Spider John Koerner documentary screens at the Trylon

Categories: Film and TV
Spider_John_Koerner.jpg
Daniel Corrigan
Whatever revolutions Minnesota has seen in rock and folk music for the last five decades, guitarist and blues shouter Spider John Koerner has witnessed them all and, more than likely, helped bring them about. A major influence not only on Minnesota's most famous musical son Bob Dylan, but on national acts like the Doors, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, Koerner is now the subject of a new documentary titled Spider John Koerner: Been Here... Done That. The film will have its local premiere at the Trylon this Wednesday, with a live performance by Koerner following the movie.

Director Don McGlynn's follows recent Spider John performances at First Avenue and Cedar Cultural Center, and chronicles his life through interviews with the star, as well as with musical collaboraters Willie Murphy, Dave Ray, and Tony Glover. It also covers his beginnings in Rochester, New York and his move to Minnesota to pursue a degree in engineering at the U of M.

The movie, naturally, documents his meeting up with Ray and Glover in the already thriving West Bank music scene. "Snaker" Ray and "Little Sun" Glover's fanaticism for folk and blues, which the Spider shared, led them to form the trio Koerner, Ray, and Glover. From this guitar-and-harmonica blues band, which occasionally crossed paths with Dylan in Minnesota as well as in New York, sprang the acclaimed 1963 album Blues, Rags & Hollars and four subsequent LP's in the '60s, '70s, and '90s.

In addition to the band, Koerner worked with Willie Murphy on two major recordings, Running, Jumping, Standing Still and Music is Just a Bunch of Notes. Even longer and more essential has been his career as a solo artist, with five critically lauded albums to his credit. These records, plus his frequent tours and appearances at the Newport Folk Festival and other major musical gatherings, has helped make Koerner a giant in the national folk-rock scene.

Interestingly, he did, nonetheless, leave music and Minnesota for several years to live in Copenhagen and start a new career as a filmmaker. That calling failed to produce any work of note, so he eventually returned to the state which made him a semi-celebrity, but he is now the subject of an entire 99-minute long film.

Been Here ... Done That fleshes out these and other major turns in the musician's 72 years in this part of the galaxy. It also sheds light on many of the mysteries surrounding this low-key, publicity-averse, self-proclaimed "StarGeezer" (a reference to the title of his last solo album, as well as his interest in astronomy, which culminated in him building a giant, high-powered periscope). Among the mysteries unraveled, no doubt, will be how he got the nick name Spider.

Been Here... Done That screens at 7 p.m. this Wednesday, November 3 at Trylon Cinema. For more information on the film and screening, visit TakeUp Productions' website.

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