The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Currents

July 3, 2014

RIPPLE EFFECT

Walsh uses intimate settings to mine musically meaningful experiences

A brewery wouldn't normally seem the ideal venue to play host to an evening of quiet, original acoustic songs. But award-winning journalist/musician Jim Walsh's "Mad Ripple Hootenanny" has defied and exceeded expectations for nearly a decade.

"It's homegrown songwriters and homegrown beer," said Walsh, aka The Mad Ripple. "That's the vibe. It's truly of the moment —whatever happens, you know?"

Walsh has brought the Mad Ripple Hootenanny to Duluth, California and New York. After several hiatuses, the ‘hoot’ has settled into a Thursday residency at Harriet Brewery in St. Paul since last December.

On Saturday, Walsh brings his songwriter semi-circle to the Mankato Brewery. He'll be accompanied by a bevy of Twin Cities musicians, along with Mankato music staples The Frye and Nate LeBoutillier of The Porchlights.

"It's been great at Harriet," Walsh said. "It's a really interesting thing when you throw people together for one night only. You perform and you get instant magic. The people are different every week, but the magic is the same, and I sense this will be true in Mankato."

The hoot was born out of Walsh's growing irritation after he watched an acoustic performer at a noisy coffee shop in Minneapolis, sat five feet from the musician and couldn't hear the music.

"I thought, 'There has got to be a quiet place where people can listen to songs,'" he said. "I just think that tradition of a quiet place to hear a song should be upheld. So I started looking around, and there wasn't a place, unless you want to rent a theater and charge 10 bucks at the door."

The audiences latched onto the concept immediately, Walsh says. A hoot crowd isn't the type to drown out the music with idle chatter. They come to listen. (OK, and drink some beer, too.)

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