Author: Jay Carlson

Music on Trial: Heartwork Yoga collaborates with The Chapel

Portland-based band Musée Mécanique played at Heartwork Yoga on Thursday, Oct. 30 to a small but intimate audience. The concert combined the best of two worlds: Mike Morris, owner of The Chapel, booked the band and Heartwork Yoga Studio provided heating, low-light ambience, hot tea, blankets and an excuse not to wear shoes. The audience quietly shuffled into one of the yoga studios in socks and scarves on a chilly and blustery day to listen to the music.

The show started late after a modest gathering of about 15 people settled down on the floor with yoga blankets, pillows and complementary tea. Normally, Musée Mécanique is made up of more than six members, but they were only traveling with three. While the room would not have suited the full band, it proved a great physical space for Musée Mécanique’s acoustic guitar, synth and glockenspiel lineup on Thursday night. The band played an hour of music, mostly from its recently released nautically-themed concept album “From Shores of Sleep.”

The band is currently touring with a smaller number of members to reimagine and rearrange its music for limited personnel. Heartwork Yoga Studio provided an atmosphere that matched these goals. The music itself was robustly arranged, with synth pads floating in and out of harmonica and banjo lines. It remained very centered around the singer-with-acoustic-guitar folk aesthetic. Many self-defined soft rock fans there are so many in the Upper Midwest would find their tastes perfectly at home with Musée Mécanique. There is an element of escapism in hearing any live music, but in some cases these circumstances overpower the performance.

Although the music was nuanced and well-performed, my friends and I found the cozy atmosphere a little too comfortable and struggled to remain awake between the quiet and calm music, hot tea and the warm yoga studio.

Usually Thursday night shows, after the stress and rigor of the week, are a personal favorite. But with this past week’s colder temperatures and crazy schedule, Musée Mécanique’s chilled-out singer-songwriter vibe couldn’t keep my energy up.

I look forward to hearing the band again under different circumstances and grabbing its album when its Square-card reader works.

carlsonj@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: The Chapel, where Northfield gets weird

The first time I ever heard Caroline Smith, I was with a friend and a cup of jasmine tea on a Thursday night in a Northfield venue unknown to many musicians and fans. The Chapel, a cozy upstairs venue that hosts music and art events at 310 ½ Division Street, is run by Michael Morris.

In September, the Chapel put on North by Northfield, bringing in local and Pacific Northwest bands for three full days of music. This past weekend I had the pleasure of chatting with Morris at Tandem Bagels about his vision with the venue, his two record labels and making Northfield weird.

Morris spent much of the last decade touring with his bands, which include Dewi Sant, Valley Fair and Wesley Church and the Fabulous Vanguards. He split his time between the Twin Cities and Seattle before settling down in Northfield based on the recommendation from bandmates. In Northfield, Morris found culture and a pervasive interest in art, but a subtly divided community. Everyone knows that the Olaf and Carleton rivalry is mostly nonexistent, but a pseudo-competitive relationship is often stressed over a collaborative one. The older Northfield crowd has bohemian associations with the college music scene. Morris believes this has opened the Chapel to “try to bring a segregated town together.”

During our conversation, Morris continually stressed the importance of giving back to Northfield in a meaningful way. He described the Chapel as a “listening space,” not a “beer-first, music-second” venue frequented by trashed college kids. His goal is to “bring together parts of the community that were not sharing intimate, vulnerable and meaningful human experience.”

Looking forward, this means expanding the notion of a traditional music venue and placing more emphasis on the space itself. Partly inspired by a realization that the Chapel, located up a long flight of stairs, is not handicapped-accessible and by the association that listeners make with a space and a certain genre of music, Morris is looking into alternative music spaces in Northfield. The Chapel will present shows at halls in the Eagles Club, the Northfield Arts Guild, the Key and the First United Church of Christ.

A mutually beneficial relationship, these concerts will increase the visibility of both the Chapel and of the space in which shows are held. Many of these shows will feature bands on one of Morris’ record labels, Rice County Records and Plastic Horse Records. Morris also runs The Barn, an all-analog studio in Northfield where many of these bands record.

One of these events is right around the corner on Thursday, Oct. 30 at Heartwork Yoga Studio where Portland electronic folk band Musée Mécanique will be performing. Listeners will kick their shoes off and escape from the horrors of academic life for an evening. I’ll be there. With my jasmine tea.

Comparing the Chapel’s goals in Northfield to the official slogan of Austin, Texas’ small businesses, Morris explains that he wants to make Northfield weird.

“It should be weird… but it’s not,” Morris said.

So come out to a show at the Chapel, or one of its affiliated venues, and help Michael Morris make Northfield weird.

carlsonj@stolaf.edu

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Backstage Conversations with Hoodie: Music on Trial: September 26, 2014

These conversations took place backstage during the Hoodie Allen concert on Saturday, Sept. 20:

Band member to student: Is there anything going on in Northfield?

Student: Uh, there’s a chill British pub downtown. If you’re looking for a club, then no.

Band member: Actually, I just want to chill out and smoke.

Student: Oh, we can do that.

Band leader to student: Drive me somewhere, to a party with about 15-20 people. It would be good if they were hot girls.

Student: Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

It was just a stupid little comment, right? Isn’t it obvious that guys in the music industry act like this? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll?

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Asking to be served a group of college girls on a silver platter is unacceptable, yes, even for famous rappers. That is a disgustingly entitled view of women that directly affects all of us.

Boys are taught that they deserve sex with attractive women. Girls are taught to be attractive sex objects. The majority of women involved in pornography and prostitution are not there by choice – men put and keep them there to make money. If you don’t believe me, check out breakingfree.net and go to a St. Olaf Leaders Abolishing Slavery SOLAS event.

Music is one of the most acceptable ways to objectify women. When we take for granted these seemingly small instances of misogyny and objectification of women, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to everyone around us. We are consciously and unconsciously affected by the media we consume. Much of the time, an artist’s personality, personal views and outlook are opaque. Lyrics are often explained away as artistic statements or just having fun. But occasionally, in a Kanye “Imma let you finish” sort of way, we get to actually meet the artist. What if the band members had said these things on stage instead of during the performance? Would the audience have left in disgust?

But now that I think about it, Hoodie Allen did say something of the sort. Has anyone ever listened to his lyrics before? Maybe you even cheered for them during the concert.

carlsonj@stolaf.edu

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Music on Trial: September 19, 2014

You’ve probably heard by now that Hoodie Allen is the fall concert here at St. Olaf. The choice to host the rapper has been subject to a lot of criticism among students. However, there may be a few things about Hoodie, other than his music, that you haven’t heard. For instance, Hoodie Allen worked at Google before quitting to pursue his rap career. Come check him out in the Pause on Saturday, Sept. 20. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. with the campus band Megatherium Club.

Hardly the only indicator of this campus’ burgeoning music scene, Megatherium Club was one of four bands to play in the first music event of the year. At the annual Block Party, a modest gathering of students took to the quad to hear some campus-music-scene mainstays. Student Government Association SGA respectfully held off blasting Top 40 for a couple hours and gave way to Christian Wheeler feat. John Kronlokken, Maria & the Coins, Air is Air and Megatherium Club.

Each of these artists can be found on First Feast, DNNR PRTY’s Spring 2014 release available online at dnnrprty.bandcamp.com. As some of you may remember, DNNR PRTY released this album to feature the original works of 14 campus musicians. From the recording session to the production of a physical CD, this student group has worked wonders in professionalizing and promoting the campus music scene. Last year I participated as a member of Air is Air and Megatherium Club. This year, I’m proud to be the Marketing and Events Coordinator of DNNR PRTY.

I feel it is important to acknowledge the past year of music at Olaf. We heard performances from Caroline Smith, Andy Grammer, Cloud Cult and Local Natives. We waited with bated breath as campus bands Air is Air, Merino Wool and Megatherium Club released albums independently find them on bandcamp. Look forward to new releases from Fringe Pipes, Air is Air and Megatherium Club this year.

I will be contribuiting to this column for the remainder of the year. With much editorial help, I am confident in my ability to put forward a fabulous music column. After all, $\geq \frac{1}{2}$ of my WRIs came from math classes. I play drums in Fringe Pipes, Megatherium Club and Jazz 1. I work as a Peer Advisor in the Piper Center and am a founding member of the creativity initiative bloom’s core group. I enjoy pizza bagels so much that the topping combination of sausage and green peppers has been termed by my friends as the “Open Face Jay.”

Let’s talk music! Shoot me an email, Facebook me or find me at pretty much any St. Olaf music event. Finally, if you find yourself in the audience of a campus band this year, whether in the Pause or at a house, please take a minute to appreciate that they put massive amounts of time into basically sounding like Dave Matthews Band. So listen up. Ya dig?

carlsonj@stolaf.edu

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