Stew & the Negro Problem Return to Rock

Band Embarks on First National Tour in Six Years Following Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s Tony-Winning Broadway Show Passing Strange.

Kicking off on October 20 at Brooklyn Academy of Music, tour spans band’s hometown Los Angeles plus Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Davis and Ann Arbor

LOS ANGELES Calif. — First there was the Negro Problem, a band that rose through the ranks of L.A.’s indie scene in the late ’90s and early aughts. Deemed “L.A.’s best band” by the L.A. Weekly in 1992, the unit — propelled by Stew and Heidi Rodewald — recorded three critically acclaimed albums: Post Minstrel Syndrome (1997), Joys & Concerns (1999) and 2002’s Welcome Back. The New York Times cited the last as “perhaps the finest collection of songs an American songwriter has come up with this year.”

When Stew and Heidi began work on Passing Strange, the theater production that went on to become both a Spike Lee-directed movie and Tony Award winner for “Best Book of a Musical,” The Negro Problem was put on hold. This past year, however, the band returned to sell out six nights at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, performing primarily new material. The inspiration was born to record a new album (in the can) and take the band on the road once again.

“Asking us why we’re doing the tour now is like asking Kareem why he went back to the Lakers after Airplane! Acting was fun, something new, and an adventure that paid . . . but it wasn’t his real job. Broadway was our Airplane!,” says Stew.

“We never stopped creating after Passing Strange closed but Heidi and I needed a break both from each other and from the strange hustle that our lives had become when we were suddenly transformed into Show Folk. And right after the play closed we were thrust from Theater-World into Film-World. “Next thing we knew we were sitting in the editing room of Spike’s 40 Acres compound looking at each other like ‘Are we really making a movie with Spike Lee? After all the surreal, unlikely s— that’s happened to us over the last five years — now this utterly mind-blowing next step is actually happening?’”

“Theater is a tour where you stay in one place. But it’s far more grueling than rock ’cuz you’re doing the same thing every night — theater is the missionary position of live entertainment. Or rather, theater is to live entertainment what the missionary position is to sex. It’s nice, but what about a whip on occasion? On a rock tour you can decide one night to do all slow versions if you feel like it, or do covers . . . or play way too long guitar solos . . . you can change it up. That way it takes longer for you to go crazy. But it’s hard to do that in theater — and believe me went as far as we could go to create the rock ’n’ roll vibe — given the restrictions. But at the end of the day you can’t stop a Broadway show in the middle to go into a cover of ‘Cat Scratch Fever.’ Well, you could. But the producers and unions would freak.”

According to Rodewald, “Being on the road is like home for Stew and me. The road is where we became ourselves. And it’s where everything we took to Broadway came from in the first place.”

Starting in their adopted hometown of New York, The Negro Problem will perform four nights at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater, and will then head westward for shows in Davis (near Sacramento) and San Francisco, two shows in Los Angeles, and then one-nighters in Seattle, Portland, Chicago and Ann Arbor.

In particular, the band is excited about its two Los Angeles shows (the Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium on Saturday, October 30 and the Echoplex on Tuesday, November 2 — election night). Stew is a native of Los Angeles’ Mid-City district and Heidi a native of Orange County. It will be their first live appearance in the city since 2005.

Stew & The Negro Problem 2010 U.S. tour is as follows:

Wed.-Sat., Oct. 20-23 BROOKLYN, NY Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theatre
Tues.-Wed., Oct. 26-27, 8 p.m. DAVIS, CA UC Davis, Vanderhoef Studio Theatre
Thurs., Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. SAN FRANCISCO, CA Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Sat., Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. LOS ANGELES, CA Getty Museum, Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Tues., Nov. 2, 9 p.m. LOS ANGELES, CA Echoplex
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 5-6 SEATTLE, WA The Triple Door
Sun., Nov. 7, 9 p.m. PORTLAND, OR Aladdin Theater
Fri.-Sat., Nov. 12-13, 7:30 p.m. CHICAGO, IL Museum of Contemporary Art, MCA Stage
Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 18-20 ANN ARBOR, MI 523 S. Main (Formerly Leopold Brothers)

More dates to be announced soon.
# # #

For more information about Stew & the Negro Problem, please contact:
Cary Baker • conqueroo • (323) 656-1600 •

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 1:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

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