Review: ‘Drinking at the Movies’ by Julia Wertz

Julia Wertz is that little voice in your head cracking wise during situations that are absurd or even borderline tragic. Where plenty of (boring) people have learned to silence it, or at least self-edit, Wertz spits out these bits of irreverent nuggets:

“My life is the abortion Juno should have had,” the be-T’shirted and bobbed 20-something tells her friend in her graphic memoir Drinking at the Movies.

The quip comes in a vignette called “Today Everything is Shit” and by “shit” she means a jackhammered morning, a massive coffee spill, a broken camera and printer, and an accidental “reply all.” Her brother, a drug addict, relapsed — and crashed her car. She brought brown pens instead of black, her health insurance ran out, and she’s accosted outside of her apartment by a bum with a hook hand.

It’s all part of the mess hinted at on the first page of the “Fart Party”-creators story. Wertz comes to consciousness at 3 a.m. on her 25th birthday in a laundromat in Brooklyn. She’s got a fistful of Cracker Jacks, and she’s dressed in plaid pajama pants.

“What the …” Wertz asks, staring at a pile of double decker dryers.

From there she doubles back to chronicle the year that she moved from her excellent apartment in San Francisco to Brooklyn. A sort of whim that represents the side of her brain prone to doing the thing everyone advises against. The antagonist to the side of her brain that is totally responsible and, like, knows how to handle a weeping baby.

Wertz. Is. Hilarious.

She is a cartoonist who trolls for minimum wage jobs, who wears a uniform of comfy pants and a T-shirt or hoodie. She drinks plenty, sometimes in bed, and has the universal thought: What if computers had breathalizers attached to prevent drunk internetting? She’s got a handful of cool friends, who also draw. And her life has some downers: Lupus, but no insurance; Her brother is an addict who keeps relapsing, and she feels guilty for being the width of a country away from him. Her stepfather has cancer.

Still, she drops perfect colorful punchlines, the smartass in the back of a classroom. If her memoir were a movie, she would be a supporting character who outshines the star of the show with re-Tweetable one liners.

“I bet my spirit animal is something retarded like a root hog,” she thinks in a fit of insomnia and homesickness.

“That’s gayer than giving a rainbow a rimmer,” she says while chilling with a friend in Chicago and missing a very important conference call — which she eventually takes in an unlikely place:

“This is Julia from a trash can in a back alley in Chicago,” she says.

This year-in-the-life is such a superfun memoir. And if you don’t believe me, Wertz got a super clever blurb from Fiona Apple, who says she wishes a 2-D Wertz was her indian in the cupboard. “I’d make an easy chair out of a ring box, fasten it to the front of my bike, giver her a pen cap full of whiskey and off we’d go.”

This review was originally published on Minnesota Reads on Sept. 29, 2010.

Daily: X-treme painting by Lee Zimmerman

By Christa Lawler
Duluth News Tribune

From behind the 30-foot-tall expanse of taut white silk, Lee Zimmerman had the harnessed and accessorized look of a man set to wash the windows of a skyscraper.

He wore a Velcro vest with bottles filled with dye, brushes and cups attached.

“I made it myself,” he said. “Yeah. I cut a hole in a big chunk of Velcro.”

The artist was seated on a small padded bench equipped with side saddles: a bucket on his left, a pocketed satchel to his right. Behind him, resident climbing expert Nick Fleming — the muscles of the operation — used a block and tackle to hoist the silk painter to different points of the sheer fabric hanging from the trusses at the warehouse-like space.

“Up a foot and a half,” Zimmerman called back to Fleming — one of many directives given as they considered the kinks that could occur in front of an audience.

On Monday night, Zimmerman had a tech run of a live art show that will be part of a fundraiser for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program. “Brave” is on Oct. 23 at Clyde Iron Works, and includes Zimmerman’s most vertical attempt at silk painting, while Kathy McTavish provides cello music. Sheila Packa and other local poets will be reading while he paints. Afterward, Karen McTavish will create five quilts from Zimmerman’s single painting. These quilts are being auctioned off before the show. Go to http://www.braveevent.blogspot.com for details.

As the idea was forming, Zimmerman sought out Fleming, the facilities manager at Vertical Endeavors in Canal Park, to help him with the logistics.

“I thought it was possible, but crazy,” Fleming said.

At Monday night’s rehearsal, Fleming had ropes attached to a belt, and took direction from Zimmerman. He had already done a pre-show lift of Zimmerman, and considered the strength of the roof trusses and the weight of the artist. Fleming consulted a piece of white tagboard with rough sketches of the themes Zimmerman wanted to incorporate and a map of stopping points along the swatch of silk — written out almost like a sheet of music. For every foot Fleming cranked the pulley system, Zimmerman moved three inches.

Zimmerman’s style is to be positioned behind the fabric, which is lit in a way that reveals the color absorbing into the silk as he develops his figures. Last winter, he created a new backdrop at each performance of “The Secret Garden” at the Duluth Playhouse, creating images on five panels each night.

Zimmerman had a handful of helpers on board, keeping track of problem areas and serving as caddies as he worked. His wife, Andrea Wahman, brought him a roll of tape and consulted with the artist. She is the one who kicks these ideas around with Zimmerman.

“I married an electrical engineer,” she joked as he ascended the structure.

This is all part of a big plan that Zimmerman is plotting. He would like to do a painting on the outside of a building in a particularly rainy city. Something where the colors could pool at the bottom of his piece.

“I’ve been wanting to go vertical,” Zimmerman said of this project. “I like the idea of painting big.”

This story ran in the September 28, 2010, edition of the Duluth News Tribune.

Review: ‘Richard Yates’ by Tao Lin

I’m feeling pretty generous today, so I’m going to extend to Tao Lin a courtesy I’d ordinarily not. I’m going to humor him. For the duration of this post, I’m not even going to so much as roll a single eyeball over his whole “If you don’t get me, you’re obvs too old to understand me” bullshit. But please know this will end with my tongue bloody from restraint.

[Deep breath]

In order to do this, I need to consider his novel Richard Yates from the perspective that this is artistic social commentary that just happens to use words as its medium, and just happens to be in the size and shape of contemporary fiction. I think this is what Tao Lin wants.

There isn’t anything I would call a conventional plot. It’s not burdened by arcs, or apexes, or climaxes. Rather it is something like a straight line, or an ever-edited pile of similar events. Maybe even a circle. Twenty-two-year-old writer/wanderer/underemployed/shoplifter/vegan/NYU grad Haley Joel Osment and 16-year-old Dakota Fanning have an iRelationship, built and shaped on the sort of inane G-chats that happen between people who are bored. They don’t “talk” so much as “say.” Mostly it’s a collection of silly back-and-forths and plans for when they will meet up again.

Consider the introduction to the characters:

“I’ve only had the opportunity to hold a hamster once,” said Dakota Fanning on Gmail chat. “Its paws were so tiny. I think I cried a little.”

I saw a hamster eating its babies,” said Haley Joel Osment. “I wanted to give it a high-five. But it didn’t know what a high-five is.”

Occasionally Haley Joel Osment (not the one of “Sixth Sense” fame) travels to New Jersey to see Dakota Fanning (not the one of “The Runaways” fame), occasionally Dakota Fanning travels to Greenwich Village to see Haley Joel Osment. They spend their time together walking around, shoplifting, doing it, and eating vegan food. Chat. Hang. Chat about hanging some more. They yawningly toss out suicide wishes.

The closest thing to story escalation comes as Dakota Fanning starts copping to her eating disorder, and actually takes action in her death threats by leaving the house and heading toward the train tracks. Haley Joel Osment becomes more clingy, demanding to know the minute details of how Dakota Fanning has spent her day. It’s a sort of quiet nod to a status-update culture, although this particular piece of art is curiously void of mentions of Twitter and Facebook.

There is a total lack of emotion, both in the prose and in the communication between characters. I think this speaks to the impersonal slash personal connections that come from exchanging information in a way that allows for deletes, and time to consider phraseology. A place where you don’t have to crack a smile to type “LMFAO.” And even when there is face-to-face time, characters express themselves in the limited ways of online communication, verbalizing “I feel embarrassed” and “I feel sad” instead of turning red or making a frowny face.

Part of me thinks that Tao Lin’s cult popularity is, in itself, a ruse. A sort of antisocial entity testing his own peers for what they will admire. He has figured out a way to spiral viral with a quirky personae and a lack of capitalization, and he used it to build a following of emo teens in need of the internet’s version of Jack Kerouac. Someone doing something different in a way that resonates. (Although entire Lin paragraphs could be housed in a single Kerouac sentence). Lin brand-drops, and is heavy on texting, chatting, emailing — more than any other contemporary writers I’ve read. He doesn’t have Bieber fever. He veers obscure, with hints of chain. Cool. He isn’t past tense. He’ll quickly become past tense. But right now he is superduper present tense.

I had a writing professor in college who said that just because you’re writing about being bored doesn’t mean the story has to be boring. I’m looking at you, Tao Lin. This thing is a total repetitious snooze. Again, I think this is his intent: To perfectly convey the limbo of real life. Realistically, more often than not, nothing happens in the course of a day. Sometimes weeks. Two years can pass at status quo: wandering, eating, shoplifting, G-chatting with barely perceptible shifts in the median level of happiness, and little progress made toward achieving goals because those goals are still spongy. Moving toward them is more of a step toward failing than it is a step toward achieving. And it’s so hard to commit to a path when there are so many. Especially at age 22.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t a good novel. At all. It’s dull. The characters are badly drawn and unlikeable in a distracting way. If I didn’t love to hate books so much, I wouldn’t have gotten past the first sentences.

I definitely hated Shoplifting from American Apparel. And really, this one is written in the same key, with all the same ticks. The characters are inter-changeable between the two. But for some reason he is just a little bit more successful at getting his ideas across with Richard Yates. But I’ve seen bathroom graffiti that trumped American Apparel, so that isn’t a huge credit to Richard Yates.

That said, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this collection of words — which means it succeeds on some level. It’s a statement, regardless of if I found the statement a pleasure to read or not. I assure you that thinking about this book is better than reading it. Of course, I could be totally wrong. There is a chance that Tao Lin is just a shitty writer who has gotten lucky. That I’m giving him far more credit than he deserves. Just like his legions of freaky little fans.

This was originally posted on Minnesota Reads on September 26, 2010.

Feature: Adu Gindy, painter

By Christa Lawler
Duluth News Tribune

One of Adu Gindy’s muses is the highway system.

The painter watches the world through the car window, then goes to her studio to re-create the story of the things she has seen, and the green, blue and mustard-hued fields — horizontal swatches of color that are the pauses between thoughts and the passing of time.

Gindy’s exhibition “Bits and Pieces: A Visual Journey” is in the John Steffl Gallery at the Duluth Art Institute, and it includes about 200 pieces she has painted in the past year — many of those while on the road.

“If I were a writer, I’d be writing every day,” she said. “But I’m a painter.”

Gindy has had plenty to chronicle. Since her retirement from teaching art at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2005, she has forged ahead with her painting, now in Minneapolis. More than a year ago, she married Minneapolis native Scott Bertas, who she met on the online dating site eHarmony. There has been lots of travel between their homes in Minneapolis and Hayward and trips back to Duluth.

The art institute is hosting a free reception for four exhibits, including Gindy’s, from 5-7 p.m. today at the Depot, 506 W. Michigan St. Other exhibits include photographer Wing Young Huie’s “Retrospective,” “Seaworthy: A Celebration of the Tall Ships in the Twin Ports,” and “Port-Traits: Duluth Superior Shows its Face,” a Twin Ports public art project.

The acrylic paintings rich in primary colors are like illustrations and caricatures of whimsical figures: cats in various stages of leisure, a herd of cows giving a menacing glare, children in Halloween costumes that include ears and dark-framed glasses.

Gindy’s work has been in the gallery since mid-August, and at some point she received a note from a young fledgling art critic who told her, “If this is art, I’m a master.”

The message seemed to delight Gindy: “I like children’s art,” she said.

HOW SHE WORKS

During this phase in her career, Gindy works mostly in the 12-by-12-inch canvases that make up her exhibition. It’s a format she used for a 2007 show at UMD’s Tweed Museum of Art, “Fables and Pyramids,” created in the grid style of Egyptian tomb paintings.

During an artist residency at Cranberry Island in Maine, Gindy used the small canvases because they are more portable. But as she has worked, she has found they are perfect for chronicling the days in a style that has drawn comparisons to journal entries and comic books.

“I kind of think of it as a piece a day,” she said. “It’s that idea. I’m not after perfection. I just want reality. The good, bad and ugly.”

Gindy’s husband, a retired businessman, teases her about how prolific she is as an artist and has mentioned the Business 101 notions of supply and demand.

“I told her: ‘Your production department is way ahead of your marketing department,’” Bertas said and laughed. “For her, art is a necessity. That’s how she stays grounded.”

She works quickly, listening to classical Minnesota Public Radio. Gindy likes to keep the pieces simple. She takes a memory, boils it down to an image and commits it to canvas.

“It’s never quite how you imagine it,” said Gindy, who doesn’t like to overwork a piece — although she can point out instances in her exhibit where she pushed the brush too far. She prefers the spontaneity of a one-take. “For better or worse, I go with what I get.”

Friend and fellow artist Eric Dubnicka, who is an exhibition designer at the Tweed, said he has seen changes in her work — especially after the residency at Cranberry Island, where she was surrounded by ocean.

“She really focused on … minimizing the landscape, and I think that’s really come through, insofar as she’s much more comfortable with blank space and letting certain imagery and marks stand on their own. … That confidence, and a certain amount of spareness — which helps the narrative — has really come through in the past few years,” Dubnicka said.

HER STUFF

Gindy claims to not have a very good memory. But everywhere you spin in the gallery is an image associated with something in her mind: the curiosities of small Midwestern towns like a bobber-shaped fish house, characters on public television, headline news. For Gindy, the walls must be like a photo album.

Dubnicka said her style is a match with her eclectic tastes, and friends, and interests.

“She works in a serial fashion. She’ll hop from one idea to the next, creating these miniature narratives within this all-encompassing narrative — which is basically a very curious tale woven by her imagination,” Dubnicka said.

There is an aluminum boat crunched in a sort of gray Pac-Man shape, wrapped around a tree. It is a scene from Siren, Wis., where a tornado ripped through the town in 2001.

There is a picture featuring out-of-scale ants, and a yellow VW bug. That’s from an ant infestation, which was comically solved by a company that makes house calls in a Volkswagen. There is a picture from a shooting at a gas station near her studio.

And there is a striped construction cone with feet, a reminder of a time she and Bertas saw a young prankster wearing the cone, feet peeking out from the bottom, moving down the street.

“I do get a kick out of my work,” Gindy said. “I walk into the studio and smile.”

This story originally appeared in the September 23, 2010, issue of the Duluth News Tribune.

Essay: Water Works

NOTE: The contents of this post are extremely graphic … even by my standards. But there is nothing here you wouldn’t see on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet or Jersey Shore. Because of this warning, I take no responsibility for phantom urethra pains or gagging.

Of all the openings in the human body, the urethral sphincter is among the tiniest. So when a stranger, albeit a trained professional stranger, takes a catheter and jimmies it into this particular hole and then threads it into one’s bladder, there is a certain amount of discomfort.

Of course, having a urinary tract infection for three months, the various stings and flames of this vicinity are pretty familiar. Still, there was a high-pitched whinny upon contact, and a sharp uvula-quaking in-take of air. “You have to breathe,” reminded the kind nurse-sort who was playing doting hostess to my early-morning adventure. Then we both ignored the final dribbles of the last liquid I’d consumed as they spread all over the clinic’s linens.

This past summer, things have whizzed past “frequent urinary tract infections” and double-jumped “chronic urinary tract infections” and now just seem to be a permanent state of being. On my first visit with a urologist, he apologized that I had to go through this and said: “I know it can really affect your quality of life” vocalizing something I knew, but hadn’t made a thought for yet. Basically I’ve developed a Pavlovian grimace to everything that happens or might happen in this specific southern region. Even the carbonation from s can of Coke or a PBR makes me recoil in horror when I consider the way the bubbles will leave my body. And that, frankly, is the least of my concerns. I can live without Coke and PBR.

Our friend Cath recently described for Chuck a scene from a college-level biology class where a petri dish filled with infection was dosed with a drop of Cipro that mangled the infection on impact. A perfect antibiotic for saving factions of the universe after a global catastrophe. Just not in the case in my body, where I imagine cartoon-ish images of cigar wielding germs bumping knuckles with tiny Cipro pellets. I’ve tried a gamut of drugs beyond Cipro. Fail. Fail. Ouch. Fail. Yet some UTI-ignorant soul always cocks her head and says: “Have you tried drinking Cranberry Juice?”

Yes. I have. The expensive organic kind that is so bitter it doesn’t even register. It just attacks the tongue and leaves behind a dry fecal aftertaste. The drink has broken down my senses to the point where I something-close-to-almost-like-it.

It is one of about 9 gazillion things I have tried. I’m a model student in the world of urinary tract care and hygiene.

Fact: I drink upward of 90 ounces of water a day.
Fact: I go to the bathroom at least every waking hour. Before I go to bed, and when I wake up.
Fact: I void, then cuddle — as a former Urgent Care doctor once eloquently suggested.
Fact: I monitor what I expel to make sure it is clear and not cloudy.
Fact: Sometimes I drink Cranberry Juice.
Fact: I do not sit on cold stones, which is a bunch of hooey but something my Norwegian friend swears causes UTIs in her adorable country.

The doctor showed me a glass bottle filled with about 10 ounces of fluid dangling hamster cage style. It was going to hurt, my hostess confessed. She’d had a catheter. The important thing, she told me, was to drink a lot of water afterward to get my pisser back to normal. Then they slowly emptied the liquid into my bladder. I watched on a grayscale monitor as the purse-shaped pocket darkened.

“Tell us when you can’t take it and really have to go,” the doctor said.
“I wouldn’t need a gas station yet, but I’d definitely be looking for an exit,” I told him.

When I finally conceded that I couldn’t wait another minute, that I would actually go on the shoulder of the road, they cranked my bed from horizontal to vertical and handed me a hard plastic crotch sized box with a baggie attached. I drained my bladder, reluctantly, into this contraption. The inside of my body was filmed and photographed by one of the three people in the room.

The word “dignity” played on a loop in my mind. It didn’t help that I had my gown on backward.

After that, they took a CT scan of my torso and I got a little snippy with a tech who asked me to remove my belly button ring. It’s been there for more than 15 years. It might be soldered there permanently. I don’t usually get snippy with people. Especially not medical specialists. But I also don’t usually start the morning by getting catheterized, either. Frankly, that’s a mood dampener.

I dressed, and threw a wan smile at a woman in the waiting room.

I limped into the urologist’s office like a bruised and beaten rodeo clown about three hours later for the results from the tests. A woman clicked away at the computer and mentioned that they were going to be looking in my bladd-

“Nuh uh ohh you aren’t,” I said to her. “We did that already. This morning. I’m just here for results.”
She shook her head.
“No,” she said. “We’re going in with a scope to look at your bladder.”
“Again through the urethra?” I crossed my legs.
“Yes.”

At this point I started weighing my options. What was a urinary tract infection, even a 90-day infection, compared to being jabbed in a place that has never known human nor animal contact. But I had come this far, so I stripped down into the gown and crouched into the stir ups. I was tended to like a newborn on a changing table.

This time when I got the decisive jab, I started crying. Real tears. I grabbed the doctor’s sweater. This scoping seemed to last forever, and I’d lost the directions to my happy place. Every time the scope moved it was like being stung by a bee in a very tender place. Afterward I jumped off the table, leaving a trail of spilled liquid leading to the toilet, breadcrumbs for the next patient.

The results? Inconclusive. There is nothing physically wrong with me that they could find. I didn’t think there would be: My mom has chronic UTI’s, my grandmother had chronic UTIs. I imagine somewhere is an old bible filled with black and white family portraits including thin-haired ladies wincing. Although, the urologist told me, I have a freakishly large bladder. Like 20 to 30 percent bigger than normal. For some reason this makes me proud.

“I can’t wait to tell my friends,” I told him.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me I’ll be on antibiotics for the next six months.

“Sorry for the water works,” I said to the urologist as we left the office. “Ha! Water works.”

He just groaned.

Review: ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzan

There is nothing that I can say about Jonathan Franzen’s superlative magnet that hasn’t been said by everyone from the official newspaper of record, to our cultural spokeswoman Oprah Winfrey, to 4 gazillion unknown word geeks who are wondering if it is socially acceptable to shove this particular 3 pound novel down one’s pants.

Franzen deserves every exclamation point, every “incredible,” and every sheet cake decorated with his likeness. This epic, sprawling, detailed novel about pretty much everything in the world is an engrossing collection of words.

It was reviewer Amy A. who coined the phrase that should be added to the Minnesota Reads’ Dictionary of Useful Terms: “Word sorcery.” Reading this novel is like slipping into a weird time-warp calculated in Franzen years, which are powerful enough to disrupt the perceived rotation of Earth. Every time I sat down to read for 20 minutes, I emerged blurry eyed and sweaty an hour and a half later.

This has nothing to do with plot, which feels less like fiction, and more like a composite sketch of well-educated liberals straddling the property line between baby boomer and Gen X. Patty Berglund is a former Division I college hoops player, in fact a Golden Gopher. Her husband Walter is a smarty with a social conscience, although technically runner-up in the hierarchy of Patty’s sexual to-do list. She has always wanted to throw down with Walter’s college roommate Richard Katz, one of those talented musicians who never achieves pop status, but makes the purist niche froth from every orifice. Think, perhaps, Jeff Tweedy. Daughter Jessica is hard working and self-sustaining; Son Joey is a real charmer, a young entrepreneur, who, with the help of a neighbor girl, sheds his pesky virginity before there is barely grass on the field.

When the novel opens, the Berglunds are gentrifying their St. Paul neighborhood. They are painted with a wide brush at this point, and a vision of perfect little family that includes Patty always remembering the birthdays of her neighbors. By the end of the first chapter, Franzen has ripped off six layers of skin to reveal the malfunctioning mechanics of their domesticity. He’s like a person who carefully constructs something, only to look at it once, smile, then torch it.

A third-person account of Patty’s back story, written by Patty for her therapist, follows. Emotionally neglectful parents, date rape, an over-eager arty best friend, and the awkward negotiations with Walter which were almost derailed by a road trip with Richard. From then on, Franzen fills in more complete versions of the rest of the family — except, oddly, Jessica — and that hound dog Richard Katz.

Now. Here is where I lean controversial. For my $24.95, I enjoyed reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad more.

There is no reason to be comparing these books. One is fictional realism, one is inventive fiction told in alternative formats. “Goon Squad” isn’t the epic, completely saturated, tightly woven novel that Freedom is, but word for word Egan’s book is more creative and didn’t have a single dead spot. And my interest level yawned for much of Walter’s story in Franzen’s novel. I didn’t finish Freedom and consider starting again on Page 1. I did with “Goon Squad.”

All sorts of people may be claiming Freedom is the greatest novel of our time — and maybe that’s true. I’m not so naive to think this book isn’t something special. It is. It’s thorough. It’s intense. It’s really real. But in reading for the purpose of reading for pleasure to be surprised, delighted: I think it was the book I enjoyed second-most in 2010. So far.

This review was originally posted at Minnesota Reads on September 20, 2010.

Review: Tech N9ne concert

By Christa Lawler
Duluth News Tribune

First the room went dark. Then they fogged the stage. Hundreds of cell phones lit up, pockets of green glowing light.

There was a shout out to DJ Chill, manning the turntable.

A giant screen filled the back of the stage, the size of something that would be the centerpiece in a sports bar, but pixilated like a Lite-Bright board. There was a countdown from magic No. 9, and then a shadow developed into the form of rapper.

Tech N9ne bounced up from behind the screen to scaffolding above it. The longtime Kansas City rapper in his trademark white face paint, a tan work shirt and baggy shin-length pants busted through the bubble of anticipation for a crowd of more than a thousand during Tuesday night’s multi-artist hip-hop show at Clyde Iron Works.

This. Was. Pure. Theater.

Tech N9ne opened with “The Industry is Punks,” from his 2002 album “Absolute Power,” and then was joined onstage by Kutt Calhoun. The duo dusted off some synchronized choreography, robotic movements and eventual moonwalking over a sample of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Tech N9ne, who has been in the biz since 1990, set down his mic and did a 30-second break-dancing combo.

They summoned onstage a young blonde from the front row, and took turns grinding on the girl wearing black leggings, flip flops and a tiger-stripped tank top. During the song “Psycho Bitch,” everyone’s favorite self-described “Jersey Shore” guidette Snooki’s image was part of a video montage. It was a mess of amazing sensory overload between the beat, the swirling red siren light, the projected crosses spinning against a cloth cityscape backdrop and pole dancing women on the big screen.

Eventually the duo moved over, and let the spazz-tastic Krizz Kaliko take over — introduced by a sound tech with the voice of a shock-jock radio host.

It was a big bill with homegrown talent, West Coast rappers and some relative newbies. The night also included Glasses Malone, and his frequent reminders that this was an “(effing) party,” sampling “California” by 2Pac, and calling for some West Coast love. Jay Rock followed, shedding layers until he was down to just a white tank top, flashing West Coast signs. E-40 followed with internal organ-vibrating beats.

Superior’s Off the Couch Ent with Mike White, A-Dub, Special K, and Brandon Nicholson opened the show, the highlight being crowd-favorite “Futuristic Superstar” which included a cameo of a dancing alien dressed in black-draped reaper ware.

The crowd was heavy on high school and college-aged students. It kind of looked like a lock in.

Review originally published in the Duluth News Tribune on Sept. 22, 2010.