at the time, hired him to sort though old boxes of trinkets. After occasionally pocketing a few things, his collection was born.

Thomsen has described his work as having a “dark, nostalgic aesthetic” and said it was “very natural to plan out and build the piece with the Cedar’s history and the theme of music in mind”. On the piece specific for the Cedar, there are a few repurposed vintage instruments, naturally, in addition to a locked drawer and slot for donation envelopes.

If you want to see more of Michael’s work (and trust me, you do), you can find him at www.mdthomsen.com

Mackenzie - Marketing InternThe Cedar Cultural Center

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The Cedar will have its own beer thanks to @Harriet brewing. It’ll be debuted at the Harriet Brewing Third Anniversary Extravaganza this Fri Jan 31st!

The Cedar will have its own beer thanks to @Harriet brewing. It’ll be debuted at the Harriet Brewing Third Anniversary Extravaganza this Fri Jan 31st!