Review: Live From Mars at the Ritz Theater


On Friday, March 29, 2013, Venus de Mars hosted a group of literary and musical friends at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis. The event was called Live From Mars.

I didn’t know what to expect. The show’s description said acoustic, yet a part of me wondered if the show’s aesthetic would be mostly glam, Goth and punk. But Venus assembled an eclectic mix of musicians and poets who showcased the best of the human voice, whether through song or spoken word.

I can sum up the event in one word – and Venus, I must borrow your word: Brilliant.

Starting promptly at 8:00 PM, Venus walked on stage, warmly welcomed the audience, then asked everyone to turn off their phones. I would’ve loved to have taken a picture or two, but a distraction-free show was appreciated. Venus also graciously acknowledged a fan, Danielle, who would be watching from China via Webcast.

Venus opened the show with one of hi/r songs. I’ve seen Venus sing with All The Pretty Horses, but hi/r songs translate beautifully to acoustic and even without the electronics, the power in Venus’ voice filled the theatre.

Venus then introduced each performer; they are listed below in order of appearance.

Matt Mauch read from his not-yet-published book, which sounded like it would be a very fun, and smartass-y, read.

Joe Hastings (Hastings 3000) came out on stage greeted by several whoops from the audience, then performed three songs. The first included a touch of flamenco, the second had a country twang, the third was slower and melodic. Each was very different, yet equally beautiful.

Poets Lynette Reini-Grandell and Kari Tauring shared stories, poetry and ancient Nordic chanting. Lynette told the audience that her ancestry was Finnish. Not to be overlooked, Kari made sure Norwegians got their props, too.

Stephanie Wilber Ash, AKA Goth Mom and her acapella Goth band, Goth Mother. Stephanie explained she and the group repurposes Goth songs into four-part harmony. They also tell inappropriate stories about motherhood. Inappropriate maybe, but damn funny nonetheless. The group started out with Morrissey’s “Girlfriend in a Coma,” performed a Bauhaus song, then asked the audience to sing along during the chorus of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” I had a helluva time getting that song out of my head after the show. Thanks ladies.

Before Goth Mom and Goth Mother took the stage, Venus called each act brilliant, finally apologizing to the audience for saying it as Venus wasn’t from London. Yet after Goth Mom and Goth Mother left the stage, Venus said: “I’m sorry, that really was brilliant.”

No argument.

Venus announced an intermission, then 20 minutes later, opened the second half of the show with another of hi/r songs.

Jeffrey Skemp’s band included a stand-up bass, banjo, saxophone and trumpet. He opened with a song, then followed with poetry. His whiskey and cigarettes voice was a dead ringer for Tom Waits’ voice.

The Mike Shephard (Magneto Effect) band was a little rockabilly, blues and rock – and a whole lotta fun.

The last performer was poet Laura Brandenburg. Effervescent and energetic, she read three of her poems.

Venus sang one final song and closed the show at 10:30 PM

Live From Mars was a great collection of local musicians and poets. Should Venus organize another such event, I highly recommend you go – at $10, each person who attended got more than their money’s worth.

As I walked out of the theater, I saw a lot of smiles and heard a number of people say how fun the show was.

I couldn’t agree more.


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