Quiz: Test your knowledge of “Avatar”

20th Century Fox

Bluer than blue: Test your knowledge of the planet Pandora, the Na’vi people, and their human friends—and enemies.

Originally published on msnbc.com Jan. 28, 2010. Read the complete article.

Interview: Winging it with Mary Lucia

Mary LuciaSince 1994, when she debuted as an on-air DJ at the short-lived alt-rock radio station Rev-105, Mary Lucia has been an unabashed booster for underground and local music—particularly during the last half-decade, as one of the most recognizable voices at Minnesota Public Radio indie-rock outpost at 89.3 FM, The Current. In an age when music on commercial radio is largely locked down by rigid formats, The Current’s playlist is marvelously eclectic, heavy on indie big-hitters like Neko Case and Wilco, but also with a hefty complement of Minnesota musicians, and spiced with the occasional dip into Jerry Lee Lewis or Howlin’ Wolf. Though The Current has never reached the ratings heights of mainstream-rock giants like KQRS, it has been (along with smaller left-of-the-dials like KFAI  and the U of M’s Radio K) hugely important in giving exposure to underheard music, helping drive up audiences for deserving musicians, local or otherwise, that would otherwise be ignored in favor of another spin of some Tom Petty song. Mary Lucia embodies the station’s approach—freewheeling and affably conversational, she’s clearly a fan of music, and as enthusiastic about turning her listeners on to something new and great as she’d be with a close friend. In advance of The Current’s fifth-anniversary show at First Avenue Jan. 29—featuring a stellar all-local lineup including Solid Gold, P.O.S., Mason Jennings, Lookbook, and The Twilight Hours—Mary Lucia talked with The A.V. Club about the beauty of mistakes, the pains and pleasures of winging it, and how she got revenge on She Wants Revenge.

Originally published on avclub.com Jan. 27, 2010. Read the complete article.

Interview: Modern Radio’s 7 ways to make it as a record label

Peter Mielech and Tom LoftusIt’s not easy to keep a labor of love alive—that’s certainly true for indie record labels, and even many successful ones have been wrecked by bad luck, bad decisions, or plain old burnout. But Minneapolis label Modern Radio has been happily plugging away for a decade thanks to both a passion for documenting the Twin Cities music scene and a pragmatism focused on long-term survival. “I’ll be the first to say that I’m not surprised that we made it to 10 years,” says founder Tom Loftus, “and I won’t be surprised when we make it to 20.”

Originally posted on avclub.com Jan. 20, 2010. Read the complete article.

Review: Private Dancer, Trouble Eyes

A glance at the cover art for Private Dancer’s 2009 debut EP, Trouble Eyes, declares up front one element of the band’s sound: Covered with trippy, melting eyes, it echoes the psychedelic artwork on 13th Floor Elevators albums. And indeed there’s some heavy ’60s surf-garage churning around in here, but Private Dancer gleefully merges that with thrashier, wilder noise that grabs elements of The Stooges, Pavement, and early Pixies—not surprising considering the band features members of STNNNG and Hockey Night, but it’s impressive the way they weave and dodge between beauty and powerful dissonance. In October, the group followed Eyes with a new single, pairing a pounding original garage tune, “Ride To Work,” with a passionate and pitch-perfect cover of the Count Five’s psychedelic classic “Psychotic Reaction.”

Originally published in A.V. Club Twin Cities.

Inventory: Stuck in Folsom Prison: Great music from behind bars

Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin

Although country legend Johnny Cash never served time in prison himself, he had his share of scrapes with the law, and always had sympathy for people who’d done wrong. “Folsom Prison Blues,” with memorable lines like “I shot a man in Reno / just to watch him die,” was one of the first songs he ever wrote, inspired by a viewing of the film Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison while he was in the Air Force in 1953. Cash played several jailhouse shows throughout his career, but the two most important and iconic are inarguably his 1968 and 1969 concerts at California’s Folsom and San Quentin prisons, which provided a big boost to his then-flagging career and realized his longtime dream of actually recording a live album from inside prison walls. Although some of the crowd reactions were sweetened in post-production before the albums’ release, Cash’s fiery passion and rapport with his captive audience are genuine and magnetic. Both concerts were filmed for subsequent documentaries. 2008′s Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison has been making the rounds of film festivals and arthouses around the country. The San Quentin concert was also filmed for Britain’s Granada Television, and later turned into a documentary by filmmaker Michael Darlow—which screens at south Minneapolis cinema The Trylon tonight at 7:30 and 9 p.m.

Originally published on avclub.com Jan. 6, 2010 as part of a group-written Inventory feature; I wrote the sections on Johnny Cash, Bukka White, James Carter, and Roky Erickson. Read the complete article.

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