Positively Alphabet Street: Minnesota by the Bay

Positively Alphabet Street copy.jpg PC Muñoz’s unique genre-defying projects as an artist and producer are stylistically broad, revealing a sonic explorer equally at home with quirky electronic funk, all-acoustic hip-hop, percussion-heavy improv, spoken word, and contemporary classical. A frequent and enthusiastic collaborator, Muñoz has recorded with composer/cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, rock legend Jackson Browne, dream-pop poet/chanteuse Ingrid Chavez, Prince and the Revolution synth wizard Dr. Fink, and Kulintang master Danny Kalanduyan, to name a few. His live group is the all-star art-funk ensemble PC Muñoz’s Singing Blood, coming to L@TE next week.

“I feel Minnesota more than I feel New York or L.A … I feel more familiar with the landscape, the people and the earth, I think. I feel more at home there.”—Bob Dylan

“It’s so cold, it keeps the bad people out.”—Prince

Because of their shared Minnesota roots, iconic stature, and penchant for abrupt philosophical and artistic detours, I often refer to Bob Dylan and Prince as the “Other Minnesota Twins.” Two legends bound by rock and roll, a relentless quest for God (and girls), and 10,000 lakes.

I would be hard-pressed to identify what it is about Minnesota that helped shape the two most unforgettable songwriters in American pop music, but every time I visit the great Gopher State, I search for clues. When I first toured Minneapolis almost twenty years ago, I walked around the downtown area wide-eyed and electrified, hoping that a little bit of Dylan or Prince power would be blowin’ in the wind, available for any creative creature to capture. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but I did experience a shockingly sudden and surprisingly strong thunderstorm which left me cowering in the corner of a bus shelter. The locals who joined me there for the short-lived storm seemed more annoyed than distressed by the frightful (but decidedly non-purple) downpour.

“I’m from California,” I heard myself call out to no one in particular. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”

“It’ll be over in a few minutes,” came a friendly reply, an affirmation soon echoed by others in the bus shelter.

It turns out “Minnesota Nice” is for-real and easy to encounter, but the Minnesota Magic possessed by Dylan and Prince is a little more elusive.

I greatly admire both of these artists not only because of their dogged dedication to their respective creative visions, their staggering musical talents, or their ability to successfully reinvent themselves time and time again. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to admire the spiritual courage they both have displayed in various circumstances throughout their careers: the courage to write about their own fitful spiritual struggles and subsequent resolutions, and to ignore the rapscallions who predictably emerge to snicker sideways or point a crazy finger. It can’t be easy living a large chunk of your life as an entire generation’s idol-of-choice — another albatrossian experience these two share — and it’s probably even harder when you’re trying to stay the course on your own soul journey.

Positively Alphabet Street celebrates and pays homage to the Other Minnesota Twins and the various musical traditions they represent by weaving their powerful songs together and emphasizing the underlying connectedness between these two masters.

We’re aiming to manifest a little of that Minnesota Magic right here in California.

—PC Muñoz

Above: Illustration by Jamar Nicholas