16 January 2011

The air is good

I decided to go to the performance of Dakota Air this weekend. This monthly radio show is recorded live someplace in North Dakota each month. Today it was a few blocks away from where I currently reside.
An acquaintance at work is the music director for the show and since it seemed pretty similar to the show I do at Christmas I decided to check it out.
I was not disappointed. The show was chalk full of musical performances intermixed with historical and local flavor in the form of skits and monologues. Steve Stark anchors that side of the show flawlessly. The host, Merill Piepkorn, kept the show flowing and often sang and played superbly on the harmonica.
Now the show is definitely a step-child to Prairie Home Companion minus fake sponsorships and a fake town which a monologue is delivered about. In fact, the show is a lot less fictionally based than Keillor's gig. Dakota Air is also missing the big name acts which often appear on Prairie Home. Instead, they utilize local talent. The show tonight featured the NDSU faculty jazz band, local music teacher Sam Mack, and the Gold Star Marching Band. And it was very good.
I'm sure fans of PHC will pick apart Dakota Air when it is heard over public radio in the region this month. But it is like comparing an elephant to a lady bug. Heck, back in the golden age of radio numerous shows had similar styles and formats. I think Dakota Air is proving there really is some hidden gems in North Dakota.
Still, I think the show is more like an offshoot of Big Top Chautauqua.
Special mention should be made for Thomas Isern, a professor of history at NDSU. He performed a song about prairie towns and read an essay he wrote about class B basketball. He reminded me a little of Irish singer Christy Moore. Oh and the Gold Star Marching Band gave a stirring performance. I like marching music.

As an additional note: I want to make a correction to the omission the Forum made about the show in their article of 14 Jan 2011- Tim Hoffelt, music director of the show and guitar virturoso, is also from Fargo. I guess he blends in so well no one recognized this Fargo talent. He doesn't do much self promotion at work unless he let's it slip he is playing at Basie's or the HoDo. A few of his MP3s show up on the Net, but typically are hard to find- especially a song about a time machine.
Slan.

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