As Atmosphere noted in their song “Shhh”, there isn’t a lot to brag about in Minnesota. It’s cold, there aren’t really any tourist destinations (sorry Mary Tyler Moore statue) and the popular sports teams are varying levels of terrible. One thing we do have, though, is the Purple Yoda himself: Prince. Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis and while he has lived outside the state, Minnesota has always been his home. That said, Prince hasn’t performed in Minnesota since a run of three shows at various venues in 2007.
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Like all music scenes, the Twin Cities have their own pantheon of local greats. Prince, The Replacements, The Suicide Commandos, The Suburbs, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, and Atmosphere to name a few. Then there is Hüsker Dü. Active from 1979-1987, Hüsker Dü is a music typologist’s nightmare. Initially the band’s work could be described as ‘hardcore’, but over the years both songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart, drifted more and more into poppier college radio territory. Taken as a whole the band’s catalog can claim, as with a number of other independent ’80s bands, inspiration for all the ‘alternative’ and ‘modern’ rock that was to follow (Kim Deal famously joined Pixies after answering an ad looking for a bass player who liked both Peter, Paul and Mary and Hüsker Dü). Perhaps more importantly, though, Hüsker Dü was at the forefront of the ’80s DIY movement which helped create the independent music scene (regardless of genre) that we enjoy today.*
It has been 25 years since Hüsker Dü called it quits following its final performance in Columbia, Missouri. During that time each of the band members has moved on with their lives. Bob Mould has had a very successful career both as a solo artist and with the band Sugar, Grant Hart has been less commercially successful but has put out some no less excellent music with the band Nova Mob and under his own name, and Greg Norton took his handlebar mustache to chef school and now owns a restaurant in Red Wing, Minnesota. I decided it would be interesting to explore how the places that were important to the band have changed in that same time period, so I did some research, grabbed my camera, and toured the Twin Cities. This is the result:
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On January 24, 2005, Minnesota Public Radio launched 89.3 The Current with the playing of Atmosphere’s hidden track off the Seven’s Travels album, “Shhh”. “Shhh” is an ode to Minnesota and being proud of where you’re from regardless of what others think of your hometown. It was an incredibly appropriate first track to air on a station who’s mission is to bring its listeners the best new local and national music alongside the music that inspired it.
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Every so often an area sees its scene explode not just locally, but nationally and internationally. This has happened before in the Twin Cities when the late ’70s funk scene exploded behind Prince and The Time, then in the early to mid ’80s the local rock scene had its turn led by Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, and the hip hop world of the early to mid 2000s was greatly influenced by Atmosphere and Brother Ali. Following developments in 2011 it is quite possible we are standing on the verge of the Twin Cities pop scene taking its place at the top of the heap.
The Twin Cities pop movement is led by three bands who started to break through last year, and now find themselves at the edge of stardom. All three are most certainly pop bands, but they come at the genre from very different perspectives. One is garage influenced guitar pop, another uses electronics to create a smooth dream pop, and the last features dark, smoldering synth pop. Each have an album due in 2012, though, and are set to make lots of noise locally and internationally.
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Used with permission.
For the seven nights from December 4 to December 10, First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry in downtown Minneapolis will be taken over by the top hip hop crew in Minnesota: The Doomtree collective. Doomtree Blowout VII is larger and more daring than any of the first six and celebrates the release of the collective’s new album No Kings, which received excellent reviews over the last couple of weeks from Pitchfork, the Onion A/V Club, and countless others.
Doomtree is a crew of hip hop musicians that initially came together around 2001 at Hopkins High School in a first ring suburb of Minneapolis, but has since seen some shift in membership to its current, seemingly static, form. The collective as a whole creates highly literate lyrics to go with music and beats that are strongly influenced by punk rock. This combination has certainly aided the group’s crossover into the type of indie rap that gets the attention of blogs like Pitchfork, and seems to have Doomtree on the verge of breaking through into the indie mainstream (if such a thing actually exists and if they haven’t done so already). Now they are undertaking a massive homestand before heading out on a long tour in the new year.
The first five nights of the Blowout will be held at the Entry with each night being curated by one of the collective’s M.C.s who will be joined on stage by special guests. Then the whole crew will convene in the First Avenue Mainroom on Friday and Saturday night for what I’m sure will be killer shows. Before they do, though, the collective needs to be introduced to the fine readers of Music is Good:
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Minneapolis is Funkytown.
When Minneapolis natives Lipps Inc. released Mouth to Mouth at the end of 1979, disco was on its last legs. In the years prior, punk had exploded and seeded new musical movements that would become everything from new wave and post punk to hardcore and hip hop, but 1979 saw more direct attacks on the genre. Everywhere you turned, from rock radio’s “death to disco” frenzy to TV’s anti disco characters on WKRP in Cincinnati, disco was quickly losing steam. Even professional sports got involved in July with the Chicago White Sox “Disco Demolition Night”, which took its name quite literally when it detonated a crate full of disco records sparking an on field riot. In the week following “Disco Demolition Night” each of the disco albums that had been in the top ten of the U.S. charts fell from that lofty position, and it seemed that disco was indeed dead. A few months later, though, Mouth to Mouth would provide disco with one more day in the sun through its hit single “Funkytown”.
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