The Cactus Blossoms. Photo by Nate Ryan

Best Picks: Dec. 28–Jan. 10

Updated: January 4, 2018 - 6:39 pm

What to do downtown after work

Movie music

Few local bands have had the year the Cactus Blossoms had in 2017.

The band, brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum, peaked — pun intended — with an appearance in David Lynch’s continuation of his ultimate cult TV show “Twin Peaks,” which got another season on Showtime. It was a fitting use of the folk duo’s inherently strange, atmospheric “Mississippi,” a hypnotic tune about the sun, a shore and a beguiling angel.

It makes me think: What exactly makes a song cinematic, and why do the Cactus Blossoms seem to fit so well with the screen?  In a short time, the band has garnered the attention of Hollywood with other features in “Nashville” and “The Ranch.”

At first listen, their latest record, last year’s “You’re Dreaming,” seems like it could’ve been written by two American crooners decades ago. But there’s a bewitching nature to their songwriting that heightens your imagination when you listen. Each song falls in and out of harmony with a minimal backdrop of music, and it leaves space for you to project your own imagination.

Take the cinematic imagery of the record’s title song: “I’m painting my jealousy / My hands are shaking / My brush is slipping / And the red paint’s dripping to the floor.” The dreamlike tune is swimming in metaphors.

I couldn’t help but notice that the band’s poetic lyrics spill into the world of the silver screen. In “Clown Collector,” a tongue-in-cheek love romp bursting with one-off jokes, they sing: “You’re an actor / She’s a director,” “She’s a movie / You’re the projector.”

If you saw the band perform in an ominous bar scene in “Twin Peaks,” perhaps you’ll want to check them out when they start a month-long residency at St. Paul’s Turf Club with performances on every Monday in January. Each 21-plus show will feature special guests.

Photos by Eric Best
Photos by Eric Best

Say ‘hi’ twice

Northeast has its own concept from the founders of Hola Arepa, and it’s worth going to thaw out with the spicy, citrusy flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine.

HAI HAI 2 by EB webMany Northeasters may already know the spot — you know the one off 22nd & University. In what was the Double Deuce is now Hai Hai, which means “two two” in Vietnamese. Inside, expect a tropical paradise of authentic plates — ever had water fern cakes? — and bold flavors.

The restaurant offers a happy hour menu from 3 p.m.­–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–midnight that will get you $1 off appetizers and cocktails.

You can’t go wrong with the fried wontons ($7), filled with a mix chicken liver pâté and cream cheese and served with passionfruit sauce. They’re a more savory and spicy take on those greasy appetizers you eat before Chinese takeout.

HAI HAI 1 by EB webThe crispy rice salad ($8) with crunchy red curry rice is another good option. It’s topped with even more crunchy bits of cucumber, fried shallots and ginger and can even be made vegetarian, gluten free or both upon request.

It may sound counterintuitive while those spices clear your sinuses, but I can confirm that Hai Hai’s slushies are great any season. The floral berry flavors of the Lychee Keen ($9), a gin-based slushie with orange crema from Northeast’s Tattersall Distilling, are paired with St-Germain and lemon. Mine had a whole lychee berry at the bottom.

There’s even a spicy slushie. The Hai of the Storm ($9) couldn’t have been more of a surprise. Along with Angostura rum, the orange-brown drink combines cinnamon grenadine, passionfruit and lime with Thai chili-infused rum floating on top. It seriously hits each taste bud.

If you’re looking for dessert after your meal, look no further than Crepe & Spoon across the street. The tiny vegan ice cream and crepe shop serves several cocktail-inspired ice creams without any risk of a hangover.


Get inked

I don’t have a single tattoo, but that hasn’t stopped me from checking out the Minneapolis Tattoo Arts Convention, a regular showcase of everything tattoo-related — and much more — at the Hyatt Regency, 1300 Nicollet Mall. Now two decades old, the convention, which runs Jan. 5 through Jan. 7 this year, gives you a rare look into tattoo arts, a creative community with its own art styles, TV shows and celebrities. Expect room after room full of booths, which double as miniature tattoo parlors. Thinking of getting inked? Hundreds of artists will showcase their work so you can peruse their work and find someone who fits your own personal style. For those interested in body mods, the convention will also showcase piercers — even extreme modifications (you’ll see for yourself). Tickets are $20, though children under 12 are free, and are available at the show.