New Arrivals

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make out musicYou may have noticed some peculiar little sections stashed around your friendly neighborhood record shop — things like Music from Outer Space, Classical Gasp, and Difficult Listening. Our favorite of all of these is Make-Out Music, which is filled a variety of classic tunes for foolin’ around, from Marvin Gaye’s essential “Lets Get it On” to James Last’s Seduction. It’s our favorite little section in the shop.

Of course, what makes for make-out music is subjective. Chuck Klosterman writes in Fargo Rock City, “I went to high school with a secretly sleazy farm girl who once said it was ‘totally awesome to fuck to Faster Pussycat,’ and since this girl always had a lot of boyfriends, I assumed she knew what she was talking about.” National Public Radio, possibly one of the least sexy things that could possibly come out of your speakers, listed a make-out mix here which inexplicably includes a song from Swordfishtrombones and “Love Stinks” by the J. Geils Band. These, of course, are probably not the best authorities on the subject of getting laid.

Our own make-out mix (what, doesn’t everyone have one?) leans heavily towards sultry seventies tunes like Kellee Patterson’s “I’m Gonna Love You a Little More Baby” and a friend insists you can’t do better than Sade’s Diamond Life. We didn’t really expect there would be anyone up here in the chilly midwest making music like that, but we were wrong. Love in Blue by BAIN is a tight mixture of soft rock, jazz and smooth R&B which is surprisingly sophisticated and well-produced for a debut LP, and superbly suited for romance.

bain love in blue

Its eight tracks are leisurely paced, hardly topping a hundred beats a minute, making this just about the opposite album from the Blind Shake’s Breakfast of Failures, which we posted last week. The standout rhythm is in the breezy “Whereever,” but this track, “The Way,” is the most romantic. Leader Davis Bain and Jayanthi Kyle share vocals here, and alternate the lead on other tracks.

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“The Way”

You can hear the entire album on their website by clicking the link above, by the way. Its a nice reminder that people are still writing original, sincere love songs.

Although Love in Blue leans in the direction of jazz, the solos are kept simple, pushing the focus towards its melodies. It seems like this is a band that might really cook, but would rather simmer just below a rolling boil, especially keyboardist Erik “Afrokeys” Anderson and the tight rhythm section — the result is a sensual tension that hits the sweet spot several times. The whole band sounds electric in “The One” at the middle of the second side, and deftly brings it down from there. We imagine this is one of the tracks that’s going to be really awesome live.

We’ve been surprised how these songs stick with us after a couple listens, making Love in Blue a good album for general listening, not just making out. Still, we recommend you find someone special and give it a try yourself.

BAIN’s record release show for Love in Blue is this Sunday at the Icehouse, along with Ashley Gold and DJ Fourfeet. Details here.

 

 

The Blind Shake may be the busiest band in the Twin Cities, with a track on Amphetamine Reptiles’ revived Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets series out this week and two albums slated for release in the spring, including a surf rock album with Rocket From the Crypt’s John Reis. They’ve also got a single out this year on a European label, where they’ll be touring next year. They just returned from an East Coast tour, and oh yeah — they’re releasing this awesome LP tonight at the Hexagon Bar. It’s easily one of our favorite albums of the year.

blind shakeAny new album by the venerable trio is likely to be a favorite of ours, but Breakfast of Failures is a resounding success sure to push this band into larger territory. They’ve never explored their sound as widely in a single record as on this album, which has all the furious urgency of their live sets, but a steadier approach to some of the arrangements, from the bombastic title track to the methodically paced “Dots in the Fog,” where Mike Blaha’s baritone guitar takes on the tone of a baroque keyboard over brother Jim’s mournful-sounding accompaniment. It’s consistently surprising that you’re hearing only a trio, especially during the wild frenzy at the end of “Pollen,” and this tightly-packed track, “Parachute”:

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“Parachute”

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“Dots in the Fog”

Breakfast of Failures finds the Blind Shake bolder than ever before, but we still have no idea what’s got ‘em so riled up. “Youth Carnival Waste” hurls rage at someone who’s “kind are the worst,” we think, but we’re not sure who. We keep getting caught up in the song’s surf-styled drive and missing the lyrics. “Go Lie” seems the angriest of all, with a slower pace which sounds like Wire’s “Lowdown” or a track off Generic Flipper, and the cryptic admonishment “Go lie with your words.”

And we’re not sure if we’re being told to “Grab a parachute and dive,” or “die.” We’ve never been very good at deciphering lyrics around here anyway. Breakfast of Failures is a cathartic joy, an album which feels filled to the brim with manic demons who need to stretch their legs. Dave Roper makes it just about impossible to keep your feet still for twenty frantic minutes, and Mike and Jim Blaha explore just about every extraordinary sound a guitar can make along the way, running the range from rage to, um, rage. We get exhausted just listening to this album.

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“Breakfast of Failures”

The Blind Shake will perform tonight at the Hexagon Bar along with Joust, who are releasing a debut single, and Teenage Moods. 21+, 10pm.

We have a lot of pride in this neighborhood where we live and run our little record store. Many of our customers live as nearby as we do, and are friends and neighbors we see in shops and restaurants along East Lake Street and throughout the Longfellow community. With pride we’ve always done all our shopping right here in this neighborhood.

Many more customers come from all over the Twin Cities, the country and even the world to visit us — we’re quick to offer recommendations if they’re looking for a tasty lunch or another place to shop. Hymie’s is sometimes identified as one of the neighborhood’s jewels, which gives us a nice warm-fuzzy but also reminds us of a responsibility to continue to be involved with the work to build a better community.

We think one of the neighborhood’s real treasure is Patrick’s Cabaret, the non-profit theater just a short jump down East Lake from our shop. Their legacy of providing a platform for performance arts on the fringes can’t be beat here in the Cities, from the work of artists of color and members of the GLBT community, to young and emerging performers. They are open-minded, accepting and great neighbors, and we are glad to call them friends. Our favorite shows at Patrick’s Cabaret are their “Singer/Songwriter” and “Eclectic/Electric” Series, but that’s because we’re always most interested in music of course.

If you haven’t been to a performance at Patrick’s, there is one this weekend which would be an awesome introduction. They’re celebrating the release of their Live At Patrick’s Cabaret compilation, which features local musicians who have participated in those two ongoing series. The show is this Friday, November 21st, at 8pm, and will feature live music by Molly Dean, Love Nocturnal and i like you. The collection is produced by the Cabaret’s music programmer, Chris Mozena, and features live recordings of some of our favorite local artists. Take a look at the amazing tracklisting! (you can click on the picture to make it larger)

patricks1

patricks2

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“Tippy Toes” by i like you

The album opens with this awesome song by i like you (this band keeps getting better every time we hear them) and ends with a really great recording of “Summer of 88″ by Spider John Koerner, our favorite song on his great Red House Records album Raised by Humans. In between there’s a wide variety, which happily includes a lot of artists we’ve worked with here at Hymie’s. There’s even a song by Jack Klatt from his collaborative 2012 disc Mississippi Roll, a great recording of a song we singled out as a favorite at the time.

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“Do You Think About Tomorrow?” by Jack Klatt

Say, that’s twice in as many days ol’ Jack has appeared here — one more and we’re gonna have to ask him to start helping out around the shop. One of this collections best tracks is “St. Michael vs The Devil,” a lengthy story song by Davina & the Vagabonds (the same Davina Sowers who is performing at the Patty and the Buttons show we wrote about yesterday). They’re one of the best blues acts around, but this live recording is the next best thing to seeing them on stage.

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“St. Michael vs the Devil” by Davina and the Vagabonds

A friend of ours has long pushed a theory that there are places which become unique crossroads in the universe. They’re the places where you meet remarkable people who become lifelong friends (he first came up with this concept in the kitchen at Al’s Breakfast almost twenty years ago, and has been a friend of ours ever since). They’re also the places where people come up with incredible ideas together, and they provide people with something more than just a sense of community, something almost intangible it’s so fleeting and special. You might not even know where these places are in your life. The story of how Patrick’s Cabaret came to move into a hundred-year-old firehouse hints at how much it has become a magical place for many people.

We’re excited to see they’ve labeled this disc “Vol.1″ because it hints that more will follow. We’ve always been drawn to live albums and wish more would come out of the current Twin Cities scene. As it is, Live at Patrick’s Cabaret is a really unique cross-section of the things you can hear just by looking around town a little, and also a tribute to one of the most original and amazing places in town.

The release show for Live at Patrick’s Cabaret is this Friday, November 21st. You’ll find more details on their events calendar here.

amoratorium test pressWe didn’t know the song titles on one of our favorite new LPs until this week — that’s because all we had was a test pressing for Brian Laidlaw’s ambitious new project, Amoratorium. He was kind enough to let us keep this copy after it arrived, and we have been enjoying it for weeks for what it is — seven new songs by one of our favorite songwriters.

Of course, we like Brian Laidlaw‘s songs enough to have chosen two to be the first ever released by Hymie’s Records on a 45rpm single last month (check it out here). The new songs on Amoratorium are especially interesting because they’re part of a larger concept album project that Brian has been working on for several years. The album approaches the true story and the mythology of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, and it is accompanied by a beautiful twenty-five page book of poetry published by Paper Darts Press. There is a love story at the heart of Amoratorium, as represented by the first song below, “Will Our Love,” but one set against the Cinemascope background of Depression and death. The setting is ideal fit for Brian’s best work as a songwriter — the album seems at times very similar to the EP he released last fall both in its sound and its subject matter and approach (you can read our review of that disc, Echolaliahere).

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were famous when they were ambushed and killed by a police posse on May 23, 1934. It is said that people tried to take off with souvenirs from their corpses, and one man successfully took a lock of Bonnie Parker’s hair. People didn’t really know the real couple, though, but rather sensationalized stories of their exploits in newspapers. The mythology around their story continued to grow up until 1967, when Hollywood cemented the story with a hit film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Around the same time several records about the pair appeared. Flatt & Scruggs recorded an entire album, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, and artists as wide-ranged as Merle Haggard, Serge Gainsbourg (with Brigitt Bardot), Mel Torme and Georgie Fame all made hit records about Bonnie and Clyde in the year following the movie’s release. Amoratorium is part of this pop tradition, but also a unique approach to the familiar story.

The album was produced by Brett Bullion in a temporary recording studio set up in a historic, repurposed church in Granite Falls. The Hammond organ heard on several tracks hat set unused in its foyer for seventy years. Although he is not backed by his regular group, The Family Trade, the sound is not entirely different from their records together. Danny Vitali, who had performed on Echolalia with Brian, joins him along with pianist and fiddler Bex Gaunt. The result has the rounded edges and warmth of an old building, but also the rawness of an earlier time. Brian’s portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde is likewise fit to the times, romantic if not romanticized, and not his first recording to recreate a setting in the past –”Hangtown Hymn” from Whiskey With Goliath frames its story in a similarly sepia-toned atmosphere.

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“Will I Love” 

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“The Way That I Was Made”

Amoratorium cover crop “Nobody but a villain loves a revisionist,” writes Brian in the title poem in the brief book (do books of poetry have ‘title tracks’ in the same way as albums?). A quote from Arthur Penn, who directed the 1967 movie responsible for reigniting the Bonnie and Clyde mythology, is on the first page:

I’d grown up hearing all the stories about Bonnie and Clyde… Everyone knew someone who’d been robbed or kidnapped by them. Any farmer that had an old car that didn’t work, they’d take it out, shoot it full of holes, pour some animal blood on it and show it off as the car Bonnie and Clyde were killed in.

When Bonnie and Clyde were run out of a hideout in 1933 they left behind some undeveloped film and some sheets of handwritten poetry. Their playful pictures brandishing guns and cigars and the slang language in the poems were printed in newspapers around the country, making the couple and their gang famous, if not understood. We haven’t asked Brian why he’s worked for so long on their story but we assume he was in part drawn to the unusual role poetry had played in creating their legacy. The second of Bonnie Parker’s known poems, given to her mother just weeks before she and Clyde were gunned down in a V8 Ford, is the most famous. “They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate,” she writes

They know that the law always wins.
They’ve been shot at before;
but they do not ignore
that death is the wages of sin.

When Bruce Springsteen told the story of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, whose midwestern killing spree left eleven dead in 1957, his characterization was eerily cold. That he wrote a song called “Wages of Sin” around the same time, which was considered for Born in the USA and eventually cut, suggests he was likewise interested in the story of Bonnie and Clyde. We suspect somewhere in the basement of a New Jersey mansion there’s a notebook filled with lyrics which fall short of what Brian wrote for Amoratorium. Nebraska was a commercial failure for Springsteen in ’82, but today regarded as an artistic triumph (hard to believe its the same guy we saw mopishly hawk a children’s book about “Outlaw Pete” on the Daily Show this week). The record is also a relic of the early 80s recession, much as Amoratorium belongs to the current ‘economic downturn’ — which really is a bullshit term, considering that economists have been calling the crises of 2007-8 and their aftermath the Great Recession for years. Brian has often used historical vernacular and settings to explore contemporary concerns but not on such a large scale or with such an intimate focus. We heard a love story in Amoratorium first, and the setting second. New things catch our interest each time we play the album.

Amoratorium is one of the most ambitious LP projects to come out of the Twin Cities music scene this year, and we hope it draws some more attention to Brian’s work. We are very excited to have a copy with the book, so that we can read and enjoy the art while we listen.

Brian Laidlaw will perform music from Amortorium and read poems along with Gillian Conoley on Thursday, November 20th at the Walker Art Center at 7pm. It’s a free event. Additional details here.

He will also be performing here at Hymie’s on December 5th along with the Ericksons, who released their new album, Bring Me Home, last month.

Waiting

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“Waiting Room”

fugazi-first-demoWe’ve been waiting since 2001 for a new Fugazi record, and it looks like it will be a little longer still. As a consolation, Dischord Records is releasing First Demos next month, eleven songs the band recorded in 1988 before their first tour. Early versions of “Waiting Room” and “Merchandise” appear — as well as the first recording of “Furniture,” a song which was their last new single thirteen years ago.

Its possible you have already heard these songs if you love this band as much as we do. These were the first things we listened to when we learned you could find free music on the internet. The copy you can easily find online is made from the band’s tour cassette, which they encouraged people to share at the time. Presumably this reissue will sound as good as the other remastered releases Dischord has been putting out.

piece of mind

fargo rock cityThere are so many things to disagree with in Chuck Klosterman’s 2001 cult favorite Fargo Rock City we wouldn’t know where to begin. It’s why we’ve read it more than once over the years — his candid take on heavy metal is insightful but also hilarious, even if he’s just downright wrong about a whole lot of things.

A good starting point would be Iron Maiden. How in nearly three hundred pages he could hardly mention one of the awesome-est bands in the genre is beyond explanation. When Iron Maiden makes an appearance in Fargo Rock City, it’s when Klosterman suggests their lyrics are funnier than Spinal Tap’s satire.

He does at least admit their widespread influence on other metal bands: “Iron Maiden was fond of ‘perspecitve’ songs, a songwriting technique that later evolved into a cornerstone for death metal … this allowed bands to sing about virtually any subject imaginable without personal responsibility for what they said.”

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“Can I Play with Madness?”

Inevitably, this leads to some pretty dark subjects, and Iron Maiden albums surely aren’t for the faint of heart. That said, there are a lot of fans out there, and if you’re one of them you’ve noticed that their records are few and far between these days. Used copies of their classic albums don’t stick around the record shop for long.

In a lot of ways, Iron Maiden is a record collector’s dream band: their albums are hard to find, they stand up to repeated listening (at least we think so) and they look sweet. If you want an example of why LPs are far superior to CDs as far as cover art is concerned, look no further than the classic Maiden albums.

Any time the PMRC* wanted to illustrate the dangers of rock n’ roll, they would always show the cover art for Live After Death or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. It’s my suspicion that Eddie (or, more accurately, the concept of what a character like Eddie reflected) was the biggest reason Iron Maiden was an elite metal band. These guys were unattractive, they weren’t prototypically cool, and it was impossible to sing along with any of their songs — but Iron Maiden was a type of band. They were the type of band that embraced geekiness, and they did it very, very well. (*What’s this?)

Yep, Iron Maiden’s album covers were awesome. Our favorite was, and still is, Powerslave, even though its not as good an album as Seventh Son or Piece of Mind. They undeniably raised the bar for cover art at a time where most metal albums looked like something you were unable to justify to your parents as ‘actually art.’

iron maiden powerslaveWe think Klosterman’s first observation is the key to Iron Maiden’s enduring popularity — folks have explored unique perspectives as long as they’ve been writing songs, but those classic Maiden albums took the idea to awesomely weird extremes. One of the their best tracks, “Run to the Hills,” explores both sides of the conquering of the New World (we’d post it here but we discovered this morning that somewhere along the line we lost our copy of Number of the Beast). Another fan favorite tells the story of a World War II flying ace (fun fact: lead singer Bruce Dickinson is himself a licensed pilot). “Quest for Fire” explores the experience of primitive people attempting to, yep, conquer fire.

Metalheads love lists, and Fargo Rock City includes a long list of essential albums — we think Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, which includes “Quest for Fire,” should be on that list. And maybe at least one more. Which is their best album is subject to debate, but our favorite is Piece of Mind. Here are the first two tracks:

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“Where Eagles Dare”

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“Revelations”

The good news, dear readers, is that the Iron Maiden catalog is being reissued starting next week. The first three albums are out next week, and we’re excited to have them in stock — and replace our lost copy of Number of the Beast! The rest will follow, and they’re also reissuing all the singles.

seventh son of a seventh son

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?           –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ben Weaver Buffalo LPListen closely and you can hear birds and animals throughout Ben Weaver’s new LP, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo. It was recorded by Tom Herbers, an engineer with a storied career capturing Minnesota music, in a barn outside Rochester. It’s Ben’s eighth album, and also the first released by our shop through its own in-house imprint.

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7 Inch LabelTomorrow we’re also releasing a 45rpm single by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, two songs we are very proud to share with the world. If you’ve been following us here, you’ve already heard the A side, which was featured in a very sweet video shot by Ali Rogers (here) and included footage of the band playing at our block party this past spring. We’ve added the B side of the single at the end of this post.

You may have read this Washington Post article when it was picked up by our local paper last week — one of the plants featured in the article is Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, who are the folks we worked with in making these first two releases. You may also have an idea how difficult it has become to press records these days. The cost, the quality and the timing are all very serious considerations — we’re really happy with our experience working with this plant (and would totally recommend them!) but we’ve heard some terribly heartbreaking stories from friends who have had poor luck with other, larger presses: lost masters, entire runs mis-pressed, damaged lacquers and poor communication. And this is all after the long process of learning to play, writing new music, performing it before an audience, and recording what you want to preserve and share.

Those of us who never stopped buying and listening to records are a little confused by the “resurgence of vinyl” craze. None of us understood what everyone was doing with their CDs and iPods, and DJs that don’t play records. We’re baffled that record shops stopped selling LPs for years, though not surprised they jumped back into it once it proved both fashionable and profitable. When asked if records are “really coming back” by new visitors here, we’ve always just said they never left.

Dropping the needle onto a record never loses that magical feeling — it’s sublime no matter how long you’ve understood the physical process that recreates the sound stored in the grooves. And playing one you helped create has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had here in the record shop.

While we have been working on these projects, I have been running along the river, which is a unique experience early in the morning during this time of the year — the trees are beginning to show us the fall colors, and all the critters are frantically storing away for the coming winter. It has provided a perfect setting to think about ideas presented by these two records, and what Ben and Brian and so many others have brought to our lives with the music they bring to the shop.

I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature, for the second time this fall. Emerson is one of those writers one ought to revisit at different stages of life, because they’ll find new inspiration. A young man takes his lessons from Self Reliance and its theme of independence and individualism, but after the world has worn him down a little he can appreciate the more pensive expressions in Nature.

There are passages of Emerson’s essay which fit beautifully with the words Ben wrote for his new album. In the second section, “Beauty,” he describes the benefits our access to the natural world provide for our physical and spiritual well being:

The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

Of course, even in Emerson’s time, urban life prohibited such peaceful repose, and little has changed in the nearly two centuries since. Artificial living continues to leave us both physically and spiritually unfit. Even one of our most base expressions, music, has become sterilized when it is produced in insulated and windowless studios intended to eliminate such nuisances as the wind that rustles the leaves above our heads.

This past week Ben has visited a couple local radio shows, including one of our favorites, KFAI’s Pam Without Boundaries, which happened to be, sadly, on its last broadcast. In his conversation with Pam Hill Kroyer (which you can stream here) and with the Current’s Dave Campbell (here), Ben offers a familiar explanation for his bicycle tour, one we have heard before here at Hymie’s: “There’s nothing harder than driving to Cleveland on a Tuesday night and playing to ten people in a bar, where they’re probably not listening anyway,” he explains. “It’s so inconducive to having the kind of interactions I want to have with people.”

Instead he has planned to tour on this new album by bicycle, performing in farms and nature centers instead of bars, and participating in projects such as prairie restorations along the way. Details for Ben’s tour to New Orleans, which he has called It’s All the River, can be found on his website here. It’s a plan which again recalls Emerson, who famously wrote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Way up above we promised to post the B side of Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade’s new single, and its fitting we should. It was a conversation with him at the picnic table in our garden which led to the creation of a record label based in this shop — and since announcing these two releases we have started building the plans for the next several.

Over the years we’ve expressed our love for the flip side of a single several times (recently here and here), and so it was with a sort of reverence for the irreverence of the B side that we approached the first ever issued on our own label. Brian brought to us a song he described as “classic Family Trade” which we could hardly resist.

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“Glad for Every Burden” expresses just how we feel about all the work that has gone into these two records, and into this record store. All of it has been a blessing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ben Weaver and Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade will both perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday October 10 (details here). Both new releases from Hymie’s will be available. They will also be reading at Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival on Saturday (details here).

 

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