Tuesday, Jan. 26th, 2010

Show Review: Str8Up @The Snout Saloon

According to Snout music director, Chad Kruger, Str8up has never drawn a crowd in the three times they have played the bar.   A little surprising, because as far as bands go, Str8up isn't bad.   I saw them last in March of 2008.   At that time the lead guitar was quite new to the group.  So they had some rough edges.  Still though, despite those rough edges, Shelby Martin, lead singer provided me with my musical highpoint of 2008.  She sang the Four Non Blondes Whats Up?.  It was fantastic.   Breath-taking really. I requested it (something I almost never do) this trip,  knowing it could never reach that pinnacle.  Before, it was so totally out of the blue, this time I would know it was coming.  Shelby admitted when I talked to her, she hadn't sung it in a while.  She did a good job.  I was pleased.   It's a great song, and a great song for Shelby's range ...

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Fighting for history ... or renter dollars?

Last night, Eau Claire’s city council heard from the public about proposed changes to laws governing the Water Street Commercial District – changes that would allow the construction of four-story buildings. Speaking against the proposal (looking to keep ordinances at the current three-story limit) were landlords John Mogensen (Investment Realty), Chase Collins (Caron Campus Area Housing), and others. We’ve also heard of opposition from Sharon Moss (General Property Management LLC and the Historic Randall Park Association).

If the city changed its ordinances to allow taller structures, it’d open the door to building things like larger student apartment complexes – and this seems to be at the heart of the debate. Arguments against the change include stress on an already cramped parking situation, and the ruination of the “historical aesthetic” of the street and nearby neighborhood. But ...

A cynical person might leap to the conclusion that property owners opposing the changes – who are mostly landlords – are basically looking to preserve their renter dollars by keeping competition at bay. But for the sake of argument, remember that any kind of property owner might oppose a student apartment complex because they have an annoying tendency to bring down property values. 

As far as the “historicalness” or lackthreof of four-story buildings ... I’m not so sure I care about that. Seriously, in all of Water Street’s history, there’s never been a building over three stories tall? Really? Correct me if I’m wrong.

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Monday, Jan. 25th, 2010

The Valley shoots Minneapolis’s Northern Howl

Northern Howl came out of nowhere, and yet that seems fitting. All That’s Under the Night’s Sky, the band’s debut album, is more a friendly handshake than a high-five. It is a warm cup of cocoa while watching the snow fall in the streetlamps. Layers upon layers of melodies, harmonies and rhythms subtly slip into your subconscious, leaving you humming for the rest of the week.

... for more videos and photos of Northern Howl, check out The Valley.

The Valley is a collection of musical performances with the Chippewa Valley as a backdrop. The project is headed by three students at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire who may have only minimal experience, but a passion for their community and the art that surrounds it. (The Valley is inspired by Vincent Moon's Takeaway shows, available at La Blogotheque.)

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They're playin' with the Theater Scene ... in a good way

I want to take a minute to crush on the UWEC Players. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a group of renegade theater students at the university, who a little over a year ago decided to start a group and do their own public performances. Their bibliography includes The Dispute, and original productions Candid, The Memory Project, and the upcoming Because of Poppy Weisz. These are the same kids that were living statues at the Viennese Ball and International Fall Fest. And they put on a Haunts of Eau Claire Bus Tour.

Say what you want about their talent or quality of productions, you have to admire this kind of ambition. They started their own group; write their own shows; do everything from casting to reserving space; organize unique events; market themselves really well (with photos, posters, Twitter, a website and blog, etc.; all while finding time to go to class.

I’m most immediately struck by their strange marketing for the Poppy Weisz show. Just check out their website and you’ll see what I mean. And in a really awesome Radiohead-meets-theater move, they’re advertising the January 30 performance date as a “pay what you feel” option. How freakin’ cool is that? ("Poppy Weisz" even has a Twitter account).

Let’s face it; these guys and gals are doing some pretty cool stuff, and making an even better name for UWEC’s theater department in the process. Kudos, kids. Keep on playin.'

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Sunday, Jan. 24th, 2010

Weekly Shakedown:
The Stuff You Maybe Missed

Here’s a fantabulous assortment of Volume One website goods that you may have missed last week.

Enjoy your Sunday, one and all.

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