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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for February 19th, 2020

Doin’ Lowertown

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Last weekend was all about the Lowertown district on the edge of downtown St. Paul for us. We attended a concert at the Palace Theatre for a Valentine’s date on Friday night and met our friends, Barb and Mike on Saturday for dinner at the Handsome Hog restaurant that overlooks Mears Park. The drive from home feels quicker than the 35-40 minutes it takes when we exit directly onto 6th street and instantly find ourselves at our destinations, with no other turns required.

The highlight was by far the food and company on Saturday night. The contemporary Southern pig-centric menu is incredibly well-executed, based on the variety of delicious selections we all shared family-style. The location worked as an exact half-way point between our two homes, with the Wilkuses coming from the west and us from the east/southeast. They are the bestest of friends!

The concert on Friday was a meld of Calexico (Joey Burns and John Convertino) and the endearing Sam Beam who performs under the moniker Iron & Wine. They are a good match and clearly enjoy each other and performing together for an audience. I am a fan of Sam Beam’s songwriting and performance and generally can appreciate the Americana Tex-Mex indie rock of Calexico.

Unfortunately, I’ve reached an age where I too easily let the peripheral aspects of going out to see live performances tarnish the ultimate impression of events. The music was good, and the performers wonderfully engaging, so I was happily entertained in that regard.

We were impressed that the opening entertainer, 22-year-old Madison Cunningham, started exactly at the time the show was billed to begin, regardless the many unfilled seats. The first thing I noticed when I sat down in the balcony was that the rows were so tight I would be breathing into the hair of the person sitting in front of me. Luckily, there was no one there for the opening set.

Cyndie and I were unfamiliar with Madison and were pleasantly surprised. It would be fair to compare her singing and guitar skills to Joni Mitchell. No wonder we both liked her.

When the headliners took the stage, the seats in front of us filled and the fog machine pumped a mist to better show off the lights. I’m not sure where the director of the light show was sitting, but it’s a good guess it wasn’t in the balcony. They kept turning the fog machine on so often it was getting difficult to see the performers through the constantly thickening haze.

To make matters worse, they too frequently turned bright lights on behind the musicians, shining the beam up into our line of sight.

While I was fighting to see through all that, my eyes started to water from the essential oil or exotic shampoo aroma the woman in front of me (right beneath my nose) was radiating into the atmosphere. Maybe she had just pulled her coat out of moth-ball storage. It was hard to tell. It evoked a blend of rancid spices rubbed into an old dirty rug.

Much as I appreciate Lowertown, and as fun as it was to hear Iron & Wine music live again, I’m afraid the return to comforts of home with tunes playing through my speakers seems just as good, or even better.

Definitely a sign of aging.

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