Monday, December 12, 2016

330. Things I Liked about 2016: A Prairie Home Companion

Like so many people, I was a little bit concerned when Garrison Keillor said he was going to retire. It was one of those institutions, like so many this year, that started to fade away. It made me sad at first because Keillor was a representation of everything good about Minnesota: witty, charming, and Minnesotan at the heart of it all. I don’t think I purposely tuned in very often, but if it did happen to come across it on a Saturday night, I would rarely be disappointed. Some of my favorite memories are driving in the dark on a Saturday night, listening to APHC. It was a warm cup of cocoa in the winter, and a glass of lemonade in the summer.

However, It was probably time. With all due respect to Keillor, I doubt he was attracting new listeners. He has his demographic: baby boomers. (I was probably an outlier on the listener demographic.) So change wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. I’m glad he picked Chris Thile. I didn’t really know what to expect when I bought tickets for his first show in October. As soon as the band started and he went on, I was impressed. He was warm, funny, lively, and seemed to genuinely enjoy the new gig. Whenever I see someone having fun at their job, I tend to think higher of that person.

The best part is the music. While Keillor tried to accompany his far more talented guests, it wasn’t always magical. Thile is a master mandolin player and he’s also received a MacArthur “genius” grant. So it’s safe to say that he knows what he is doing when it comes to music. The few shows I’ve listened to thus far have impressed me.

On Saturday night, I went out to run a few errands before heading out to a pub. It was the first big snowfall of the winter and it was slow driving all over town. I avoided 100 to get to Target and took some other roads to get there. Those were slow going as well. I’m thankful for that because I got to hear a lot of the show. Thile had the wonderful Steve Martin on. And while Martin is hilarious in his own right, he’s really made a name for himself as a banjo player. His opening number with the The Steep Canyon Rangers was enthralling. It was a nice, warm opposite of the freezing weather. I’ve also been super impressed with his guest list thus far. Any musician that can get Steve Martin and Yo Yo Ma on the same program is a talented host.

I am a little concerned that it will lose its Minnesota flavor. I did always enjoy the News from Lake Wobegone and Guy Noir. Keillor had a knack for dropping good Minnesota references in the show. It also seems like fewer and fewer shows will take place in Minnesota. And Thile isn’t moving to Minnesota, he’s heading to New York. What’s good for the show may not be good Minnesota hearts. Oh well, at least we’ll always have Lake Wobegone.

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