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There are only a few things in this world I love more than seeing live music.  I’ve actually kept a list of every artist I’ve ever seen (the first entry is for Dino), along with a grade for the performance and a few words about the show.  While I don’t get to as many shows as I’d like, I was able to see 48 different sets by 46 different artists in 2013.  So I thought I’d give a Top 5 live performances for this year.

Before getting into the Top 5, though, here are some other performances that I want to highlight:

Oddest Venue – Dan Deacon at the Walker Art Center on June 15, 2013: Deacon was scheduled to kick off the music for The Current and Walker Art Center’s annual Rock the Garden.  Just before showtime, however, a massive thunderstorm rolled through and the scheduled start time was pushed back while most of the crowd took shelter in the Walker’s underground parking garage.  Dan Deacon’s a chill dude, though, and he decided to keep the concert on schedule by shifting his equipment to the garage and throwing a parking lot dance party.  The sound was terrible (obviously), but it was still one of the coolest shows I’ve ever witnessed, and there is some video via Pitchfork:

Oddest Crowd – Jimmy Cliff at First Avenue on September 19, 2013: Jimmy Cliff is one of only two reggae artists in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” (obviously Bob Marley is the other), and this fact led to an incredibly odd mixture of people at his First Avenue performance.  I saw quite a few of the usual folks I see there: college kids, hipsters, and music nerds like myself.  Added to these, however, were guys whose hair had turned gray (at least the hair they still had), but they were still rocking the pony tail, a large number of white people drinking Red Stripe, and more tie dye than should be legal.  I found myself down front next to two couples who spent the night reminiscing about their hippie days and complaining about it being hard to find good pot anymore.  It was weird.  Jimmy’s still got it, though.

Most Intriguing Opening Act – Twin Peaks at First Avenue on July 29, 2013: I’d never heard of Twin Peaks before seeing them open for Foxygen, but I have a feeling I’ll be seeing their name again.  They are an incredibly young band out of Chicago who have obviously been heavily influenced by early Replacements, and to put it simply they are a lot of fun.  It’s rare to see a First Avenue crowd actually getting into an opening act, but the energy Twin Peaks brought to the stage was so infectious they won over everyone who got there early enough to see them.  It’s a good thing too, because…

Shortest Performance – Foxygen at First Avenue on July 29, 2013: Foxygen took the stage playing “On Blue Mountain”.  Halfway through the song, frontman Sam France hopped up on a monitor that tipped over dumping him into the barrier in front of the crowd.  France immediately stopped singing and the First Avenue staff scrambled for help while the band finished playing the song (a crowd member did grab the mic and sing a few lines).  Soon the paramedics arrived and France was removed on a stretcher.  Turns out he suffered complete fractures of both his tibia and fibula and had to undergo surgery the next day.

Most ‘Controversial’ – Low at the Walker Art Center on June 15, 2013: Despite Dan Deacon’s best efforts to keep Rock the Garden on schedule, removing standing water from the stage pushed Low’s set back a bit and shortened it substantially.  Accordingly, the band decided to try something new: They played a single drone version of “Do You Know How to Waltz” for just under a half hour.  For the first few minutes I was confused by the performance (they didn’t say anything about what was about to happen before starting), but after awhile I realized what was going on and absolutely loved it.  Many did not, however, as commenters on this article at The Current make clear (you can, and should, also hear the entire performance at that link).

Worst Refund – Kanye West (scheduled) at Target Center on November 5, 2013:  Yeezus was supposed to make an appearance in town and I had tickets.  Then his equipment truck was in an accident and the date was pushed back.  Later it was cancelled outright because ticket sales were a little soft they couldn’t find a new date that would work.  This is the third consecutive time Kanye has cancelled a scheduled Twin Cities date.  I’m beginning to see a trend.

Top 5

5. Mike Doughty: M. Doughty (Used To Be in) Soul Coughing at First Avenue on October 25, 2013: I saw Soul Coughing at First Avenue in 1996 and that performance is in my all-time top 5.  For years, however, Mike Doughty has refused to play Soul Coughing songs, and reading his book The Book of Drugs: A Memoir, made it pretty clear why.  Apparently, though, writing the book proved cathartic and this year M. Doughty hit the road playing nothing but Soul Coughing tunes.  My anticipation for this show was off the charts, and I freely admit that my love for the songs may have clouded my judgment of the performance, but he played absolutely everything and it sounded gooooood.  Starting with “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago” and “Sugar Free Jazz” and finishing up with “Super Bon Bon” and “Circles”, it was a fantastic night of nostalgia and great music.

4. Jay Z at Xcel Energy Center on November 30, 2013: I was very nervous about this show coming off Kanye’s cancellation, hearing that ticket sales weren’t great, and the fact that the opening ‘act’ was a prerecorded DJ set, but I didn’t need to worry.  Jay Z is a pro with a ridiculous list of hits, and he absolutely brought it and seemed to be sincerely enjoying himself. He mentioned at a couple points that he regretted “sleeping on” St. Paul, thinking we’d get up for the hits but nothing else. It was a comment much different than the usual ego stroking of the locals, because he straight up admitted St. Paul had won respect it didn’t have previously.  It’s really an insult, because it goes back to the stupid coastal ‘flyover state’ mentality, but at least he was willing to admit he was wrong. The only real negative of the show was that he turned over 10 minutes of his set (when he completely left the stage) to Timbaland who was his DJ. Timba just played some of the famous beats he’s written, and generally bored the crowd (other than when he built a beat via beat boxing, which I’ll never tire of seeing someone do). It almost wrecked the show, but when you can return from the break with “Somewhere in America”/”Big Pimpin'”/”Dirt Off Your Shoulder” it gets the crowd right back into it just a bit.

3. D’Angelo & Questlove: Brothers in Arms at First Avenue on June 23, 2013: Good friends D’Angelo and Questlove got together to play three “Brothers in Arms” shows and Minneapolis was lucky enough to get one of them (NYC and Philly had the other two).  D’Angelo hadn’t played the Twin Cities in over a decade, so the crowd was more than ready when they took the stage and explained that basically they were going to be jamming like they do in the studio and playing songs they love.  The only difference with the studio was that this time there would be an audience. For most of the show it was just the two of them on stage with Questlove wearing a mic to D’s earpiece allowing him to lead.  Things kicked off with “Brown Sugar” and then went for two hours (a mixture of D’Angelo’s originals and covers, including Prince (obviously), the Ohio Players, Sly, Terrance Trent Darby, J Dilla). The entire 2 hours was nonstop soul, funk, and R&B jams with the last 20 minutes seeing them joined by some Minneapolis Sound session players on bass and sax and the lead singer of Mint Condition for a seriously James Brownesque showstopper.  Both Questo and D showed why they are at the top of their field and put on a show so fantastic, I’m just guessing there were a few babies made that night around the Twin Cities.

2. Savages at Triple Rock Social Club on July 21, 2013: I still can’t get over how great this show was, but I’m not going to write any more than I already did.

1. Prince & 3rdeyegirl at the Dakota on January 18, 2013: Another one I still can’t get over, but won’t write more about.  I actually got to witness the debut performance of a new Prince backing band.  Amazing.

An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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