Thursday, October 19, 2017
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Capturing the rock moment

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Twin Cities cinematographer Bill Carlson took this picture of Beatles member Paul McCartney when the band played in Minnesota in 1965. (Image courtesy of Mv Center for Photography)
There is nothing quite like the excitement of a great rock show. Even the best recording can't truly recapture the experience. But a new exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Photography in Minneapolis attempts to do just that. It's called "Musicapolis" and it presents 40 years of Twin Cities music history.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Colleen Sheehy remembers clearly the first concert she ever attended. The Beatles were performing at Met Stadium in Bloomington in 1965. She was just 10 years old.

"I remember the excitement," she smiles. "Just feeling I'm breathing the same air as the Beatles and the screaming - it was pandemonium."

She admits she didn't really hear the music.

"Not really. Just a few opening chords and then screaming, but it was still great - we knew all the songs anyway!"

For Sheehy it was the beginning of a life long love affair with music. Now she's combined her love of music with her other love - art - to create Musicapolis.

The earliest pictures are from 1965. There's that Beatles concert of Sheehy's youth, and one of Bob Dylan's first completely electrified shows. From there it moves on to capture Minnesota music stars Spider John Koerner, Prince, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, Iffy as well as many high profile artists from outside Minnesota who performed in the Twin Cities early on in their careers.

"I've almost wept over quite a few of them." she admits.

Sheehy points to a picture of a very young looking U2.

"Now you think, 'Could they have anticipated where they are now? Where Bono is meeting with the Pope and leaders all over the world?' And just to see them when they were standing outside of First Ave in downtown Minneapolis - it's kind of a heart tug."

It's taken Sheehy a year and a half to put this show together, working with four graduate students from the University of St. Thomas. There was no history of Minnesota music book from which to work, so they found themselves scrambling to find photographers who were active in the 60s and 70s. Graduate student Amy Pence-Brown says it was often difficult to keep track of the musicians:

"Because they all started out in one band and then went solo and went to another band," she says. "And they've also changed a great deal and grown older - you know a lot of them are married to each other, divorced - the family history - they all consider themselves part of this music family but often they're really related>

Musicapolis includes photographs by professional concert photographers, fans, and friends of the musicians. Of those that were actually published, most appeared as grainy black and white images at the back of a newspaper. Most of them have never been properly displayed before. Greg Helgeson has been a professional photojournalist since he graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1976. He's shot Bob Marley, Prince, the Suburbs and the Replacements. But in all these years he's never exhibited his work - in fact he's never even really looked at it.

"But everything just went in a drawer and I just kept moving on," he says. "When an assignment was done I moved on and didn't think about it until Colleen decided to do this exhibit and it was a real eye-opener."

Helgeson says it's been cathartic to relive all those concerts and interviews. He admits he was disenchanted with the music scene for a while, but now he's tempted to start hanging out in the clubs again. He says he hopes Musicapolis will contribute to what he sees as a reawakening of the Minnesota music scene.

Images and music will collide once more when Musicapolis opens Saturday night. The opening night party at the Minnesota Center for Photography features live music by Lori Barbero, Adam Levy, Cindy Lawson, members of The Suburbs, the Suicide Commandos and the Wallets. Sheehy says Musicapolis will present viewers with a unique opportunity to relive some of their favorite musical memories - and perhaps even improve upon them.

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