Experimental Thursdays are back after hiatus

They used to be Experimental Tuesdays, but with the Norshor Theatre closed, they are now known as Experimental Thursdays and the locations are different.

They used to be Experimental Tuesdays, but with the Norshor Theatre closed, they are now known as Experimental Thursdays and the locations are different.

  Members of two of Duluth's most accomplished bands -- Alan Sparhawk of Low and Christian McShane of If Thousands -- have created a home for sounds that just don't fit anywhere else.

They get started again Thursday, at the Duluth Art Institute's Lincoln Park facility, 2229 W. Second St. That will be followed up March 25, at the Harbor City International School, with artists to be announced.

Asked to describe what it's all about, McShane was intentionally vague. "Everything from music to art, performance, dance, film," he said.

"It's pretty wide open," he added. "Pretty much anybody is welcome on the stage so long as it fits in the really broad category of experimentalism."


That can include ripping the guts out of a piano and playing the strings. It can be the hum from guitars and amplifiers. And it can be more normal songs if they mark experimentation for the artist -- even folk singers like Haley Bonar have been part of the performances.

The shows started at the Norshor Theatre in August 2002. "Since then, it's surprising how many people actually really want to do it," McShane said.

The shows have spread by word of mouth. People from many of the Northland's bands have stopped in.

McShane's advice for performers: "Do that thing that you've always wanted to do but you can't."

There's experimentation at the heart of every musician, he said.

This is not open mike night -- all the performances are scheduled. A typical night will include three or four performers.

And there are some limits. McShane told one anecdote that sets an outside boundary -- a Wisconsin band with a name unprintable in a family newspaper called. After some research, McShane discovered part of the act was blowing up fireworks into the microphone. After a staged argument between the band and the sound crew, a band member stripped and inserted objects into various body parts.

That was over the line and wasn't allowed.


After the Norshor closed, McShane had to find a new home for the shows, which take place every second Thursday and last Thursday of the month. It takes a fairly unique venue, as it's not the sort of sound that would go over well at a lot of clubs or bars.

Experimental Thursdays have consequently been on hiatus since the end of last year.

Now it's set for the time being. The second Thursday show will be at the Lincoln facility and the last Thursday show will be at the Harbor City International School downtown.

He said the latter venue has the advantage of a great room and kids.

He is still waiting to see how things play out at the Norshor.

"As far as I know, it's not being done anywhere," McShane said, noting he has searched a 500 mile radius to find a similar event.

"It's stuff you're never going to hear anywhere else," he said.

And the clothes stay on.


Thursday's lineup features a CD release by Tim Kaiser. Kaiser's new CD is "Analog," and he is known as a performance artist, musician and designer. McShane will also perform on Moog synthesizer and theremin, a unique electronic instrument that is played without ever being touched. Another act is yet to be announced.

Those interested can contact McShane at christian@ or call


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