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On September 10, the band’s summer tour took place at the Orpheum Theater in celebration of the 21st birthday of their debut album, Oh, Upside Down World. The anniversary tour was a platform for The Shins to play the album front to back for fans old and new.
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I’ve been a fan of The Shins since a trip to the Wasteland when my sister gave me a pair of headphones and introduced me to their amazing lyrics and hypnotic melodies. It’s been five years since I last saw them at the Basilica Block Party, so I was really excited for this show.
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The Shins have undergone a number of line-up changes over the years, but the cohesive sound of the show – from slow ballads to perfectly executed dance hits – will never stop. Mercer was honest about the fact that many of the songs they played from this album had never been performed live and therefore required some reworking. For example, a deep cut called “Jo Algebra” added a new drum beat where there wasn’t any before, making the song a bit faster. While some fans were surprised by the change (as evidenced by some audible facial expressions on my part), it didn’t take long for the crowd to be dancing and smiling to the new beat.
Despite the large and sophisticated setting, it felt like an intimate show. I’ve never been to an Orpheum concert (only theater shows or live podcasts) so I didn’t know what kind of energy to expect. I was worried that it would be difficult to really enjoy the concert sitting down. But even though Minnesota audience etiquette prohibited us all from standing until the band asked us to later in the show, no one sat down after that.
After “Oh, Inverted World” was complete, the band performed some of their biggest hits from other albums. During “Australia”, some technical difficulties disabled the amplifiers, leaving the band alone. They continued to play until the song was over and then gave the workers space to fix what happened. However, the band members did not let difficulties stop the show. Guitarist Mark Watrous and drummer John Sortland entertained the crowd with requests to make fans cry, my personal favorite being Weezer’s “Undone–The Sweater Song” until the techs managed to figure it all out. Their ability to face challenges and keep the audience engaged was inspiring and much appreciated. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before they were back on track.
After finishing their original set and encores, The Shins closed the show with an inspired medley. A mix of her early hit “Sleeping Lessons” and Tom Petty’s classic jam “American Girl” energized the crowd. Regardless of the night’s spin, it’s hard not to feel grateful for a band that doesn’t seem to have lost a beat on a journey spanning more than 20 years.
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To say that we live in different times is like saying that the Grand Canyon is a crack in the ground. Things are bad. The mutual enmity between the left and the right is metastasizing, becoming an all-pervading energy of mistrust, anger and aggression. It seeps into school board meetings, town halls, and social media. Underneath everything is a powerful fear. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center report, nine out of ten voters on the left and right worry that a victory for the other party would cause “permanent damage” to the country.
Visit Braver Angels, a national organization dedicated to bringing red and blue Americans together in a working alliance to depolarize America.
After the controversial 2016 presidential election, Bill Dougherty, a professor of family social sciences at the University of Minnesota, contacted two of his colleagues in New York and Ohio. “People felt very differently in their parts of the country,” he says. “It was like the end of the world in Manhattan, and it was a party in southwest Ohio.”
All three men worked in the area of marriage, relationships and divorce. To apply her skills to the political landscape, she gathered 10 Hillary Rodham Clinton voters and 10 Donald Trump voters in South Lebanon, Ohio to facilitate the conversation. In December 2016, Dougherty hosted the first Braver Angels Red/Blue workshop. “It was a very successful first workshop,” he recalls. “We thought it would be a one-time event, but we decided it had to continue.”
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Since then, Doherty has created a series of workshops for Braver Angels, and the organization now has nearly 40,000 subscribers, with members in all 50 states. Minnesota is an “incubator state” for new workshops (since the pandemic, most workshops have been held on Zoom). With approximately 2,750 members, Minnesota also has the highest number of members per capita in the country. Local alliances are forming in communities across the state, with members meeting digitally and in person in parks and libraries to discuss issues ranging from “political homelessness” to criminal justice reform.
Braver Angels workshops aim to illuminate the humanity and nuances of life experience that underlie people’s perspectives. “The Red/Blue workshop is a life-changing experience,” says Kim Martinson, co-coordinator of Braver Angels Minnesota. “People say, ‘I had no idea, that’s why you believe in what you’re doing.’
You can talk about how her husband’s work as a police officer affects her position on gun control, or how her childhood experiences affect her opinion on food stamps. “People bring their stories and others say, ‘Now I get it!’ says Martinson. “There’s always some kind of light bulb that goes on.”
The Red/Blue part of the workshop includes a disc exercise. Each “side” (red and blue) takes turns talking to each other while the other side listens and learns. First, group members discuss in a bowl why their ideals and perspectives are good for the country. They then discuss their own reservations and concerns. “It encourages humility and self-criticism,” explains Dougherty. “It helps soften the other side.”
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At a Red-Blue seminar hosted by Doherty, the Democratic Party activist said that for the first time she understood not only the position of the Reds, but also why. “She said she gained insight into her fears, values and aspirations, and it changed her,” says Doherty. At another seminar, in Anoka, an attendee remarked, “Neither side is going to beat the other, so we’re going to have to figure out how to come together and run the country together.”
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minnesota, 3rd District) participated in a series of Braver Angels workshops with both constituents in his Minnesota district and some of his national counterparts in Congress to address the issues. “The Brave Angels workshops are the only place I’ve seen where people come together in a matter of hours, often coming from very different political viewpoints and quickly moving from antagonism to friendship,” he says. “It’s been one of the most rewarding parts of my job, seeing people come in with low expectations and leave inspired and optimistic.”
At a recent workshop in Phillips County, a representative recalls how the meeting ended with participants summarizing their experience: “A liberal woman said to a conservative, ‘When you drove off with a Trump sticker on your F-150, I almost turned around. “…Now I see you’re a good guy.” He said, “That’s what I thought when you pulled up in your Prius!” Then they winked. It reinforced my mission to have such inspiring moments to preserve.”
Braver Angels try to maintain a balance between red and blue. “One of the key decisions early on was that Braver Angels leadership at the national and state levels would be half red and half blue, and that all of our offerings would be free,” Doherty says. But attracting enough Red members can be difficult, especially in urban areas.
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“Blues gravitate to dialogue about differences more than reds,” Doherty notes. But when Reds attend Braver Angels workshops, they rate them just as highly as Blues. “The challenge is just to get them in the door.”
According to Dougherty, the blues can also be “very judgmental.” But feedback and word of mouth among Reds members can help attract others. Rick Hotchner, a Reds member of the Minnesota Braver Angels, found that Reds tend to be suspicious of the organization, thinking they should try to change their minds or people will attack them if they speak out.
“I tell them I’ve had so many great conversations with liberals and progressives. They didn’t necessarily change my mind, but they opened my diaphragm,” Hotchner says.
The goal is not to have everyone in one place holding hands and singing kumbaya. Americans start once