Top 13 LPs, in no particularly order:
Art history comes to life in the first half of the hour as Josh welcomes Julie L’Enfant onto the show to discuss her new work, Hazel Belvo: a Matriarch of Art.
After the break, Liz and Christopher Zyda, author of The Storm: One Voice from the AIDS Generation, discuss true stories of the AIDS epidemic, Zyda’s loss of his partner, and how his life has been since.
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T.J. shares his experience, strength and hope in his lifelong recovery journey after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 50 years ago. His strength to live his best life comes from his God, his family and his job.
Madness BY Muse
Already Gone BY Eagles
Green Onions BY Booker T. and The MG’s
Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress) BY The Hollies
What an onslaught. And yet Minnesota artists persisted, creating and sharing amidst the constraints of isolation, disease and social injustice. MinneCulture producers at KFAI found innovative ways to work around the pandemic and through the unrest, connecting us with timely art and history stories from around the state. The year was terrible, but the work was a triumph. Here are our editors’ picks for Most Memorable Stories of 2020.
The year started in ordinary fashion—Minnesotan artists doing their thing, KFAI producers sharing their stories. Producer Anna Stitt gave us a beautiful story about the Voices of Hope women’s prison choir, Emily Bright brought us a story about a Hmong hip-hop artist who performed alongside his grandma, Dixie Treichel introduced us to interdisciplinary artist and dancer DejaJoelle, and KFAI program director Mason Butler profiled a film fest that actually encourages audiences to heckle.
But around mid-March, with the arrival of the novel coronavirus and the drop of an executive order, the live events industry all but vanished. Many local artists rallied and moved their work online, like DJ Shannon Blowtorch and MPLS Adonia. Their Tuesday night installations of “Quarantine Live: Online Dance Party” caught the attention of KFAI’s Dixie Treichel, who filed this bumpin’ audio portrait.
During the stay-at-home orders, Polish American artist and MCAD professor Piotr Szyhalski turned to drawing. Working in his basement, he responded to news reports about the pandemic by making incisive drawings that utilize sharply drawn humor to criticize America’s response to the coronavirus crisis. KFAI’s Sheila Regan filed this report.
Season 3 of the MinneCulture Podcast rebooted with original interviews and audio dairies, sharing pandemic stories from a poet, a dancer, a rapper, and a chef. Then on May 25, Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. Protests and unrest swept the Twin Cities. The podcast team hit the streets to find out how artists would respond and what art might emerge from the destruction of entire blocks in the Twin Cities. KFAI’s Nancy Rosenbaum, Anna Stitt, Emily Bright, Melissa Olson and Ryan Dawes produced this podcast episode.
Musician Taylor Seaberg lived just blocks from 38th and Chicago where Floyd was killed. They organized and co-produced a BIPOC community album featuring artists who performed at Floyd’s memorial site. On the album is a track called “Pandemonium” written in response to both the pandemic and the killing of Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Again, KFAI’s Sheila Regan was on it.
The History Theater in St. Paul was slated to stage the world premier of a new musical in May, but COVID-19 wrecked that plan. We did a story on it anyway. Emily Bright filed this one about the historic controversy that inspired “Runestone: The Rock Musical.” By far, this story had the most lively comments section on our facebook page. Who knew a rock might inspire such debate?
June is documentary season at KFAI’s MinneCulture and this year’s crop brought us excellent storytelling on Minnesota arts and history. As 2020 brought the centennial anniversary of both Prohibition and Suffrage, Fulbright fellow and podcaster Katie Thornton revealed how the two movements were intertwined. Here’s “A Brief History of Women in Bars: A Minnesota Story in Three Rounds.”
Then, producer Anna Stitt unveiled her gigantic storytelling feat, “Fighting Back: The Rise of Anti-Racist Action in Minneapolis,” chronicling the rise of anti-racist skinheads who organized to fight white power movements in the Twin Cities. Told through vivid first-person accounts, archival audio, and music from the era, Anna’s doc starts under the railroad tracks in Uptown, Minneapolis and traces a movement that continues to shape the U.S. to this day.
James Napoli’s documentary “Stay Young, Go Dancing” reminded us of the warm embrace of a maskless dance partner in his oral history of one of the Midwest’s most revered polka venues, the Gibbon Ballroom. Dive into the polka scene of rural Minnesota right now. It’ll make you grin.
Returning to the present and the pandemic, as COVID summer 2020 wrapped up, Paul Brohaugh from KFAI’s Poetry, Science and Wrestling brought us a story about an aquatic twist on the drive-in theater. This story features a brief cameo by a cat in a canoe. Listen here:
And lastly, Colleen Cowie reported on the First Love Project, sharing a the story behind a labor love organized by musicians and fans in support of the famed First Avenue.
Thank you to all our producers, the KFAI staff, community radio listeners and the artists who make our work so rewarding.
Support for MinneCulture on KFAI comes from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
Recording Solid Foundations with my co-host MRNC offered a respite from a year filled with loss, tension, rage and anxiety. The opportunity to share music that uplifts, energizes and overwhelms was a blessing, whether we were mixing in the KFAI studio, from our respective homes or together in MRNC’s basement.
I no longer live in Minneapolis, though I hope I can share some guest mixes for Solid Foundations from time to time. Below are some of my favorite dance tracks that came out this year, most of which I played on the show. Most are also available on Bandcamp, a platform that values the work of artists.
This year brought so many lessons to Minneapolis. After yet another police killing, less than a mile away from where George Floyd was taken from us, I can only hope that we start to grasp what they were. We haven’t learned them yet.
Favorite dance music of 2020
Anunaku & DJ Plead – 032 – DJ Plead came out with a ton of great music this year, including a great EP in October. Still, this collaboration was my favorite. Some very risky, hypnotic, bass-heavy drum tracks.
Anz – “Loos in Twos (NRG)” – Three incredible drum tracks. Some of the most fun I had mixing this year.
Baauer – “HOT 44” – There are lots of gems in Baauer’s latest album. Tracks like this one are what make me miss live shows most.
DJ SWISHA – “Shake n Bounce (feat. BASSBEAR!!)” – Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bou–
2020 was a traumatic, exhausting year for so many of us. Music has been an escape for me for years, and this year was no exception. Below you’ll find my list of favorite releases from the year, new and renewed, in alphabetical order. I plucked a couple of my absolute favorites to spotlight at the top (also listed alphabetically).
I’ll play selections from most of these on the January 4 edition of Upside Down–tune in & look back with me.
Chronophage: The Pig Kiss’d Album (Cleta Patra)
Second proper release from this Austin via Florida band finds them once more knee-deep in catchy/strange/backwards Homosexuals-isms. Their debut was brilliant, but this one ups the ante in every way. The best mutated punk sounds of this moment.
Angel Bat Dawid: Transition East (International Anthem)
Everything she’s released so far has been great, but this low-key, meditative single highlights the best parts of her work. The minimal A-side’s multi-tracked clarinet melodies, drum machine and organ/synth performed solely by ABD was my favorite song of this year, which shouldn’t discount the brilliant ensemble B-side.
Destroyer: Have We Met (Merge)
From the Quiet Storm-looking cover image to the Art of Noise icy production, Have We Met is some kind of new high water mark for Destroyer. The pop songs are more narcotic and immediate, the oddities are more far out, and the lyrics are hilarious. An art rock masterpiece.
Tori Kudo: Last Song of My Life (An’Archives)
Live recording of his mammoth composition, with plenty of improvising and tangents around the gorgeous melody and over the course of the nearly 50 minute performance. This may be the most human, moving, and powerful music I heard all year.
Ostraaly: Misery Guests (Tenth Court)
First proper transmission from this Melbourne, Australia-area folk-rock group, centered on the songs and voice of Katharine Daly. The loose, messy guitars follow that Dirty Three/Mick Turner lineage of Australian ur-rock, but Daly’s story songs are one of a kind.
Rhyton: Krater’s Call (no label)
This trio have a number of releases under their belt, but none of them hit quite like this. Loose, playful freeform psychedelic-folk-jazz-space-funk-whatsit explores plenty of turf without losing their own identity.
In the first half of the hour, Dave talks to Ron Nyren about family, Finnish lore, and tragedy in Nyren’s new book, the Book of Lost Light.
Next, we air a legacy interview, in which Steve welcomes Mira Bartók onto the show to discuss her young readers’ book The Wonderling.
KFAI is proud to announce Sam Stahlmann as our station’s very first Director of Development & Marketing. This position will provide the support and stability that KFAI needs to continue its programming for many years to come. Sam’s unique experience and demonstrated commitment to KFAI’s ideals make her exactly the person to lead this charge. Please feel free to read more about Sam below to get to know KFAI’s newest team member a bit better!
Sam Stahlmann (she/her/hers) is a musician, organizer, teacher, and DIYer born and raised in the Twin Cities. She is passionate about creating an intersectional music community and strives to uplift the voices and music of folks who have historically been silenced. She has been supporting KFAI’s mission and programming for many years and has even had the pleasure of hearing her bands played over the airwaves. As the former Co-Executive Director of the local organization, She Rock She Rock, Sam comes to us with a bulk of fundraising, grant writing, youth development, and strategic planning experience and knowledge.
Sam plays guitar, bass, and sings in the bands With Iowa In Between, Granddad and Cadence & the Wolf. She loves touring and traveling, and has even been to a live show in Tokyo, Japan. When she’s not busy with music, or a global pandemic keeps her from it, Sam enjoys cooking, watching TV, reading and snuggling with her cat, Ned.
Sam currently lives in Minneapolis on the land of Wahpekute & Sioux people.