June Arts and Entertainment Picks

The Twin Cities’ top cultural events for June 2017

6.2 – 10

A portrait of the eight-man ensemble group, Cantus.Cantus Covers

The eight-man vocal ensemble Cantus entrances with their intricate, warm, and assured presentation of the heights of possibility of the human instrument. While they’re known to tackle some heady classics, this run at the Cowles Center focuses on covering pop hits from a variety of time periods, including the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in its entirety—you’ll never hear those tunes quite the same way again after these a cappella versions. Cantus is the only full-time artist-led vocal ensemble in the States, advancing a musical through line from the Renaissance to today. thecowlescenter.org

photo by curtis johnson


Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersTom Petty sitting on the floor playing guitar.

At some point he hooked you and reeled you in. It might have been that rising keyboard in “Refugee,” or that simple strum on “Free Fallin’,” or even that tweaked-out 1980s looking-glass MTV staple “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” Tom Petty’s ridiculously prolific gift with a rock hook has resulted in a seemingly endless stream of hits that hotwire the heart and appeal to just about everyone. He’s appearing at Xcel Energy Center on the 40th anniversary of his debut album, which I recommend not pondering for too long, because this music has always been about sneaking cigarettes on the roof in the summertime when you’re still in your teens, when it’s still fun to be bad and a chiming guitar speaks for your deepest unvoiced feelings. xcelenergycenter.com

photo by sam jones

6.10 – 7.23

Fly by Night: A New Musical

A guitar-brandishing New York sandwich maker battles with alternating bouts of ambition and inaction, while finding himself beguiled by a pair of sisters from South Dakota—one a would-be Broadway star, the other content to be a waitress. This musical made its debut in NYC just a few years ago, and emerged as a sweet meditation on love, coincidence, and the invisible threads that connect our vivid if fleeting lives. The score is full of ear worms, with an off-kilter cast of characters who share a knack for savoring moments of eccentric fun like lights in dark night—an apt metaphor, since much of the action on the intimate Jungle stage ends up taking place during the East Coast blackout of 1965 (long nights after the power goes out are never as much fun as they are in fiction, but that’s a topic for another day). jungletheater.com

6.23 – 24

Django Festival All-Stars

Django Reinhardt, from Belgium and of Romani descent, was the first big jazz artist to come out of Europe in the 1930s, and was cranking out blazing guitar with a too-cool attitude and a smoke dangling from his lips when Keith Richards was in (presumably skull-decorated) diapers. His crazy-catchy guitar-and-fiddle sound endures in a showcase at the Dakota featuring French multi-instrumentalist Dorado Schmitt, who grew up steeped in Gypsy jazz—which he returned to after a detour in his youth through Hendrix and Carlos Santana. Schmitt’s band includes a fiddle player who got the seal of approval from Reinhardt accomplice and violin master Stéphane Grappelli, and continues the tradition of this fevered, ultra-hip sound. (If you miss this one, there’s also MN’s own Café Accordion Orchestra, a crackerjack combo that mines much of the same territory and appears every week at the Loring Pasta Bar). dakotacooks.com

6.29 – 7.23

Sign for Idiot's Delight at Park Square Theatre.Idiot’s Delight

Girl Friday Productions occupies a unique niche—they’re a company that produces single shows rather than seasons, and tackles big-cast, large-scale American plays that feel like throwbacks to an earlier era in which the pocket computer had yet to addle our attention span and warp our apprehension of culture (hold on, I just got a text). They’re tackling the winner of the 1936 Pulitzer, the product of a moment in history when the world was on the brink of one of history’s great spasms of brutality and violence. It puts a bunch of characters on a mountaintop in a European resort (a weapons manufacturer, a musical theater troupe, the usual suspects) in an entertaining comedy-drama that dips a toe into the universal textures of love and war. parksquaretheatre.org