After seeing it twice as it should be seen — on the big screen (at the Lagoon Theater in storied Uptown, Minneapolis) — and after chewing on it much of the weekend, I’ve decided that the extremely important and timely messages of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is that love is everything, people get and play hurt, life goes on, life will bring you to your knees and the trick to making sense of it all is to stay in the moment, pay attention to nature’s and life’s glories and at the end of the day or some unholy afternoon when your life is flashing before your eyes yet again, do yourself a favor and edit all the good memories and moments into a knowable realm, one that maybe, probably, you and only you can make sense of, because the best the rest any of us can tell you is that this thing called life is a very deep mystery.
“The Tree of Life,” then, is one man’s rumination on what the human soul goes through toward the afterlife; it’s both the answer to the question that we’ll all have for St. Peter at the Pearly Gates at the end of this ride and what the less fortunate film critics will sigh as the credits roll at the end/beginning of “Life”: “What the hell was that all about?”
Let it be known that the sepia-HD footage of my mannish boyhood that I want up front, back and scattered all over, is from Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011 — the day the intersection of 46th & Grand felt a bit like a Brooklyn borough, with new merchants and old friends rubbing elbows with dog-walkers, poets, musicians, writers, moms, dads, kids, teachers, the unemployed, the under-employed, the desperate, the delighted, the grandparents and the groovers, all imbibing in sunshine, food, drink and 10 hours of homegrown music that didn’t suck.
“We are lucky people,” the man on stage with the microphone reminded the ebb-and-flow crowd all day, and for good reason.
It was Kings Wine Bar’s second birthday bash, with the rest of the neighborhood coming along for the ride. There were the hard-working sweethearts of Patisserie 46, scooping up homemade ice cream and cranking out their mouthwatering wake-and-baked goods. There was the delicious roasted corn and empanadas and hot love of the Café Ena crew. There was Tammy Ortegon, owner of the ColorWheel art-gift-salon-gallery hosting a face-painting and balloon-twisting orgy while hugging and talking with artist Gretchen Seichrist, whose band Patches and Gretchen delivered a ferocious art-rock sunset set that led one new young female fan to comment, “She says everything everyone wants to say but doesn’t.”
There was Pete Christensen, artist, father of three and jack-of-all-trades, setting up and manning the soundboard for the duration. There were the scrunched wonderstruck faces of quizzical kids, watching the likes of Eliza Blue, Darren Jackson, Brianna Lane, Chastity Brown, and 19-year-old neighborhood wunderkind Jordan Gatesmith, leader of the new band Howler, looking like a young Peter Perrett with oversized dark shades and glistening aqua-guitar.
There was Jerry Nelson, owner of Jack’s, on his bike and taking in the scene with his wife Pam and friends. There was Kings queen Carrie Claypatch, serving up snow cones with a smile buzzed by the non-stop line of kids. There was Jennifer Prill, tending the bar and loving her life. There was St. Dominic’s Trio leader Terry Walsh, dedicating a song to his 80-something parents, Ann and Jerry, the latter of whom, with his new wrap-around black shades, looked a bit like Lou Reed circa “Coney Island Baby.” There was Dave Haugen, drummer for St. Dominic’s Trio, playing his second gig in two days after the death of his father late last week.
There was teenager Max Loesch, son and nephew, respectively, of Kings’ owners Samantha Loesch and Molly Barnes, setting up the stage, hauling the donated PA, drums and amps from Twin/Town Guitars, and working a double shift in the kitchen and garbage detail in a Suicidal Tendencies T-shirt and chained black jeans that would do Sid Vicious and Max’s late father, Mark Loesch, proud.
It started at noon with sultry St. Ashleigh Still, who declared the day to be “Sweaty Sunday,” and set the tone with churchy tunes about longing, desire, heartbreak, obsessive love and great sex. It ended with a 9 p.m. darkness on the edge of town set from The Jerks Of Fate, led by Curtiss A, who has sung The Beatle’s “In My Life” at so many of his friends’ funerals in the last few years that the Dean O’ Scream is known in some parts as The Funeral Singer.
In the middle of it all there was Slim Dunlap, who turned 60 years young Sunday. His wife, Chrissie, arranged to have a cake and drinks in the Kings wine room after his set. The Kings poster said, “Come have a slice of cake and toast a Minnesota music legend.” It was after a couple glasses of wine at Kings a few weeks ago that Terry Walsh, my brother, secretly contacted the members of the Slim Dunlap Band, who have played together just once together in the last 14 years, after a three-year weekly run at the Turf Club in the mid-90s.
Drummer Brian Lilja is a new father living in Madison, Wis. Guitarist Jimmy Thompson put down his guitar when the band split up. Johnny Hazlett’s brother Buck and two of his children were killed in a terrible car accident earlier in this sad and beautiful summer. The four men took the stage in a sort of slumber, not really fully believing the moment they were living, that they were all together playing music again, least of all Slim, who spent the day telling friends he was in shock from all the people and surprises.
He played a handful of songs on a beat-up Rickenbacker, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to the man they called King Slim, who hilariously sang “happy birthday to me” off mic to himself. The band sounded great, and ended with “Times Like This,” Slim’s classic yearner whose money line is, “It’s times like this when we learn what we’ve really missed.”
“Boy, ain’t that the truth,” he yelled into the mic before soaring into a time-stopping harmonica solo that got gooseflesh and cheers. Then the lucky people went inside for cake, the musicians ambled off stage, and a grinning Hazlett enthused, to no one and everyone, “I think we’ve still got it.”