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Paul Lundgren Posts

Two Harbors: “Everything is so interesting.”

Two Harbors Minn

It looks like the postmark on this card to Emily Jackson of Albert Lea might be from the year 1909. The day is clearly July 26.

Poll: What is the Duluth area’s best indoor concert venue?

Last summer a PDD poll determined Bayfront Festival Park is the region’s best outdoor concert venue. Now, in the dead of winter, it’s time to determine the best indoor concert venue. From large arenas to tiny little barrooms and coffee joints — what is the best place for live music in the Twin Ports?

Our poll started with 50 options and is now down to the top four. It will continue in runoff mode, with the least popular options slowly dropping out until we have a winner. So check back later; if the option you choose drops off the list, you can vote again.

What is the best indoor concert venue in the Duluth area?

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As usual, comments are closed on posts with an open poll.

Set in Duluth, The Louie Show debuted 20 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiBRvbaqryg

The subject of The Louie Show, Louie Anderson’s 1996 TV situation comedy set in Duluth, was covered fairly in-depth on PDD two years ago, but we mark the 20th anniversary of the airing of the first episode with a few updates. Particularly, there’s the discovery of the Louie Anderson interview above, conducted by KDLH-TV’s Joe Thornton, which aired during the 10 p.m. newscast following episode #2.

Aerial Bridge: Pull and Return Slowly

1908 Aerial Bridge

Aerial Bridge Over Ship Canal, Duluth, Minn.
Only one of its kind in the world; clear span, 400 ft.; clear height 136 ft.; total height above water 186 ft.; size of car 34×50 ft.; capacity of car, 125,000 lbs.; motive power, electricity; speed, 4 miles per hour.

Perfect Play or Musical of 2015: Renegade’s Eastland

PDDPerfectPlay-MusicalLogo2015Renegade Theater Company has earned its second consecutive Perfect Play or Musical plaque, this time for a dramatic musical that marked the centennial of the tragic sinking of the SS Eastland. The 1915 shipwreck resulted in the death of 844 passengers, the largest loss of life from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

Titled Eastland: A New Musical, the play was partially inspired by Jay Bonansinga’s 2004 historical novel The Sinking of the Eastland: America’s Forgotten Tragedy. The show debuted in 2012 at the Lookingglass Theater in Chicago. Renegade’s staging in August 2015 was just the second professional production of the haunting musical written by Andrew White, with a folk, blues and ragtime score by Ben Sussman and Andre Pluess.

Going to build buildings?

Build Buildings - Clyde Iron Works - Engineering News-Record Magazine

Ad from the Nov. 30, 1944 issue of Engineering News-Record.

One Man, One River, Many Stories

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayMike Simonson had a project planned for his retirement. That was the type of guy he was. I’d never heard him talk about retiring, and then the first time he mentions it he’s laying out a plan to produce an epic radio documentary about the St. Louis River … for fun.

I wasn’t surprised Mike had no intention of slowing down after four decades in journalism — a journey he started at the Denfeld Criterion in the mid-1970s, continued at various commercial radio stations during the 1980s, and concluded with a 24-year stint as Wisconsin Public Radio’s northwestern region correspondent at KUWS-FM in Superior. And maybe the topic of the St. Louis River shouldn’t have surprised me either. Mike lived on the river for most of his life, and routinely swam across Stryker Bay for fitness and pleasure.

Still, I was blown away by the idea. Mike had chosen documentary topics in the past that seemed broad, but by comparison were quite specific — Forever Ace: The Richard Bong Story (2012) and We Are Holding Our Own: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1995).

Now the St. Louis River? That’s basically the entire history of Duluth, Superior and all the communities that line the 192-mile waterway. It would take an episode to cover the geology alone. The early Anishinaabe-Ojibwe history could be a multi-part documentary by itself. The fur trade, shipping and shipbuilding, the formation of Duluth’s western neighborhoods, industries too numerous to mention, environmental degradation, cleanup efforts, revitalization, wild-rice restoration, fishing and recreation and on and on — there’s just too much story. I was in awe of the idea while flabbergasted at the notion of even Mike Simonson attempting to pull it off.

Official Map of the City of Duluth, 1887

Official Duluth Map

From George F. Cram’s Atlas, published in 1887.

Poll: Best Play or Musical of 2015

Plays of 2015

Which Duluth-area theater production made your little Greek mask laugh or weep the most last year?

This poll has closed. The results were:

Renegade Theater Company’s Eastland – 44 percent
Duluth Playhouse Children’s Theatre’s Shrek – 31 percent
Duluth Playhouse’s Mary Poppins – 25 percent

The Plays of 2015

Before we launch PDD’s poll to determine the best play or musical of 2015, we present this list of every play or musical from the past year we could track down, with the hope that you’ll let us know in the comments if we’ve forgotten any.

Avenue Q – The Underground
Banning Around the Christmas Tree, or, The Last Noel of Don Ness – Rubber Chicken Theater
The Barber of Seville – Lyric Opera of the North
Behind the Shining Star – Duluth Playhouse Theatre for Young Audiences
The Birds – Renegade Theater Company
Blithe Spirit – St. Scholastica Theatre

Perfect Album of 2015: Low’s Ones and Sixes

PDDPerfectAlbumAwardLogo2015The latest evidence of the ubiquity of Alan Sparhawk: Not only did his band Low gain the most votes in PDD’s poll to determine the best local album of 2015 for its release Ones and Sixes, Sparhawk also produced the Social Disaster album Dark Side of the Roller Rink, which finished a close second in the voting.

But that’s kind of what we expect from the icon of Duluth’s music scene.

For Low’s 11th studio album — its fourth on the Seattle-based Sub Pop Records label — the band teamed with producer BJ Burton and recorded at April Base Studios in Eau Claire. As usual, Sparhawk handles the guitar work and shares vocals with his wife, drummer Mimi Parker. It’s their third album with bassist Steve Garrington.

Ones and Sixes is perhaps the band’s most spiritual-sounding music yet, though not in a denominational sort of way. The songs are filled with soul and strain. Like every Low album, critics have labeled it a departure, while at the same time noting it’s unmistakably Low. Perhaps therein lies the soul and strain. When music critics have a tough time putting a finger on it, it’s usually a great thing that’s happening in the headphones.

Fish Bowl of 1952: The time Duluth beat the Packers … sort of

Fish Bowl 1951 Packers Eskimos

For three seasons, the Green Bay Packers divided up their team for inter-squad scrimmage games in Duluth. The first-group players, or “starters,” played for the Packers, and the second group players, or “benchwarmers,” took the name of the Duluth Eskimos. Of course, there was an actual Duluth Eskimos NFL team from 1923 to ’27, but the games referred to in this post were from 1951 to ’53.

The scrimmages were known as “The Fish Bowl,” and attracted crowds of about 8,000. The Packers won two of the three games, both by small margins, but in 1952 the backup players, under the name Duluth Eskimos, defeated the Green Bay starters by a score of 34-7.

2015: The Year in Duluth Gig Posters

2015-Duluth-Gig-Posters

Here it is, PDD’s annual gallery of gig posters. It’s not comprehensive, just a smattering of promo images that grabbed attention in 2015.

Poll: Best Album of 2015

Ten Best Albums of 2015

There were a lot of potential nominees, so we used a runoff ballot. The options with the fewest votes slowly dropped out of the poll as the days went by, until it got down to the final four.

What was the best local album of 2015?

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This poll is now closed. The results were:

Low’s Ones and Sixes – 34 percent
The Social Disaster’s Dark Side of the Roller Rink – 31 percent
Charlie Parr’s Stumpjumper – 19 percent
Mary Bue’s Holy Bones – 16 percent

Saturday Essay: New PDD feature starts in 2016

Saturday Essay logo genericOver the past 12.5 years of Perfect Duluth Day’s existence, there haven’t been many posts that would be considered “essays.” The term is a little vague, but it’s probably understood by most that an essay is something more artistically crafted and of more substantial length than the average PDD post. Examples that come to mind from the past that would be considered essays are Laurie Viets’ “Last Place on Earth — 1983” and my own “Trespassing at UMD’s Old Main in 1992.” There are probably a dozen other examples eluding my memory, but the point in general is that there have been some essays on PDD, but not enough.

To encourage more, we’re launching a new feature called the “Saturday Essay” next week. In each installment, a local writer will share an anecdote, go on a political rant, dissect some event in popular culture or for whatever other purpose string together a healthy amount of words on some subject. Basically the hope is to do for essay writing what “Selective Focus” has done in the past year for photography on PDD.