The Crawl: Thanks, Republicans! A great week of live music

Star Tribune staff | Updated 8/17/2012

Who knew the Republican National Convention would amount to such a great week in live music?

St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center will be at the center of the storm, but convention-related action will take place across the metro area.

GOP convention: Best concert week ever!

Who knew the Republican National Convention would amount to such a great week in live music?

Just the list of names for private GOP-friendly gigs next week is a lot more than what we usually see around Labor Day, including Gretchen Wilson, Daughtry, Sammy Hagar, LeAnn Rimes and Charlie Daniels. Of course, the undisputable truth is that more of the noteworthy musicians coming to town are doing so to protest the Republican agenda, or at least to try to change it. Foremost among these is Rage Against the Machine, who perform Wednesday at the Target Center.

"While there's a lot of clinking of champagne glasses and toasting one another and passing big checks back and forth inside the convention, there's a reality on the streets outside that will be represented by the bands playing to protest in Minneapolis-St. Paul," said Rage guitarist Tom Morello. "We'll be outside the barbed-wire fences throwing musical Molotov cocktails toward the fences."

Other big concerts going against the GOP grain include Monday's Take Back Labor Day rally on Harriet Island and Tuesday's free Ripple Effect festival at the State Capitol grounds, headlined by longtime political activist Michael Franti and his reggae/rock/rap band Spearhead. Franti said he is a true independent and has made it a practice not to endorse candidates. However, he did make it clear that his No. 1 issue will put him directly across the aisle from John McCain next week.

"I'm coming to [St. Paul] to join the voices saying we want our troops and our tax dollars to come back from Iraq," Franti said. "I've been to Iraq, and I've seen the futility and despair there. I feel strongly enough about the failure of our policies there to do what I can to change them."

Many local musicians are relishing the chance to be a bigger part of the rock-in-politics picture this year. A lineup of local all-stars is putting on Tuesday's Provention concert at the Fitzgerald Theater, including members of Semisonic, the Honeydogs and Suburbs. Lots more are performing at spark24, a 24-hour festival at Orchestra Hall.

"Whether you are liberal or conservative, having the national media focused on your community offers a rare spotlight," said Cloud Cult frontman Craig Minowa, whose band of staunch environmentalists will play at spark24 early Sunday. "We can let the world see that Minnesotans want to see some dramatic positive changes take place in our economy, environment and international relations."

  • Chris Riemenschneider

4 a.m. eternal

We've all heard the hoopla over the 4 a.m. closing time for bars during the convention -- mainly that it's too expensive to apply for the special 4 a.m. license. Here's the current tally of which Twin Cities bars are taking the 4 a.m. plunge and will be open to the public. In Minneapolis, it's the Local, the Saloon, Aqua, the News Room, Brothers, First Avenue and strip clubs Schieks, the Seville Club and Rick's Cabaret. Aqua and First Ave will have private parties on select nights, but will be open to the public later on. In St. Paul, the list was smaller (the Liffey, the Happy Gnome, St. Paul Hotel, Sawatdee, Alary's and the Depot Bar), but more are expected if the city lowers its 4 a.m. fee this week.

  • Tom Horgen

Free rubbers for delegates

Many curious RNC attendees are expected to make a quick swing by a notorious bathroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before heading off to pursue weightier work. Fortunately, the fun won't stop there. The Minnesota AIDS Project, (www.mnaidsproject.org), in collaboration with the Colorado AIDS Project, is distributing a few thousand complimentary "safer sex kits," containing a condom and instructions for proper use. The unusual goodie bags also include troubling statistics: More than 56,000 new cases of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are diagnosed annually nationwide, as federal support lags. "HIV is a nonpartisan issue," said MAP spokesman Dave Folkens. "This is a public health issue, regardless of who wins in the fall." The condoms will be distributed at several Twin Cities bars, gay and straight. Folkens wouldn't predict whether Denver or St. Paul would have more takers. "Republicans. Democrats. You know, people are going to pick these up and, we hope, use them correctly."

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