Local Current Blog

Mark Mallman’s cross-country Marathon 4 passes halfway point in Minneapolis

Credit: Andrea Swensson/MPR

Mark Mallman’s longest nonstop performance yet, Marathon 4, pulled into Minneapolis yesterday evening and called on a handful of Twin Cities performers to keep the music going. This time around, instead of performing from inside a local rock club, Mallman has made a 1992 GMC Vandura van his venue and has played one long, mostly ambiant and improvised song from the vehicle’s backseat using keyboards, computers, and brain wave-reading technology.

For his local stop, Mallman’s crew pulled his van into the lawn between MCAD and the MIA, opened the doors, and invited the small gathered crowd to peek inside. Mallman stayed seated on the van’s back bench and kept the song pushing forward, barely looking up to see the crowd, while musicians like Ryan Olcott, Jeremy Ylvisaker, and Ed Ackerson took turns climbing in the van and contributing improvised parts. As with the music he’s played at other hours of the day (you can watch a 24/7 live stream of the Marathon on his website), Mallman only sporadically sang, instead focusing on quirky instruments like the melodica, keytar, and an old Mario Bros. Nintendo cartridge that had been re-wired to make shrieking noises.

As Mallman played, his road crew — which consists of Stuart DeVaan of Savage Aural Hotbed, Hamil Griffin-Cassidy of Freeky Deeky, and Gus Watkins of Hot Ashes — stretched their legs and interacted with the crowd. “It’s dirty work,” Watkins joked, answering questions about their day-to-day duties on the road and explaining why they were outfitted in green jumpsuits, while Griffin-Cassidy recorded the crowd’s reactions with a camcorder and DeVaan tended to the live webcast.

The vibe was calm, and the music meditative. After just an hour of listening I could feel myself being lulled into a trance by the music, and I wondered how the crew and Mallman were feeling after listening to the repetitive music for four days straight.

The Marathon kicked off in New York City on Saturday morning and will wrap up in Los Angeles this coming Saturday, September 22. Remaining stops include Omaha, Denver, and Las Vegas.

For more on Marathon 4, revisit my interview with Mallman about his journey. And watch WCCO’s coverage of Mallman’s Minneapolis stop (and hear the reporter accidentally call him Mark Mallborg, an entirely appropriate nickname) here.