Sparked: Reporters notes from spark24 the 24-hour party

Opening festivities

“I got lit.”

That was the -theme for spark24 — the 24-hour party that showcased the Twin Cities cultural scene the weekend before the Republican National Convention.

Mayors R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman kicked off the festivities shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30 in Peavey Plaza.

Rybak said they could have attracted any number of national artists to perform during the RNC, but decided with the international spotlight on the Twin Cities, they had a prime opportunity to showcase local talent.

“There isn’t another community in this country that has such a strong arts scene,” Rybak said.

Members of the Minnesota Orchestra kicked off 24-hours of music in Peavey Plaza. More than 60 other venues in Downtown featured entertainers
for spark24.

Late night scene

While most Minneapolitans were winding down at 2 a.m. Aug. 30, many decided to finish that last drink, rub their eyes and take in a few of the late-night acts during spark24.

The closer it got to bar-time, the more people, it seemed, were headed in the same direction we were — Orchestra Hall.

This snowball of listeners rolled in to the normally highbrow Hall with smiles on their faces.

The aptly named Alarmists, a successful independent Minneapolis five-piece, were able to wake up the half-full crowd.

It was around 3 a.m. that a half-full audience again entered Orchestra Hall, this time many stood in front of the stage for local experimental folk-rockers Cloud Cult — a truly artistic band that took the stage just before 3 a.m.

Lead Singer Craig Minowa took the stage along with a smattering of other talent and true musicians and artists. Cloud Cult regularly has two visual artists accompany the band.

Visual Artist Scott West’s brushstrokes mimicked Minowa’s soft, falsetto voice. The lead singer serenaded the crowd with a scaled back rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tamborine Man.” The line “I am not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to” seemed particularly appropriate.

Sunrise

(5:55 a.m.) Downtown is dead quiet. The streets are largely empty. A couple of cabs drive by; a man carrying what looks like most of his belongings is walking slowly down 11th Street.

A few lights are on in the DoubleTree Hotel. Only one appears to be on in the Hotel Ivy.

But there still is a bit of activity at Peavey Plaza. Emphasis on “a bit.”

Tents are set up. Caribou Coffee dispensers are lined up on tables, and volunteers are opening boxes to hand out free breakfast. There are a few small groups of thrifty hipsters — guys and girls probably no older than 25 — hanging out, waiting for the food and drink. There probably are no more than a couple dozen people here.

On the plaza, the stage is being set up for the first outdoor tunes of the morning. Inside Orchestra Hall, the New Congress is finishing its last song. Only about 20 people remain in the audience.

(6:30 a.m.) Well into gospel group James Grear and Company’s set, there are requests for the 12 or so people watching to clap their hands. “Let’s do something real simple,” the singer asks.

Only a couple do. It’s probably too early in the morning for most to feel awake and alive.

When the set is over, the emcee asks the audience who’s been around since the start of spark24, more than 12 hours earlier. Four people raise
 their hands.

 (6:45 a.m.) A 20-something — clearly drunk — sits down next to me. He puts down his shoulder-sling backpack, unzips it and pulls out a beer. He takes a sip.

“Dancing is fun,” he says.

He puts down the bottle. He flails his legs. He knocks into the beer, tipping it over and emptying it onto my shoes.

It’s been since Hudson Hall freshman year that I had beer spilled on me this time of day.

(7 a.m.) The band currently playing, gospel group Ten65, is energetic, but the crowd response — well, it’s not exactly sprightly. Only my drunk neighbor responds to the singers’ requests for hand-clapping.

At 8th & Nicollet, it smells like urine. At 9th & Nicollet, it smells like Panera.

Back at Peavey, there’s finally a dancer. A woman maybe in her 40s or 50s is shaking a tambourine and grooving.

(8 a.m.) The sun is up. One Voice Mixed Chorus just finished its set. Audience demographics have officially completely changed.

The drunk guy is gone. Parents with children eating Malt-O-Meal and drinking coffee are the replacement. Hoots and hollers have changed to light applause and laughter.

The emcee asks who’s been here since the beginning. One man raises his hand.

“There were four here earlier,” the emcee says.

Closing time

A modest crowd remained in Peavy Plaza as spark 24 wound down Sunday afternoon. The restful, mostly middle-aged audience listened quietly to a program of Broadway show tunes, a scene in stark contrast to the raucous rally happening in nearby Loring Park, where rock bands and speech-makers took turns entertaining a colorful crowd of hipsters and visiting media.

An event worker was asked if anyone had tried to take in all of spark24, and she pointed to a man sitting alone at a table near the sound booth. Raygne Gnewuch was unshaven and a bit bleary eyed, but otherwise seemed alert as he neared the spark24 finish line.

“After about eight cups of coffee, I’m a little woozy,”
 he admitted.

Sustained by caffeine and nicotine, he outlasted several other audience members who attempted to experience the marathon event in its entirety. Gnewuch said one was a friend who had to throw in the towel when he was called into work, as a security guard at the Xcel Energy Center, no less.

“He said it’s pretty hectic,” Gnewuch reported.

The highlight of spark24 came early for Gnewuch, when jazz trumpeter Charles Lazarus took the stage with the Minnesota Orchestra more than 20 hours earlier. But he’d also enjoyed Fuego Flamenco at 8 p.m. the previous day and rock group The New Congress at 6 a.m. that morning.

So, when was Gnewuch planning to head to bed?

“When I’m tired,” he said.