The Mad Ripple Hootenanny This Week: “The Kismet Of Karl’s Bench (Or How I Met Matthew Beach)”

July 22, 2015

Dear Good People,

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to take in the Amphetamine Reptile showcase Bash 15 at Grumpy’s in downtown Minneapolis, where Gay Witch Abortion, Cowz, Run Westy Run, Hammerhead, the Melvins and more poetically howled across the bar’s parking lot at the specter of the taxpayers-funded zit that is US Bank Stadium. I caught up with old punk rock friends (“these are my people!,” said Dave Paulson, throwing open his arms wide to take in the whole of the black T-shirted throng), including Mary Beth Mueller, widow of Soul Asylum’s Karl Mueller, who was holding down the Kill Kancer booth.

1048042_10151447813041887_890487609_oShortly after he died, Mary Beth and the rest of Karl’s family dedicated a bench in the rose gardens to his memory. Since then it’s become one of my favorite places in the city to write and play guitar and take in the sunset and the multi-culti parade of humanity, and when I get lonely I just start muttering to Karl about life and death, which is what I was doing Sunday, thinking about Karl and his generous musician spirit and lust for all things rock, when I was descended on by a gaggle of teens from Southwest High School. One kid asked to use my guitar and proceeded to shred on a couple of his own Weezer-sounding tunes as his friends listened and egged him on.

I was wearing my Colombia World Cup t-shirt; a couple of the kid’s friends noticed as much and said, “He’s Colombian!”

Me: “What’s your name?”

Kid: “Matthew Beach.”

Me: “You’re Colombian? My kids are Colombian.”

Matthew: “No way!”

Me: “How old are you?”

Matthew: “14.”

After he played his tunes, which were damn good, I told the kids all about Karl’s bench and told Matthew about the Hoot, and he excitedly agreed to join us Thursday.

People sometimes ask how I put together the Mad Ripple Hootenanny line-ups, and the fact is every one is different. Some are more thought-out than others; some I throw together with a loose theme and a dream of collaboration; some – like this week’s – come together at the last minute.

Because I’ve been busy and because wrangling songwriters can sometimes be like herding cats, as of Friday, this week’s line-up consisted of my old friend John Magnuson and… me.

Scheduled hooter Tim Casey wrote to tell me he’d sprained his wrist and had to bow out, so as we were all tuning up to play at Dan Israel’s first annual folk fest in St. Louis Park Friday evening, I recruited The Lanes, who told me they’ve been rehearsing tunes for their “Summer of Love Tribute – A Celebration of The Music Of The ‘60s” August 8 at Harriet Brewing. That night after the Israelpalooza I got confirmation emails from Nici Peper and another Colombian-American musician, my friend and neighbor Carlos Alberto Diaz Hincapie, who said he was in with his singing partner Donna McKirdy. The next day, Hibbing-born singer/songwriter Iris Kolodji emailed to say she could make it.

1082321_10151447818066887_697873911_oVoila! A Hoot line-up is born. Who knows if Matthew Beach – or any of us, for that matter – will show up, but I love the randomness of this week’s line-up and I like to think it was the kismet of Karl’s bench that made it all happen.

Viva Karl and Colombia and see ya Thursday at Harriet, the freest and freakiest brew pub on the planet…



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