By Becca Martin

As I write this article the creative team of photographer Sara Montour and audio man Steve Korff, whom fondly refer to themselves as “hoarders of nostalgia” embark on the second year of their collaboration: Live Letters.  There have been some changes and I recently sat down with Sara to chat about it.

The former site of Live Letters was in reality Sara’s home, and on certain Thursdays the space would be transformed into a tight knit community of several musicians and an audience of up to near 75 people.  The musicians were almost all local in origin, and found that performing in such a closed space to an attentive audience both stimulating and at times uncomfortable.  I loved it when Brent Colbert formerly of The Awful Truth sat on his stool and proclaimed how he was not used to having people actually listen to him play. Back on point here, the biggest change was announced during the week of two back-to-back shows in May-the first anniversary show and the final show at the loft.

The anniversary show was a great night for Sara, who at times got so caught up in the details that she felt cheated, but on this night she was able to pull back for special moments.  From the beginning there had been a goal of ending each show with a special song. Chris Koza, whom Sara acknowledges as being supportive from “even before day one”, performed ” California Stars” with the audience joining in.  Sara treasures that memory, the perfect moment for the second to the last night at the loft.

The next evening was the final show at the loft.  There was only one artist that night, which was highly unusual.  Christopher Paul Stelling out of Brooklyn N.Y. played a fierce and at times touching set of his new release “False Cities”. CPS is as intense as they get, a true artist who reminds me of a gypsy.  He played with his guitar held high and at times I noticed a Castilian flamenco vibe.  I was transfixed during his performance and after listening to his album I hold his passion and talent in high esteem. My favorite track is “brick x brick” as he nearly shreds his voice towards its finale.  “Who I am” is a song both haunting and straightforward in its nature.  Yes, Rift boss this is my sneaky way of reviewing a non-local, you got me-GUILTY!  The evening was meaningful in many ways of course being the last one at the loft, but also a national act showcased in the midst of “crazy uncertainty”.  In hindsight Sara thinks that it was the best “launching pad onto the next phase”.  A phase that took some time to sort itself out.

Sara had lost not only her home, but also Live Letter’s venue, and was forced to really check in with herself. To decide if going on with LL was a valid effort or if they should say we did it for a year ” that is what it is” and stop?    But local musicians came forward and pushed them to continue, that they really needed a place like LL to develop and connect with an audience who shared their same passion.  For Sara it reinforced the need for Live Letters to continue. It was a chaotic time but she felt like she needed a change, and thinks that the “universe listened and there it was” Over time both Sara and Live Letters found new but separate homes.  Live Letters will continue as a private event at the SooVac (Soo Visual Arts Center) in Minneapolis.  The shows will still be very intimate and the focus will continue to be what LL has always been, a platform to engage performer and audience together.  Sara enjoyed this musical relationship from a young age attending folk festivals with her self described 8 pack “brady bunch” family.  As a tot riding bikes in teepees she experienced a concept at the Winnipeg Folk Festival of “songwriters in the round” that was integral to the concept of Live Letters.  With this upbringing she is the “jumper without looking, and Steve is the planner who reins it in, and keeps Live Letters what it is”.  Sara says that without Steve she could not do it.  They met in their college years and bonded over a mutual love of live music.  Favorite Steve story is when he called her from Fargo and invited her to a Soul Asylum show the next day in New Orleans. She was in Duluth but said “lets do it”, covered several shifts at work and the two met in between and drove straight there to make the show. Their “war stories” of concerts/festivals have made for the “perfect concoction” to inform what they wanted Live Letters to be.

Since it was never about the space but instead the creation of an intimate audience/music experience, Sara feels Live Letters will be valid for a long time.  On the topic of having lesser-known national acts at SooVac she says that “it could be an asset to these types of performers” a way to expose them to a different audience, one borne of close interaction.  However, she cannot say enough about Minneapolis being a very special place for musicians, and that they could never run out of local talent for the shows.  The venue will be the change, not the idea, or the cookies and Fulton.

I asked Sara what her favorite Live Letters moment ever was, and here is what she told me: “the first ever show, I looked at Steve and thought-Did this just happen? Surreal. Pulled it off”. I hope that is exactly how Sara feels at the end of the night of September 19th when they resume Live Letters at the SooVac.

Next show: September 19th, Soo Visual Arts Center (2638 Lyndale Ave. S. Mpls.): 7pm, $10. Buy tickets through Brown Paper Tickets (private event and tickets are limited and to be purchased in advance) SOLD OUT!!!  See below for note from Sara.

Hosted by Actual Wolf, joined by Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles/Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee, and Claire De Lune.

Just in from Sara:

Next Live Letters show: October 24, an “Evening With Friends hosted by Martin Devaney”-P.S. I recommend buying tickets early!

Live Letter FB

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