Winter. It’s coming. And like the members of the intrepid cooperative 612 Sauna Society, we’re getting excited for the cold outside and the inside dry heat—inside saunas. The organization behind the mobile sauna that makes an appearance at some of Twincy’s most fun winter events has completed their kickstarter to transition into a full-fledged organization with an even more epic and more mobile sauna experience.
Since we’re so fired up for the next iteration of their public sauna, and for their big party at Surly to celebrate their success, we checked in with Founding Board Member Teke O’Reilly.
Secrets of the City: We’re big fans of embracing the winter and new traditions that do so; how does the mobile sauna meld the old ways with our new northern winter traditions?
Teke O’Reilly: We like to call it the ‘urban sauna revival’, even though something like this hasn’t really existed before. We’re bringing Sauna back from the cabins and the north woods, and into the lives of city folk. By keeping it mobile, we make it surprising and available for everyone. We’re also making a huge push to create cross-community dialogue in the Sauna, as they so often do in Scandinavia. We want to facilitate change through empathy, and in today’s world, that’s certainly needed.
The “share the bench” co-op piece to the Sauna Society is intriguing; what’s that community piece mean to the group?
The Community piece means everything to the group. The personalities that show up are innately generous individuals, and they love to share the warmth, stories, and tradition with strangers and close friends alike. All of these people coming together make it possible to share with more and more people. Community is the secret sauce of the Sauna Society, and it has certainly taken on a life of its own.
What’s more important in sauna culture—conversation skills or ability to chill?
There will be epic stories, and there will be silence. One’s ability to chill and take it as it comes is essential to a good experience for everyone. It’s probably the least awkward context for your standard awkward Minnesotan.
How crazy is the Kickstarter goal party at Surly going to get?
On a scale of 1 to 11, we’re shooting for bananas.
Many MPLS + STPL music scenesters know the past music of Johnny Solomon from his previous band Friends Like These and the popular first album from his follow-up pop-rock project Communist Daughter. But the past few years have been intensely transformational for Solomon and his music: After going through rehab and managing mental illness, the musician—along with bandmate and now wife Molly Solomon and other top notch hometown talent—have released a truly great new album The Cracks That Built The Wall.
Communist Daughter is just getting back from a national tour for the album, and play a triumphant homecoming show at First Avenue’s Mainroom this Friday with similarly beloved local openers Alpha Consumer, up-and-comers Fraea, and pop-punks Catbath. We sent some Quick Questions to Solomon to hear more about the new record and upcoming show.
Secrets of the City: We’ve read a lot about the personal element of The Cracks That Built The Wall, which obviously can come through lyrically. But how has that also come through in sound development and song composition?
Johnny Solomon: I think I’m always trying to capture the sound of my own thoughts, I’m always trying to add the layer that isn’t really music, it’s more the feeling that the song needs in certain places. Its the 3rd part of the song. Its a hard process to describe, its like trying to unfocus your eyes so you can see one of those hidden picture things they sell at malls . . . I try to unfocus my ears and head, and I just try to find the sound in all of that noise inside me.
There’s a great polish on the songs on The Cracks That Built The Wall—how much of an impact did Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Benjamin Booker) and Heba Kadry (Future Islands, The Mars Volta) have on the recording?
The biggest impact on the polish actually came from Kevin Bowe, he really worked with us to produce a much more refined sound. Then when we had it pristine we took it to Andrija to sand off some of those smooth edges and put it through that vintage filter of a sound. He has a great ear for adding the grit back. Heba just took it all and made it clear. It was a lot of cooks in the kitchen and Heba was able to make it sound like we planned it that way.
MPLS + STPL music fans are familiar with Communist Daughter, does that familiarity impact your music writing process at all?
I’m definitely aware of the fact that people want to hear our music now, whether good or bad I’m aware of it. I think the biggest thing was that I knew that I wouldn’t have a song like “Not The Kid” on this record. This record was less about the single, and more about the whole package.
How exciting is it to have a big First Avenue Mainroom show for the album?
There is a list of things that I wanted to do as a musician that I have been crossing off my whole life. Headline our own show at First Ave was right at the top. Success isn’t about money or even attention, its just a feeling that comes with being grateful for what you have. No matter what ever happens after this, I get to say I was one of those bands that headlined First Ave and that will feel like some kind of success . . .
As all Hallow’s Eve approaches, many of us ruminate on the dark and scary parts of the material and spirit world—but honestly what could be spookier than the subconscious of our own crazy modern minds? Several artists tackle that theme in the upcoming multi-artist exhibition Midnight at the Light Grey Art Lab gallery. The opening reception for Midnight is this Friday, October 28th at 7 PM, and to help build up our bravery for the show we shot some quick questions over to curator Lindsay Nohl to hear more about it.
Secrets of the City: What’s the enduring appeal of “intuition, divination, and the subconscious” for an art show like Midnight and the corresponding workshops? Do we get to inhabit and converse with a (sometime all too real) additional reality?
Lindsay Nohl: The Midnight exhibition reminds us that there is a whole side of ourselves that we meet at night. Our dreams are reflections of desires, emotions and situations we can’t, (or won’t) manifest in the waking world. In this exhibition, we asked artists to analyze a particularly vivid dream and to produce a piece of work with the symbols, metaphors and subjects within. We hope that through this, artists can use the piece as a threshold between two worlds– a way to step into the other side and learn more about themselves and what alternate realities they live while they sleep. Dreams aren’t literal. Our subconscious speaks in signs and signals, and in order to understand them, they need to be translated. This exhibition allows viewers a chance to help interpret those symbols for the artists, as well as see inside the minds of the creators.
The appeal for the subjects of intuition, divination and the subconscious come from our desire for understanding. It is human nature to want to create order out of the chaos and to assign meaning to things that might seem random or organic. A person’s subconscious works it’s magic through our “gut-feelings” — sometimes giving us insight when we least expect it, and we learn to trust it even though we can’t explain exactly why. If we only knew how to unlock the secrets of our subconscious, we might understand ourselves a bit better and utilize the signals we provide ourselves to manifest more in the waking world.
Light Grey Art Lab has done several really great shows with large numbers of artists—what’s behind this “more is better” approach?
We have two reasons for the group-show concept. Imagine shouting a question into a room of 100 people and receiving 100 different perspectives at once. When you view such a large amount of work on a single subject you get both an idea of how the creative community feels about the subject and it’s nuanced pieces and parts, and you get a more comprehensive idea of the subject itself. It’s as much a room full of interpretations as much as a research project. We look to understand the thematic concepts through the eyes of a group. The second reason we exhibit group shows is that our mission is to build community and conversation between artists. Our pre-show prep includes shared documents, social media process sharing, and a follow-Up through thematic blog posts where artists can respond to one another and connect over their shared interest in a topic. It’s one way to make the global art community feel more approachable and intimate.
As a curator, what does your own subconscious tell you? Get more sleep?
I am infinitely interested in understanding the hidden side of being a human. If I could understand why things “feel right” or why I have inklings that things will turn out, or even if I could just meet that part of myself that I live through in dreams, i think I would feel like I’ve unlocked something incredible. Almost like the secrets to why I do what I do… I’ve learned to trust that subtle, cloaked side of my intuition regardless of how much it makes rational sense, because for whatever reason, she’s always been an incredible, and very insightful guide.
Pic: Shifting by Camille Chew
The Twin Cities Film Fest, already underway out at the Showplace Icon Theaters at West End, really ramps up this weekend to showcase some of the most important buzz worthy films of the year for the next two weeks. In addition to the film screenings, there’s also panels with filmmakers, shindigs, and a kid’s film day camp.
The festival has something for everyone—which can also mean there’s almost too much to see. So we quick checked in with Steve Snyder, Artistic Director to get some recommendations and a trailer-length peek at the Twin Cities Film Fest.
Secrets of the City: We often talk about MPLS + STPL as being a film town, since there’s so much great programming happening. Where do you see the Twin Cities Film Festival fitting into our hometown film scene?
Steve Snyder: So much great programming, yes, but also so much great filmmaking. Between narratives, documentaries, shorts, film competitions and commercial work, what’s struck me most, as the Twin Cities Film Fest has grown up, is how much networking I see happening, around the red carpet and inside the party venues. This is a great town for artists to work in the industry, too, and the increasing number of impressive Minnesota and Midwestern film productions premiering at our fest—films like “June Falling Down,” screening on the 28th—is proof of that. As for where the festival fits into the programming scene here . . . I split my time between New York City and Minnesota, and I see many parallels between our festival and the New York Film Festival, which happens every October as well. NYFF is less a film society approach and more a scaled-down curatorial effort. There are only a couple screenings each night, but the promise of NYFF is a higher bar for each screening, a richer discussion, a better chance to connect with your fellow filmgoers. That’s how we’ve modeled ourselves—see the Oscar titles before anyone else, discover local filmmakers, have a chance to connect with your fellow film lovers. That’s why we have parties and mixers every single night.
It was actually really great to see Lea Thompson at the TCFF gala a few weeks ago—what brought that appearance and award about?
We’ve actually been in touch with Lea for a couple years now. I’ve long been a fan of her movie The Trouble With the Truth, and somehow it never screened in Minnesota during its theatrical release, and we were actually trying to make the celebration happen at the 2015 festival. But she had filming conflicts last year, and then also this year, during the festival run, so we were thrilled to be able to invite her to our annual gala, celebrate her career, toast this amazing movie . . . it was such a special night.
Do you have any personal recommendations for things to see during the two-week-long festival? Name as many as you want, we’ll sit in as many cushy Showplace ICON Theatre seats as we can.
Oh man, I could live at the ICON. Movies all day; just go upstairs to the restaurant for my three square meals. I could get used to that.
A lot of festival regulars have been asking me: What should I see during TCFF, so I can be ahead of the curve? The next indie film, or Oscar contender, that people will be talking about 6 months from now? And for them, I’ve looked at the films I’ve programmed for prime time, and the filmmakers we’ve flown in, to be part of the fun, and I think these 6 rise above the rest, in terms of street cred, awards potential, and a good mix of genres. For those who may be attending for the very first time, hopefully this is also a nice mix to ease you in. (I’ve tried to streamline the details, but I’m happy to go in depth with anyone who wants more info. Email me directly at steve.snyder @ twincitiesfilmfest.org)
Monday, Oct. 26—The Eagle Huntress, 6:15 PM. This was a smash hit documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, about a teenage girl in Mongolia who’s trying to become the first female in thousands of years to join the men in her community in hunting with a golden Eagle. Some critics have put it on their shortlist for a potential Best Documentary nomination at the Oscars. We’ve scheduled it as our Official Centerpiece—and as the father of a 2-year-old girl, I found it absolutely inspiring. Even better: It’s narrated by Daisy Ridley, the newest Jedi of the “Star Wars” universe.
Wednesday, Oct. 26—The Architect, 6:15 PM. I fell in love with this at the Seattle International Film Festival—a slow-burn comedy about a married couple looking to build a house who choose one eccentric architect. Parker Posey and Eric McCormack star in it, and are spot on in ramping up the quirky dynamics of this unusual couple.
Wednesday, Oct. 26—I Do?, 8:45 PM. This is already the success story of this year’s TCFF. It’s a documentary about love marriage and the complications of long-term commitment made by local filmmaker Joe Brandmeier that’s already sold out its screenings. So we just booked an extra screen for the 26th. It’s so sweet, and sensitive, and also serious . . . and it’s a wonderful breakthrough for a Minnesota filmmaker. Even better: For those wanting a nice date night out at the festival, you scan see both The Architect AND I Do? on Wednesday.
Thursday, Oct. 27—Trespass Against Us, 8 PM. This one’s fresh out of the Toronto International Film Festival—a new crime thriller starring Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson. Obviously, given the A-list talent, there’s been huge interest for this one.
Friday, Oct. 28—Baby, Baby, Baby, 6:45 PM. This was the biggest surprise of the film search this year. It came our way through the Newport Film Festival, and it’s a pretty unique comedy about a guy thrown into despair through a breakup with his girlfriend. The writing is so sharp and the cast is so incredible—featuring Brian Klugman, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Alba, Kelsey Grammar, William Shatner—it’s probably our best romantic comedy of the year.
Saturday, Oct. 29—Burn Country, 8:20 PM. If you want celebs, and buzzworthy films, and huge parties, this right here should be your pick. I saw the movie with a different title (The Fixer) at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a great little mystery about an immigrant who becomes an aspiring journalist, and then finds himself chasing an unlikely crime story. And starring opposite James Franco and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo is Dominic Rains—a great actor with THREE films at this year’s festival (the others are the dark comedy Funeral Day and the neo-noir thriller The Loner) — who is being hailed for his breakout performance here. Dominic will be here in person, to receive our North Star Award For Excellence. And he’ll be at the huge closing night party, which is always the highlight of the festival. A ticket to this film will get you into the party. Check it out!
Let’s get the Best Buy Filmmaker Academy for the kiddos in here, what’s this program all about?
It’s open to kids ages 8 to 18, is totally free thanks to Best Buy’s support, and gives kids the chance to see a free shorts program, meet the filmmakers, and then design their own movie poster and edit their own movie trailer. It’s networking, mentorship, community building . . . this is what TCFF is building towards. Supporting the future arts community that will help our filmmaking community grow even larger. We’re trying to be the change that we want to see. Parents can still sign up their kids btw—limited spots remain here: http://bit.ly/tcff-freeday16. 10 AM-4 PM on Sunday.
This weekend’s Twin Cities Book Festival is the must-attend meet-up for book fans and the literary scene from all over the region. The big fest, brought to us by Rain Taxi, “welcomes ‘rock star’ authors, local literary heroes, publishers, magazines, booksellers”, many of whom you can meet and mingle with during the get-together at the MN State Fair Grounds. (We said it was big!) Since there’s so much going on at the Twin Cities Book Festival, we quick checked in with Eric Lorberer, Rain Taxi’s Editor, to get some direction.
Secrets of the City: The Twin Cities Book Festival is so much more than just a bunch of tables with books, it’s mingling with authors, it’s hearing presentations, it’s helping empower youth. Why are those aspects of the TCBF so important to “book culture”, for lack of a better descriptor.
Eric Lorberer: That’s the magic of books—they are way more than objects we hold in our hands. They inspire thought, action, and definitely culture—it’s actually a pretty good descriptor, because the best books foster growth. So along with celebrating the objects, our Book Festival is all about that giving a day over for that mingling, sharing, and empowering you’ve noticed. It’s ultimately about celebrating the people (authors, publishers, booksellers, and readers) that together make the magic happen.
The event is pretty involved, but what specific things would you recommend for folks to check out at the Festival?
Oh man . . . I know it’s a cliche but there’s really something for everyone! People who are hands-on should make some collaging history (seriously), bargain hunters should check out our used books and vinyl (double seriously), and hitting even a few aisles of the book fair will make anyone pleasantly dizzy with the sheer variety of work being published. But folks should get off their feet for at least one session and listen to a presentation too—if you don’t know the authors already even better, because if it sounds intriguing, our bet is you’ll be rewarded with a new fave.
Do you program certain panels like The Art of Rock or the Belinda Jensen children’s book to get people who wouldn’t maybe hold on to a book with a cold, dead hand?
I wouldn’t quite put it that way, but we do intentionally make the Book Festival broad in scope—while our magazine is pretty focused on independent publishing and writing that falls under the radar, the Festival gives us a chance to look at all different kinds of new work: local celebrity children’s authors for sure, but also dope queen Phoebe Robinson, revered comics artist Eddie Campbell (from Australia and From Hell, yo!), and rock poster artists extraordinaire . . . we try to get every kind of author in for our one-day book frenzy.
Why does our hometown literary scene party so hard!?
Ha, I think it’s because writing is actually difficult and often solitary work, so when it’s time to come out and play, we wanna go big. We work hard, then we play hard.