Koo Koo Kanga Roo!!

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Bryan and Neil, of Koo Koo Kanga Roo, at Electric Fetus, October 2014

[As the end of the year approaches, I’m trying to catch up on a few blog entries I’ve neglected over the last few months]

It’s true the Twin Cities have a great music scene, and a lot of local talent. It is not even worth going into all of the background as there has been so many lists before (and I know very little about music anyway). I do enjoy cathing concerts from local groups and touring bands alike, and I can boast a very eclectic taste in music (that, or a general lack of discrimination- not sure which), allowing me to explore at will. One of the local acts I’ve come to follow is Koo Koo Kanga Roo, an “interactive dance party duo” who really know how to put on an energetic show.

Just before Halloween this year, I attended a free event hosted at one of the more prominent local record stores, the Electric Fetus off of Franklin Avenue, overlooking the automotive river of 35W. With the last few months, I definitely needed this dose of pure fun, and there a few rivals in pure unadulterated fun than the “kid’s band for adults,” Koo Koo Kanga Roo.

Working with nostalgia, silliness, Bryan and Neil, the duo of best pals who make up Koo Koo Kanga Roo are masters at “acting silly, dancing as hard as you can, and sweating.” I saw them for the first time along the the Aquabats at the Triple Rock a few years ago, and have been catching shows whenever possible since. According to Wikipedia, the duo have been called “the Beastie Boys meet Sesame Street,” which seems apt. Where else can you jump around and yell about how much you love cake, pizza, being a ninja, dinosaurs, unicorns, and other important topics. All for a healthy dose of tongue in cheek goofiness. In a world which is often, it must be said, not that much fun, it’s great to have a group dedicated to that goal in particular, a group who exists to encourage audience participation. As seen here, 

So maybe grade school was the last time you allowed yourself to really let go, or maybe still, the stereotypical MN audience is still one that hangs back, watching. Admittedly, this is me, much of the time. Quit taking ourselves so seriously! No need to worry about appearances, just let go and jump up and down while singing about how much you love cats. We were not the only unaccompanied adults at the Fetus, in spite of the early hour and kid friendly atmosphere. The free snacks, donut holes courtesy of Glam Doll Donuts, were a welcome shot of carbs and sugar perfect to get your inner sugar addicted child going. In the end, it was really only a taste that left us craving more! Later in February, (the 21st to be exact) Koo Koo will be hosting their 7th Anniversary Show at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall, and I will definitely be there! At only $10, it will be well worth it, I think!

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Crowd at Electric Fetus, October 2014

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Uptown Shuffle

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Pizza box art, Mesa Pizza Uptown

Why do all of my entries have to do only with buying stuff and spending money? Oh well. I have not had too many opportunities for adventure lately, finding myself running around on various errands and working on various end of the semester projects; baking treats for student workers, finishing up projects before the end of the year, that sort of thing. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading depressing, intriguing post apocalyptic novels, always fun at the end of the year, when the days are getting darker and darker and we haven’t seen the sun all month.

Making me feel particularly apathetic are the riveting protests happening at that most prominent temple of consumerism abandon, the Mall of America. While I would tend to avoid that place like the plague in general, it seems like a great place to register discontent with the state of society. Instead of figuring out a way to accommodate discussion and awareness of the issues that will continue to haunt our society in the New Year; can’t have people distracting from single minded capitalist consumerism, of course, but I hesitate to discuss politics without having three or four beers beforehand, though. I’d just feel totally obtuse neglecting to mention this as I talk about heading out to buy stuff.

Among these is the continuing quest for Christmas presents, not really my idea of adventure. A quest maybe, but not one of those awesome quests; more like one of those required side quests. It is true that one of my main memories of Christmas was being dragged around from one end of the city to another trying to locate the best gifts for friends and family. Does anyone else remember the Conservatory which used to be hidden away in downtown Minneapolis?

So let’s talk about my own consumerist obligations. I do have to admit to, in past years, having some fun checking things off of my list as I bus from one end of the metro to another, braving snow drifts and subzero temperatures to score inexpensive gifts. I would often go to Magers and Quinn, Paper Source, Penseys Spices, Cheapo Records, and the recently closed Tatters hunting for inexpensive gifts. In the pursuit of this quest, I have often found myself in that area of town that has increasingly shifted from artist to condos; but oh well, places change. People change. Uptown still has some fun places to spend your hard earned cash. Or, even better,places to treat yourself after some soul numbing shopping. Here are a few highlights;

Mesa Pizza

The other week I attended an entertaining pizza themed holiday party, so I stopped by the local favorite Mesa Pizza; a pretty solid choice for a slice of good, inexpensive, interesting pizza. Boasting over fifty varieties of meaty, vegetarian, and vegan slices, I lament the fact that it did not yet exist while I was going to the U. With a home location in Dinkytown, the Uptown location is also a great place to grab a slice. Did you know Mesa Pizza did gift cards? Neither did I, but they do, and I picked up a few to distribute at the party to go with the theme, and I couldn’t think anything better to hand out than a slice of Mesa Pizza.

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LynLake Brewery.

LynLake Brewery

The intersection of Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue has come to be a pretty active spot; Huge Theater, my favorite improv theater is right down the street, the first sake brewery in the United States, Moto-i, has its home there, and the new brewery LynLake Brewery has opened as well. Checked it out for the first time recently and sampled some of the beers on offer; they were all among the best I have had in the state. I must return soon.

Among the wide variety of beers, including a wonderful IPA Take 7 and their creamy Sideburns Milk Stout, was the recently created “No Soul Soda,” a slightly sweet, fizzy concoction of ginger, lime, and hops. I found it so delicious I asked for a growler on the spot, apparently the first to do so. What a great addition for those people who have friends and relatives who, for whatever reason, avoid beer. So I urge you to go to LynLake, drink the beers, and try the soda as well!

Fuji Ya 

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Fuji Ya, Uptown.

I had no idea that Fuji Ya, a pretty prominent and well known Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis, just down Lake from Lyndale, is over fifty years old.  I found that pretty amazing. Having never been there, we decided to eat there for my Dad’s birthday and were very impressed. A mix of kitschy decor and elegant Japanese style, it has some pretty fun atmosphere, but it was the food that really got us. Delicious kinoko (mushroom) dumplings and fresh oysters, great sushi and wonderful soba, we were completely satisfied. Though it is not the cheapest place around, I would definitely go back for one of those special occasion type things. The gin based, minty ginger beer cocktail, the Gai Gin Mule, was, I think, my new favorite mixed drink.

So, hopefully I will have some more interesting (and cheaper) things to talk about next time! Happy holidays!

Arts, Crafts, and Tomte

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Inspecting the wares at the No Coast Craft-o-Rama

Gawd, can you believe it’s December already? Seemed like Thanksgiving came late this year, but even that seemed too soon. Anyway, it is getting into the “holiday season” here in the Twin Cities, as elsewhere in the US and Canada and ads are drumming the idea into all of our heads. Santa, dreidels, presents, mangers, all of it! It’s not like I dislike Christmas of course, though my favorite holiday is still Halloween (less expectations, more creativity), but it can definitely be overwhelming. Who to get presents for? How much to cook? Plans to plan. Sure makes me think back fondly on childhood where all of that was taken care of for you… makes everyting feel more like an obligation, sometimes.

It makes me tend to avoid retail stores and malls like the plague, as much as I can, during this time of year; allows me to still be able to listen to holiday music. However, this weekend, there are definitely some fun things happening around the Twin Cities to check out to support local artists, pick up some of those coveted “unique” stocking stuffers and gifts, and just have fun doing what you are obligated to without stepping into a shopping mall and being subjected to more “Jingle Bell Rock” piped through the loud speakers (I really hate that song).

Last night, I checked out the annual No Coast Craft-O-Rama at the Midtown Market. Great ambiance, awesome crafts to check out; there was definitely a running theme among many of the vendors showing off their own love for the state of Minnesota and Minneapolis-St Paul metro, from jewelry depicting the state, T-shirts evoking local pride, screen printed posters of local landmarks and beers, and general nerdery, like the super cute little sleepy stuffed Minnesotas; like Etsy, but in the real world, so you can chat with the artists in real time and see the goods in 3D! All of this local pride really pleases me. Got a few things checked off the list, and ate a tasty spinach paneer Indarrito from the Midtown’s newest food vendor, Hot Indian Foods- it is always hard to decide what to have while there. The hot sauce was pretty hot, at least by Minnesotan standards. Live music, people watching, and too many choices for food! I recommend. It’s on til 5:00 this evening, so head over if you have the time!

Another favorite art show is over in St. Paul today, Art at Ramsey, held at Ramsey Middle School on Summit Avenue. Crammed into the historic middle school gyms, there is always a lot of cool and beautiful works of art for sale. I got some good gifts here last year. Organized by the Artist’s Circle of St. Paul, the arts and crafts here are, in general, a bit more “high end” than the quirky things on display at No Coast, specializing in pottery, painting, and other fine arts, though there are definitely some affordable gems to be found; guess it highlights the difference in culture between the two cities. It, too, is on until 5:00 tonight.

Finally, the annual Julmarknad event at the American Swedish Institute, which is going on today and tomorrow is another great holiday event celebrating the immigrants of the Twin Cities past and featuring a lot of Scandinavian treats, from glogg to cardamon bread (no lutefisk, though). I went last year, and it had tons of fun searching the Turnblad Mansion for Tomte, learning about the cuisine of the Nordic countries, and, of course, looking at traditional crafts available for purchase. The ASI is one of Minneapolis’ hidden gems, so I encourage you to check it out. I’m hoping to visit tomorrow! It keeps on until 5:00 tonight as well, and is also going on tomorrow 12 to 5. Unlike the free No Coast and Art at Ramsey events, the Julmarkad includes museum admission ($10)- definitely worth taking a look in any case!

Midtown Global Market, 920 E Lake St #G10, Minneapolis,

Ramsey Middle School, 1700 Summit Ave, St Paul,

American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave S, Minneapolis

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Ramsey Middle School during Art at Ramsey