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Curtiss A doubles his annual John Lennon tribute with kid-friendly First Ave show

December 6, 2018

Im So Tired might be an especially apt Beatles song for Curtiss A to sing at First Avenue this weekend.

After the usual 39th annual installment of his popular A Tribute to John Lennon show on Saturday always a marathon that goes late and loudly into the night the Minnesota music legend will return to the club the next morning with a noontime version of his tribute, just for kids.

The mere prospect of the family show might raise some concerns for parents whove attended the nighttime Lennon tributes. For one thing, it could be a hard test for the real-life Curt Almsteds vocal wherewithal, since the man once dubbed the Dean of Scream always lives up to that nickname during the lengthy Lennon shows.

Sundays matinee also could be a test for Mr. As self-censoring capabilities. Almsted has been known to present some rather colorful stage banter and incorporate some of his old punk-rock character in these tributes to the pre-punk rock icon.

Dont worry, were not going to play Shes So Heavy, and Im not going to scare anyones kids, Almsted, 67, said with a laugh. Im a grandpa. I know whats appropriate.

The bandleader also shrugged off the physical challenge he faces this weekend. In fact, he said having the shows back-to-back like this might actually help him avoid saying anything off-color at the kids show.

If anything, itll be my talking voice thatll be shot, he said. For some reason, I can often still sing fine even when my talking voice gets raspy.

Beyond those two points, Sundays Music of the Beatles for Kids concert Its not just a Lennon tribute, Almsted clarified makes all the sense in the world.

Logistically, he and his large band only have to set up their gear once at the club, and they dont need any extra rehearsals (how we all spend our Sundays in November, no matter how the Vikings are doing, Almsted said). And musically and spiritually, the Beatles obviously remain one of the most kid-friendly acts in rock n roll.

Sundays matinee is one in a series of daytime concerts that First Ave has been presenting for families in a partnership with Rock and Roll Playhouse, also including two prior tributes to the Grateful Dead and Phish and more to come. An organization started by the operators of the Brooklyn Bowl in New York, Rock and Roll Playhouse also promotes kid-friendly rock shows in eight other cities.

I think its a great idea, said Almsted, whose game plan for Sundays gig is to re-create the Beatles set list from their local Met Center concert and their appearance before Queen Elizabeth, both in 1965. Both were performances their grandparents might have actually seen, and theyre still in that more innocent, sweet era of rock n roll.

Of course, theres a darker side to the regular Lennon tribute. Almsted helmed the first one on Dec. 9, 1980, in the then-newly opened 7th Street Entry the night after the rock legend was murdered in New York.

Im just the lucky guy who sort of fell into this, he said. I still love it. And we still try to bring a certain amount of creativity to it. The idea always is its me singing along to the Beatles records, not me trying to sing like John Lennon.

While he and the band have played as many as 100 songs at the shows in previous years, Almsted hopes to cap it at about 60 this year, and not just because he has another gig the next day: The crowd aint getting any younger, either, he quipped.

Not yet, anyway.

Random mix

Relix magazine debuted a new song by Minnesota mainstays the Big Wu earlier this week, A Kick in the Head, featuring dusted-off lyrics by none other than Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The bands long-awaited new album, We Are Young We Are Old, is available for pre-order via thebigwu.com and on tap for a hometown release party Dec. 29 at the Fine Line.

Minneapolis singer/songwriter Brian DeRemer has a richly textured, hi-fi new EP, Mi Hija, which hes touting with an early party Tuesday at the 331 Club (7 p.m., free). Recorded with help from studio wiz Danny OBrien of Dem Yut, the five-track set wades through a deep emotional pool partly inspired by his two daughters, and sonically recalls Grant Lee Buffalos elegant folk-rock and Son Volts moody twang. Bruce McCabe, Paul Mayasich, Keith Boyles and Erin McCawley are among the names joining blues vet Hurricane Harold Tremblays annual Big Band Holiday Bash at Wilebskis in St. Paul on Friday (7 p.m.).

Community radio station KFAI is releasing an excellent all-local compilation on cassette and SoundCloud this week as a holiday gift/fundraiser. The Live From Minnesota Mixtape features live tracks by Bad Bad Hats, Charlie Parr, Mason Jennings, PaviElle, the Jayhawks, Davina the Vagabonds, Chastity Brown, Kitten Forever, the Suburbs and 11 more. Theres a release party for it Dec. 15 at the Turf Club featuring Pornonono, Jayanthi Kyle, See More Perspective and special guests. While hes known to play amazing shows all by his lonesome, drummer/keyboardist/loop-master Martin Dosh has announced Serengeti, Stolyette and the Guitarkestra of MN as the guests for his annual Dosh Friends concert Dec. 15 at the Cedar Cultural Center.

Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low are in town this week to premiere a new dance collaboration with acclaimed choreographer Morgan Thorson, titled Public Love and showing through Saturday at Walker Art Centers McGuire Theater. Lows 2018 album, Double Negative, has, not surprisingly, already made many year-end best-of lists, including Paste, Mojo, Stereogum, BBC Radio 6 and Uncut, the latter of which ranked it No. 1. Look for the Star Tribunes own year-end best-of lists to run on Dec. 21 and 23.

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