Going Rogue … Valley

The spring-inspired rock opera extravaganza from local songster Chris Koza is like A Prairie Home Companion for hip kids.

Rogue Valley is musician Chris Kozas new, season-related project. PHOTO COURTESY DARIN BACK

Rogue Valley is musician Chris Koza’s new, season-related project. PHOTO COURTESY DARIN BACK

by Mark Brenden

Who: Chris Koza, Joanna James, Jeremy Messersmith and more What: Rogue Valley Where: The Fitzgerald Theater, 10 Exchange St. E., St. Paul When: 8 p.m., Saturday Price: $25 (MPR member discount available) Nothing says spring like a rock opera. If you donâÄôt buy that, then nothing says spring like a rock opera about spring. Local musician Chris Koza has created just that, with a little help from his friends. The spectacle, entitled âÄúRogue Valley,âÄù is named after KozaâÄôs Northwestern home. Rest assured, it has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, or her sweet little memoir âÄúGoing Rogue.âÄù What it does have to do with is spring. As part of a series of MPR programs that reach out to listeners of 89.3 The Current, the show will cover âÄúCrater Lake,âÄù the first of four albums from Koza in a series celebrating the seasons. ItâÄôs like Sufjan StevensâÄô charmingly ambitious 50-states project âÄî except actually accomplishable. âÄúThe spring album is a story about young people trying to find what love means to them. And them going their own ways to seek it,âÄù Koza said. âÄúThe Current asked me if I was interested in doing a show at the Fitzgerald Theater. Knowing a little bit about the theater, I figured if somebody asks you a question like that, you say absolutely,âÄù he said. The narrative starts in Minnesota and journeys to the West Coast. Helping put life into the story are members of Electric Arts Radio, who write fictionalized love letters back and forth; poet Alex Lemon, who wrote poems inspired by KozaâÄôs work; local singers JoAnna James and Jeremy Messersmith, and Current voice Mary Lucia will introduce the evening and the Waconia High School marching band. âÄú[Having others lend their creative voices] takes the creation into something thatâÄôs moving on its own. ItâÄôs a source material now for others to work from,âÄù Koza said. Bob Dylan defined a song as âÄúanything that can walk on its own,âÄù and this show has a capable pair of legs. The music itself has the larynx of Rufus Wainwright, the spirit of Walt Whitman and the gruff pen of Tom Waits, all in the atmosphere of Garrison Keillor with the namesake of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Growing up in the Northwest, there are essentially two seasons: winter and wet. Koza said there is indeed something special about Minnesota spring. âÄúEverybodyâÄôs hungry for it. ThereâÄôs a period where you can smell [spring] in your sleep. YouâÄôre thinking, itâÄôs almost here,âÄù he said. âÄúIt fits right in with the characters and the album. ThereâÄôs a sense of urgency, like âÄòI gotta enjoy this now,âÄôâÄù producer Larissa Anderson said. âÄúAnd the characters in [KozaâÄôs] songs have that feeling âÄî if they donâÄôt take it now, theyâÄôll miss out.âÄù The primavera-happy show only airs one night, and tickets are dwindling. After all, spring, as they say, is the shortest season.