Sunday, September 30, 2018

These Kids Have What It Takes:The Last Night of One Week Live

The Langertsons 
I remember my thirteenth birthday like it was yesterday. Or rather, I remember this one incident. I'm sure my family had a birthday cake and presents for me, but I have no recollection of that at all. Rather, as I look back, what stands out are two memories. First, Teddy Fiori asked Robin Christianson to go steady, and she said yes. The second memory, which occurred because I had a huge crush on Robin, was of the tears falling from my eyes and soaking the pillow as I went to be last night, thinking to myself, "So this is what it's like to be a teenager."

I will return to this story shortly.

* * * *

One Week Live at Beaner's Central is one of owner Jason Wussow's favorite times of the year, and based on the manner in which he enthused about it, this last show of the week was one he was especially looking forward to. The lineup featured 10-year-old Edward Ojard opening, followed by The Langertsons, then the Holy Hootenanners closing out the evening and the week.

Edward Ojard was on stage when I arrived, having created a setup that utilized both the in-house piano and his Yamaha keyboard. The young performer stood with one hand on each keyboard, straddling the space between as if he owned it, projecting a sense of being comfortable there. A rhythm and beat was looping as he played the two instruments simultaneously.

Edward Ojard
The young performer was all business as he moved from playing piano to playing the Yamaha and sometimes playing both together. The tunes varied in structure and form. Some utilized a disco-like beat, and others had something of a Western rhythm. Except the encore, in which he performed John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads," all the tunes were original compositions. Ojard doesn't sing while performing but he wins your heart. The Beaner's audience was eating out of his hand.

* * * *
(L to R) Amri, Josie, Eli on drums in back, and Audrey.
The Langertsons are a group comprised of two pair of siblings: Josie (13, lead singer, guitar and uke) and Audrey (15, bass) Langhorst, along with Amri (14, keyboards) and Eli (11, drums) Gilbertson. The four youths from Mahtowa, in Carlton County, seemed pretty relaxed beforehand, playing a game of Othello in the back, awaiting their set. Josie appears to be to be the front man, lead singer and songwriter, though all have mics and contribute to the vocals. I asked what their favorite group was and they unanimously declared The Beatles. And when I asked their favorite album, they all chimed in, The White Album.

Naturally I had to ask about Dylan. Josie's the Dylan fan in the group, a natural fit for the songwriter. Her favorite Dylan songs, at this time, are "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Drummer Eli Gilbertson looked at home.
Like the young Ojard, their songs last night were all original, most of which will appear on their new CD to be released in December.

The Langertsons opened their set with "Cruel World" followed by "Save the New Day."  Their third tune was titled "Ever Since," which Josie sang with a heartfelt seriousness: "You're not you any more..." It may have been this song that moistened my eyes, or else the next, and I thought of the manner in which a young Bob Dylan was writing songs beyond his years while a very young man.

Josie and Audrey Langhorst
"All the Time in the World" is a newer song, also about relationships. The poignancy of the emotion in the song is surprisingly mature for this thirteen-year-old teen to be writing. And that is when I thought about my 13th birthday. When I last saw her in May at the singer-songwriter contest she was only 12. Between that show and this she also had a 13th birthday. (This young lady seems so much more confident and mature than I was. Even when I was 18 my knees knocked together when I did public speaking.)

All the time in the world is what I would have given to you;
All the time in the world is what I would have spent with you,
All the time in the world is what I wish for you
All the time in the world is gone too soon.... gone too soon.

Amri and Josie
When the sisters sing in unison it's sweet and potent. Amri's harmonies were lost in the sound much of the time, unfortunately, but she's well-represented on the CD they've produced.

Their next song was the original tune Josie performed during Dylan Fest in May for the singer/songwriter contest. "Take it one day at a time my friend...  once again you'll see a different side to life."

Josie sang the next song with force. "I'm a Glass Door... you can see right through me..."

"I'm Your Apocalypse" followed...  "I'll watch your back, but you better get mine..."

Josie said they were on their way back from a party and she wrote the next song while sitting in the car: "I Can't Take Them On My Own.'
I can't take them on my own
I've got the world on my shoulders

The next song, which Amri and Josie co-wrote, was called "Hard Life," followed by "It's Inevitable," and a song sung by Audrey.
Why won't you let me just take your hand
Why won't you let me just help you stand...

* * * *
I asked the group how they get along and learned that there is some fighting between the siblings.

You can follow them on Twitter: @TheLangertsonsMusic
and on Facebook: The Langertsons

Josie and Audrey's father Zach Langhorst told me, commenting on Josie's songwriting, "It astonishes me as what she comes up with as a young lady." Mr. Langhorst acknowledges their mom as the course of their vocal ability. As for a favorite song, "Every one of them," he said.

* * * *
A full band with layered vocals. The Holy Hootenanners.
The evening finished with the Holy Hootenanners packing the stage. 11-year-old Eli Langhorst remained with his drum kit and provided the beat, along with flourishes, that enabled the Hootenanners to charge forward. The Hootenanners tunes were also original, and energizing.

Hootenanners from behind... Eli Langhorst supporting the rhythm section.
FWIW, Beaner's is a great place to meet friends or schedule meetings from early morning till mid-evening. The food is always good, the coffee is always on, and the staff is always ready to take care of you. When they press this year's CD of One Week Live, you will see it on the counter there where you place your order. And maybe you'll see me there as well.

Have a great week. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Local Art Seen: A Lizzard's Walkthrough During Downtown Duluth Arts Walk

“Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.” 
—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

Last night Superior Public Library hosted its 8th Annual Love Your Local Artist event in its newly renovated space near the corner of Tower and Belknap. If you don't have a library card, or have never been to the Superior Library, you owe it to yourself to go simply to see and appreciate the massive Carl Gaboy paintings that circle the perimeter of the interior.

Simultaneously, the Downtown Duluth Arts Colllective (DDAC), not to be confused with the Duluth Public Arts Commission (DPAC), opened its arms for the final Friday Downtown Arts Walk. 26 venues had their doors open, many of them sharing a welcome mat of various snacks and smiles.

Lizzards Gallery and Framing was one of the venues I dropped into, in part because I've been looking forward to the opening of the Murphy and Murphy art show in a couple weeks. The work, by Robin Murphy (sculptor) and Scott Murphy (muralist, painter) has been dropped off. The team will soon be re-arranging the space for this big occasion.

The pictures on this page feature a few of Robin Murphy's pieces (titles not yet affixed) and a few pictures by Alexa Carson whose paintings of birds I enjoyed looking at.

There's a pair of new exhibitions coming to the Joseph Nease Gallery. Karen Owsley Nease will be showing new paintings she produced to accompany the Duluth Symphony. That will be a two-week exhibit, followed by a longer display that we'll write about later. There's also a Biennial in the wings at the DAI.... I will let you know details as they emerge.

You can tell that this is the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood...
because he has her name tattooed on his arm. (below)

Do you have a favorite art venue in the Twin Ports? 
Tell us about it in the comments below.

Music & Art Reminders
1. Tonight is last night for One Week Live at Beaners. It will be Youth on tap tonight, featuring the Holy Hootenanners, The Langertsons and 10-year-old Edward Ojard. Expect to be surprised at how talented these kids are.
2.  The Goin' Postal Fall Art Extravagnza will be in two weeks, October 12. This will be Superior's biggest multiple art event yet, and perhaps ever. 7 Venues, 9 Music Groups, 100+ artists... The Fall Art and Music Festival will serve as a kickoff for Superior's North End Days. I hope you will join us. Venues include the Spirit Room, Thirsty Pagan, Framing by Stengl, White Cedar Studio, Art on the Planet, VIP Pizza and Goin' Postal.
3. Jeffrey Larson is giving a live painting demonstration today at The Lynhall, from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m.

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Breakfast Cereal: How Sweet It Is

Last night I was in a grocery store here looking for shredded wheat, one of the few breakfast cereals with no sugar in it. For some reason I was unable to find it. What I found, however, were innumerable variations of sugar coated and sugar infused breakfast cereals, which led me to taking the photos on this page.

Somehow, I've always had it in my head that sugar contributes to making kids hyper, but when I Googled this today the first ten articles that came up were rebuttals of this conjecture. And yet we have more ADHD kids in schools and kids who are given meds to keep them seated and still during class.

The defenders of sugar may have scientific studies on their side with regards to making kids hyper (denying it) but there are plenty of other side effects from sugar, including tooth decay as well as blood sugar issues for diabetics.

Check out all the various ways cereal manufacturers add sugar to our cereals. It's essentially about turning breakfast into candy.

These old standards now have competition.
This is a cereal aisle?
Pecans and maple brown sugar. Count me in. "Sugar pie, honey bunch..."
Let's just have a bowl of cookies for breakfast.
Looking for Unicorns?  Here's a bowl of good luck to you.
Apples to Apples and cinnamon... that's sweet.
I want my Cheerios to taste like peanut butter cups. Can you do that?
Everybody likes brown sugar, but maple brown sugar sounds even sweeter.
If add fruit to our sugar, that will make it healthy, right?
Let's make sure you can see the sugar. Yumm.

Here's a scary thought. I have a friend whose brother works for one of the cereal manufacturers. He said they have been testing the limits of how much cardboard they can add to the wheat and oats and still call it food. I suppose they can call it "fiber"... 

* * * *
If you're here in the Twin Ports, there is an art walk in Downtown Duluth tonight. 
And the Superior Public Library is holding its 8th annual Love Your Local Artist.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Throwback Thursday: What Is Magical Realism?


Add caption
"Just when I thought you were gone... you came back." 
~ Bob Dylan, Born In Time

From my youth I've had an interest in dreams, fantasy and science fiction. Somewhere along the way I discovered the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, godfather of magical realism. His influence has been immense, inspiring writers all over the world from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Umberto Eco to Italo Calvino and Isabel Allende. I, too, have been so influenced. Unremembered Histories, my first volume of short stories, is a small collection of what I consider the best of my efforts in this genre.

For this reason I believed it may be useful to explain this particular story form in greater detail.

From Wikipedia
Magic realism or magical realism is a genre where magical or unreal elements play a natural part in an otherwise realistic (often mundane) environment. Although it is most commonly used as a literary genre, magic realism also applies to film and the visual arts.

One example of magic realism occurs when a character in the story continues to be alive beyond the normal length of life and this is subtly depicted by the character being present throughout many generations. On the surface the story has no clear magical attributes and everything is conveyed in a real setting, but such a character breaks the rules of our real world. The author may give precise details of the real world such as the date of birth of a reference character and the army recruitment age, but such facts help to define an age for the fantastic character of the story that would turn out to be an abnormal occurrence such as someone living for two hundred years.

The term is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous: Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as "what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe."

From the Oxford Dictionary
Definition of magic realism in English: noun
A literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy.

From Mitchell's Introduction to Magical Realism: "an unexpected alteration of reality [. . .] an unaccustomed insight that is singularly favored by the unexpected richness of reality or an amplification of the scale and categories of reality" (Alejo Carpentier)

More specifically, magical realism achieves its particular power by weaving together elements we tend to associate with European realism and elements we associate with the fabulous, and these two worlds undergo a "closeness or near merging."

From Cliffs Notes
To understand magical realism, it helps to have a sense of mystery - an increased appreciation of the transcendent. In so doing, you'll savor works like the landmark One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez.

The basic structure of One Hundred Years chronicles the life of the Buendía family for over a century. It is the history of a family with inescapable repetitions, confusions, and progressive decline. Magical realism is manifested in a mythical city of mirrors, an insomnia plague, prophecy and ghosts, time displacement, a family curse, and more.

* * * *

There are a number of Dylan songs that could be expressionistic forms of magical realism. I think here of Changing of the Guard, or maybe even Ballad of a Thin Man, which defies comprehension on a rationalistic level.

Life is a great mystery filled with wonders. All too often, subsumed as we are in the day-to-day, we lose sight of the wonder. Stories of this sort can resonate with parts of our soul -- conscious and unconscious -- in ways that an ordinary story might fail. This is, in part, one of the aims of all my stories in general, and these stories in particular.

As the saying goes, "Try it. You'll like it." It's currently my personal best seller, even if it isn't on the New York Times lists. 

Throwback Thursday: Innovation Institute Gives Hope and Meaning To Wheelchair Bound


For several decades I've been watching Harrold Andresen’s career unfold. It's been easy to do since he’s my brother-in-law, having married my wife’s sister. In 1980, the four of us went to Mexico to work at an orphanage, a significant experience in all of our lives. Susie and I returned in late fall 1981, Harrold and Nancy came back to the States in 1982.

Harrold ran a shop as an auto mechanic before going to Mexico. And while South-o’-the-Border he was dedicated to mechanical tasks not only for the orphanage, but also for the vehicles of many missionaries who brought their cars and pickups to him. (The kids loved him for fixing the pedal cars that had been donated, as seen in this picture above.)

When the Andresens left Mexico Harrold set up shop in the Rio Grande Valley, where he continued to work on cars, but also continued to service missionaries’ vehicles. Eventually the family moved to Duncanville, a suburb of Dallas, where he established his business, Mechanical Excellence. In addition to taking care of cars, Harrold was continuously inventing. He invented tools, he invented what he called the Cozy Heater, a product they sold to customers in nearly every state. He conceived a vehicle which combined the best engine with the best body, and built a number of them for customers. He also ran a rental car business and pursued other miscellaneous endeavors. But underneath it all was a desire to help handicapped people, especially the wheel-chair bound.

About five years ago, Andresen began taking steps toward building what has come to be known as Innovation Institute. “The mission of the school is to get products into the hands of the disabled that they couldn’t get anywhere else or they couldn’t afford. Also, to give them some skills so they can earn some money for the first time in their lives.” Andresen has also learned a lot about wheelchair sports, but we'll save that for another blog note.

Mechanical Excellence, Andresen’s auto shop, at one time had 20 bays for working on cars. Three-fourths is now set apart for the school. The school combines Harrold’s incredibly creative mechanical aptitude with his passion to help the handicapped, especially men more drawn to activities like welding and maintenance than arts and crafts.

In March we had a chance to tour the facility, and "impressive" is an understatement. There's a welding section, locksmithing, a library, classrooms and all kinds of work areas for other designated purposes. One section is devoted to modifying ride around lawn mowers for the wheelchair bound. To describe Harrold's vision in all this would take several blog entries and this is but an introduction. Let's just say that if you look up the phrase "Thinking Outside The Box" it will probably lead you to images of Innovation Institute.

Here's an example of the kind of thinking that went into modifying the auto shop to be a school.

"So here's one logistic: how do you get grinders that are approved by OSHA people, usable from a wheelchair, yet somewhat portable because when we have a big project we gotta move things?" Andresen laid out the issues. "And this is their fifth attempt! The advantage we had in remodeling the facility is we had two guys in power chairs, and two guys in manual chairs minimum, but often there were way more than that. They would come in on Saturday and Sunday and most evenings for the four years that we remodeled this place."

Andresen is standing over a low bench. "We had this on cement blocks. We had grinders on I-beams, we had grinders on telescopic stands, and we came up with this. The same kind of heavy pallet thing that made the welding areas, this has 500 pounds of weight. So it's not bolted to the floor, which it has to be if it's movable, but this isn't moveable. And the height's right... And here's the other problem: cutting. You cut metal, you blow hot sparks. You blow hot sparks on your legs with no nerves, you burn your skin and don't know it until the guys smell the burning skin and say, 'Hey, Joe you're burning your legs.' So we had to figure out a way to catch the sparks. One day I was watching [my daughter] Amy feed her horses and I thought, hey a feeding trough is tapered in a way that you could get under this with your wheelchair."

And so it is, attention to detail... solving one issue at a time.

* * * *
Harrold has many strengths, including an endless curiosity and a stubborn commitment to do whatever it takes to fulfill the vision, to see it through. If you feel moved to contribute to the work, Innovation Institute is a non-profit.  To see what they are doing today, what they have accomplished and where they want to go, visit:

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Big Art Night on Both Sides of the Bridge This Friday

Here are a few items of note for the Twin Ports. Everything from functional art to fine art...

8th Annual Love Your Local Artist
On Friday evening the Superior Public Library is hosting its eighth annual Love Your Local Artist fundraiser featuring live music, sweet & savory treats, wine, a silent auction, Adopt-a-Book sale, and (of course!) tons of local art and the artists who created it. This is their first LYLA event since the massive renovation that took place this past year. If you've not been to the library, this will be an excellent reason to get over there to see the new layout and design. The West-facing entrance and spacious interior are very appealing.

This year LYLA will also feature the murals of Tony Yaworski which were recently donated to the library. These murals will be temporarily displayed at the library during their restoration--check them out at Love Your Local Artist. If you love libraries and you love art, you'll want to make a little time to check in and check it out.

Time: 5:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Admission: Free

Downtown Duluth Arts Walk
On the Minnesota side of the bridge, the last Friday of each month is devoted to a Downtown Duluth Arts Walk, presented by The Downtown Duluth Arts Collective.

Downtown Duluth art galleries, eateries, bars and performance venues. The Downtown Arts Walk is a multi-location, walkable, year-round event held on the final Friday of each month. The event runs from 5 to 9 p.m., but it does not begin at a specific location, and while some venues are open from 5 to 9, various venues are open at different times.

Posters and flags bearing the logo are up at each location. The Downtown Duluth Arts Collective is a group of colleagues representing more than 25 arts businesses and groups, individual artist studios and cultural centers. I will do my best to dial in the weather for maximum enjoyment as you TGIF and kick of your weekend..

122 Conversations
Anne Labovitz @ the Tweed
From September 25 through January 6 the Tweed Museum of Art at UMD is hosting 122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders, a new project by Anne Labovitz. The opening reception will be Thursday, October 25 from 6-8:30 p.m. A Gallery Talk will be Saturday, November 10. Both events are free and open to the public, but you don't need to wait till then to make your way to the Tweed. Because school is in session I've found that weekend afternoons are the easiest time to visit. For gallery hours visit

* * * *
Seven Venues, Nine Bands, 77 Artists

(EdNote: We don't have a precise count on the artists
but whatever the number, you will not be disappointed.)

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Monday, September 24, 2018

More Blood, More Tracks -- The Bootleg Series Thunders On

In January I had the privilege of being a guest on Highway 61 Revisited, the Dylan-themed radio program hosted by the late John Bushey which aired on KUMD for more than 26 years. Every once in a while he would ask listeners for theme ideas for future programs and as a regular listener I always enjoyed making lists of ideas that might capture his imagination. His part would be to look at my list and then pull an unusual take from a concert in Paris or a rare outtake from a bootleg.

I don't recall what the theme of that specific evening was, but the experience we shared that evening was unforgettable. The song was "Idiot Wind" from Blood on the Tracks. The selected take was straight from the album. We were each wearing a pair of super-sensitive KUMD studio headphones so that every breath, every note, every subtle aspect of the song was radiantly sharp and crisp, with Dylan's vocals impossibly anguished, as if his whole inner self had been unshuttered. When the song finished playing John and I just stared at each other, in awe of what Dylan had created. Kevin Odegard, in the book Simple Twist of Fate (about the Minneapolis sessions for Blood on the Tracks) called it "an agonizing poetic tantrum."

This memory emerged foremost when I got the news that the BOTT Bootleg had finally been released, or would be available soon. There had been buzz circulating in the Northland since spring, if not sooner, that the next bootleg series from the vault would be Blood on the Tracks.

I pulled my copy of the book A Simple Twist of Fate off the shelf to brush up on details surrounding the making of this album that many rank as one of Dylan's finest. The story, by Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard, gives an insider's view of how Dylan re-recorded several of the tracks at the Sound 80 studio in Minneapolis three months after doing the initial recording in New York with producer Phil Ramone and musicians there. Dylan's brother David assembled the local talent in Minnesota, one of them being the guitarist Odegard. To say it must have been a rush is, as you can imagine, an understatement.

Unfortunately, after the new tracks were laid and approved for the finished vinyl, the Minneapolis musicians learned that 100,000 album covers had already been printed so that they would not get credit for the work they'd done, at least not initially. Purportedly when the first 100K sold there would be an edited revised version produced, an agreement that got lost in the shuffle of other more pressing things.

Such a revision may not have had much importance in New York, but for the guys in Minnesota it would have been a form of validation. To just "say" they were the musicians for classics like "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Idiot Wind" but not have it documented felt hollow.

Ironically, some of the New York musicians were even more upset. Their attitudes varied in degree, but ultimately could be summed up like this: "Why didn't Bob just tell us he didn't like the sound on some of those songs. We're pros. We would have been happy to give him what he wanted."

So with the release of More Blood, More Tracks, Bootleg Series #14, there's a sigh of relief that the hometown team is being acknowledged. Even so, there's still a bit of controversy. The single CD version which I already placed an order for features only New York sessions. To own the Minneapolis sessions you'll need to acquire the "strictly limited Deluxe 6 CD Set."

The late Paul Williams, a music journalist who befriended the author Philip K. Dick the last 14 years of the sci-fi writer's life, weighed in on the two versions of the album saying without reservation he liked both the New York sessions and the Minneapolis versions of the songs. Nevertheless, his take, as stated in his book Performing Artist, was that Dylan made the right choices for the album.

Even so, when it came to "Idiot Wind" Williams noticed two significant differences. First, and of less importance, was that there had been revisions in the lyrics. The second observation was that the New York version conveyed less rage and a more ominous or threatening tone.

Despite being removed from the official release, the New York studio sessions were soon on the street as an underground bootleg album called Joaquin Antique.

It won't be long before we all get the chance to compare the sessions. And whatever the outcome of that comparison, there will be nothing (for me) that quite compares to that moment last winter in the John Bushey Studio at KUMD...

Related Links
The Story Behind the Music: The Recording of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks
A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks
A Simple Twist of Fate Revisited
The Principle of Cognitive Dissonance as Illustrated by Dylan's Simple Twist

Wowing the Crowd @ Beaner's One Week Live: Opening Night Delivers the Goods

Let's start with expectations. One Week Live is a series of six evenings of music with three groups each night except midweek's singer/songwriter competition and Friday's four-group menu. Last night's opening featured a set by Dan Dresser, solo guitar, followed by the trio One Less Guest and the wrap up by Jacob Mahon and the Salty Dogs. By evening's end there's little doubt every person in the room was feeling it, that sense that they'd witnessed something exceptional, that unless the earth is shattered by an asteroid we'll be hearing and reading more about these young people who poured themselves out to us tonight.

Dan Dresser, who has been part of the Beaners core from the beginning, or at least seems to have been, is a veteran here and pretty much a known commodity. He writes songs and performs in an easy-going, laconic manner, as if he doesn't have anything to prove. In his standard leather hat and jeans he opened with "Sad & Lonely Is Where You Are." From the start the audience was with him as he sang candidly about relationships and faltered love. "Lovin' you ain't easy on this far away island I've become." Another tune laments, "My heart's made up, I can't go back." The fully packed house was generous with applause, at times even hooting their approval, especially when he showed his vocal range, indicating they were fully engaged.

One Less Guest
The second set featured One Less Guest, a trio comprised of stand up bass, guitar and violin. They sand original songs that were resonating with the audience, opening with a gently flowing tune about Washburn County, followed by "Where You Are" with lyrics that went something like this."I want to bottle up the sunshine... mail it to you and make you smile." The voices blended with a sweet flavor that worked well in this beautiful story in song.

Amping it up a notch they had a mature sense of how to bring energy to their songs then pull back a bit and show their vocal skills, blended harmonies seasoned by the sounds of their instrumental accompaniments.

At one point Lauren Cooper's violin brought to mind Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and edged toward Scarlet Rivera's violin work on Dylan's album Desire. On stage, Nick Glass and Nick Muska served as bookends, the bass player occasionally using the bow and at times a fanciful finger-plucking style. They were a tight group and clearly in control as they went through their setlist, culminating in a fast kicker sound with awesome violin action, and amazing bass and guitar picking.

(L to R) Joseph Anderson, Adam Johnson, Camille Marston, Owen
Mahon on drum and Jacob far right on guitar.
Jacob Mahon & the Salty Dogs then filled the stage, the room itself bristling with anticipation. The young Mahon from Longville, Minnesota (population 156, outside Walker) has captured a lot of attention since he moved here a couple years back. I don't know if the group he's assembled at this time is going to be a permanent fixture in the Duluth scene, but their performance showed staying power with John Coltrane on sax, Miles on trumpet, Mingus on bass and Jacob's brother Owen on drums. (You'll have to sub a few names for the real team, but they showed some seriously smashing flourishes, tightly choreographed and spot on sophistication. Joseph Anderson, sax, Adam Johnson from upstate NY, bass; Camille Marston of Luck WI, drums; and the Mahons)

I first became aware of the young performer when he won the Duluth Dylan Fest singer/songwriter contest at Clyde Iron Works in May 2017. His confident stage presence and original song made an impression on the judges. I was unaware that the tall, lean and lanky kid from Walker had won the 2016 singer/songwriter competition here at Beaners in 2016. (Wednesday evening 20 competitors will vie for that honor here during One Week Live.)

Jacob Mahon
Before the show I got a few minutes with the now 19-year-old where I inquired about how he got into music. "My dad showed me a Bon Jovi video," he said. He took up the guitar and applied himself to the craft. "A guy (he shared the name but I didn't catch it) taught me chord progressions," he said, following on that by getting lessons. He arrived in Duluth in the Fall of 2016, just in time to make a splash.

He recently released a CD which got a blistering review from the DNT's Tony Bennett, emulating Greil Marcus' famous put down of Dylan's Self Portrait. Of course the daily newspaper can't print what Marcus really said, so he only repeated the first three words a half dozen times. "What is this?" Interestingly, the review didn't phase Jacob Mahon since Bennett didn't really try to understand what the artist was doing.

I asked what he's doing as regards school or work and he said, "I'm making a living doing music." He's been busking down on the Lakewalk through the summer and that's gone well. "My life is music. At this point I'm somewhat unemployable."

As a songwriter Mahon has drawn inspiration from Tom Waits, the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell and even some 90's Hip Hop, as well as Dylan, "Obviously." His commitment has been to the music, writing two to three days a week when not busking.

Jacob Mahon wore a white shirt and necktie for the show, with baggy tan shorts. Once the group was efficiently assembled onstage they sized up the space, looked to Jacob the cue and then let go with an uncorked energetic burst that seemed a cross between Tom Waits and the Talking Heads, the lead singer Mahon looking comfortable being over-the-top. It was fun watching them perform because Camille on trumpet couldn't keep a straight face, smiling broadly and almost on the verge of laughing at Jacob's antics. After the first number Jacob stated, "That was in G major," which --for this evening at least -- became his schtick.

A second tune followed and then a riff that showed their skill as a team. The fourth tune was another power blam, and the group was hitting on all cylinder, pure uninhibited power, and really tight. This song ended with Jacob saying, deadpan, "That's my brother on drums." It's no understatement to suggest the drummer could have been playing with Hendrix at one time.

The group wasn't all about instrumentals. Their fifth cut involved four-part harmonies as uplifting as the Fab Four in their day, with sax player Joseph Anderson switching it to clarinet. Jacob Mahon's humorous take on everything is woven throughout the performance, spliced into the lyrics with no sutures showing as he sings, "I am what I am... if you can't see the nice in the spice, don't go with habaneros."

He's ready.
Bro' Joseph has the humor thing as well, remarking at the end of that song, "This crowd is McDonalds." A beat. "I'm loving it."

The set list was comprised entirely of songs written by Jacob Mahon, the second half of the show including "Guillotine", "The Way I Am" and "It Only Comes To You in the Dead of Night." The second to last song was another four-part harmony that you could swim in just before the explosive summing up "Dead of Night" that concluded the show with several flourishes that showed an exceptional level of professionalism.

Afterwards I spoke with the 22-year-old trumpet player Camille Marston who said she's been playing since 6th grade. The group she'd been playing with before meeting Jacob here at Beaners was called The Skunch Brothers.

The feeling I had by night's end was something akin to when I saw Sly & the Family Stone back in the early 70's. Energy and harmonies, and a rollicking good time.

* * * *
Tonight is Day 2 of One Week Live at Beaners. You can review the full schedule for this week's OWL events here.

Popular Posts