In Minnesota, hot music creates a soundtrack for warm summer nights and a reason to be happy during the long, cold dark winters. Not only does the state produce a lot of hot music (Prince, Bob Dylan, etc…) but its venues draw artists from all over the globe. Some are among the best a touring act can find anywhere.
Perhaps Minnesota’s best-known music venue, First Ave. featured prominently in the 1984 Prince vehicle, “Purple Rain,” and has long been known as the place artists play when they “make it.” Bands like the Replacements, the Jayhawks, Semisonic, and Husker Du played early major shows at First Ave. Meanwhile, local up-and-comers hone their chops at the adjacent, smaller 7th St. Entry.
While Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park is probably the prettiest outdoor venue in the state, the Minnesota Zoo Amphitheater attracts better acts than any other fresh air stage. The English Beat, Ziggy Marley, Blondie, and Har Mar Superstar have all appeared on the Amphitheater’s packed “Music in the Zoo” calendar.
The Icehouse is a unique venue that combines high-end food with a bar and music venue, which means that it’s popular local spot even when there’s no act on stage. It hosts several musical residencies per month, plus boasts a calendar containing artists like the Pines, Caroline Smith, Mark Mallman, and Reina del Cid.
Long a no-frills music venue in a blue collar St. Paul neighborhood, the Turf Club’s ability to attract artists got a boost when it partnered with First Ave. to promote shows. Now, the Turf Club hosts acts that range from local favorites to national up-and-comers and artists trying to make a comeback.
The Myth is a troubled, mid-sized venue that, in spite of problems like closures, manages to attract popular national acts to its unassuming suburban location. One advantage the Myth has over other locations is ample free parking, which definitely can add to the overall experience, especially when compared to downtown or on-campus venues. At Myth, you can expect to catch acts such as 50 Cent, Sting, and Snoop Dogg.
A swanky restaurant and bar with a small stage and great sight lines, the Dakota (despite its name) attracts artists that play all sorts of music… not just jazz. With an award-winning menu, the venue takes as much pride in its food as it does its music offerings. Sonny Knight and the Lakers, Loudon Wainwright III, Judy Collins, and Rickie Lee Jones have all crossed the Dakota’s stage.
Yes, it’s the home to the Minnesota Wild hockey team, but the Xcel Energy Center also plays host to the state’s best arena shows. A combination of good acoustics, abundant amenities, and a cozy feel in a big venue lead to good concert-going experiences. When the likes of Adele, Beyonce, and Bruno Mars play in Minnesota, they are more likely to land at the Xcel than any other venue.
The Cedar Cultural Center is a former movie theater on the West Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Even though it’s a non-profit venue within blocks of several other live music offerings, the Cedar manages to pull in an eclectic combination of national acts and local favorites for its regular rotation of all-ages shows. Valerie June, Lake Street Dive, and Jeremy Messersmith have all been on the Cedar’s calendar.
The Red Herring is a cozy bar and music venue opened by music lovers. Its calendar is chock-full of popular local and regional acts, along with regular events like “Books & Beer.” Folks like Bad Bad Hats, Pert Near Sandstone, and Davina and the Vagabonds regularly stop in to play the Red Herring.
After being closed for extensive renovations, the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium recently reopened and is luring big national acts away from similar downtown venues like the State, Orpheum, and Pantages theaters. Along with its regular season offering of dance companies, the Northrop offers a sprinkling of concerts by artists like Norah Jones and My Morning Jacket.