Local artists organize Arthur Russell tribute; raise money for those living with HIV

Musicians will hold an Arthur Russell tribute concert at the White Page to raise money for those living with HIV.

Reb L Limerick and Alex Adkinson from the band Astral Samara sing covers of Arthur Russell's music on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 at Rebs home in Minneapolis. Various bands are staging a tribute performance dedicated to Arthur Russell.

Easton Green

Reb L Limerick and Alex Adkinson from the band Astral Samara sing covers of Arthur Russell’s music on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 at Rebs home in Minneapolis. Various bands are staging a tribute performance dedicated to Arthur Russell.

Joe Cristo

The White Page gallery will host an event paying homage to ’70s and ’80s musician Arthur Russell on Feb. 26.

The show, entitled “Love Comes Back: An Arthur Russell Tribute,” features Twin Cities artists covering Russell’s songs both live and on a self-released recording.

Russell — an underappreciated artist during his time — has been an important influence for Twin Cities musicians. Many local records, songs and artists bear striking similarities in both aesthetics and ethos to the late musician.

“The first time I heard Arthur I realized his songs were very sensitive and tender,” University of Minnesota electrical engineering senior and event co-organizer Jaak Jensen said. “They are revealing and have a strong sense of closeness. I felt very close to Arthur when I heard his music.”

Born in the Midwest, Russell became a New York City transplant in his 20s and started creating experimental pop and disco music. His music was typically self-produced in a time when that was exceedingly rare.

“He really went after what he wanted,” co-organizer Jess Buns said. “Honestly, his music is something I think about all the time.”

In 1992, Russel passed away due to complications from AIDS. Around ten years later, compilations of his work were released. His influence on burgeoning young musicians increased dramatically.

“I think part of it is that he sort of paved the way for self-production,” Jensen said. “Or at the very least what he did then [still sounds timely].”

The experimental nature of Russell’s music is what makes him so revered. He would mix disparate genres like folk and country with disco and electronic music.

“I personally am not trying to write music like him,” Buns said. “I wouldn’t want to copy him. But he definitely influences the way I make music — the eerie and echo-y sounds are such a big part of what he [did]. It seems to me like he was unabashedly himself.”

Two years ago, Jensen and Buns were central in organizing a similar event in honor of Russell. Like that show, the proceeds from this year’s tribute will be donated to The Aliveness Project, a community center for people with HIV/AIDS in the Twin Cities area.

A local compilation will accompany this year’s live performance, increasing the possibility of donations.

“I know a lot of people think that treatment for HIV and AIDS has been getting better,” Jensen said. “And it has gotten better, but there are still so many things we can do to help.”

What: Love Comes Back: An Arthur Russel Tribute

When: Sunday Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.

Where: The White Page, 3400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis

Cost: Free, donations appreciated