STNNNG in a Stunner

Picked to Click XV


"The sense of community and sheer number of amazing bands right now is awe-inspiring," says J. Michael Ward, drummer for this year's Picked to Click champions STNNNG, when asked about the health of Minnesota music. "Having to choose between several great shows on any given night of the week is a wonderful problem to have." Granted, being in an acclaimed band with a good draw might lead a fellow to a sunny view of the scene--rumor has it that members of White Bear Lake's seldom seen and always overlooked Joe Cocker tribute band, Cock!, have become increasingly bitter and pessimistic about local music. We tend to think that Ward is right, and this 15th annual survey offers quite a lot of supporting evidence.

Here's how it works. We asked a bunch of Minnesota music experts--DJs, writers, record-label kingpins, bloggers, talent buyers, promoters, etc.--to vote for their five favorite Minnesota music acts--bands, DJs, folk singers, rappers, zither-toting buskers, church organists--to emerge in the past 12 months, give or take. So it's a new-band poll with some flexibility. Many of the winners and runners-up played their first show or put out their debut album this past year; some have been around for a few years, but took a while to get noticed, or have been around for longer but have in some way reinvented themselves. In the end, 86 voters selected nearly 200 acts. The ranked lists were tabulated as follows: five points for the number-one choice, four for second place, and so on. With the unranked ballots, we gave each act 19.7 points, just for kicks, but then changed our minds and gave them all 3. To browse through the ballots, see the version of this article on To learn more about the top 10 finishers, read on. --Dylan Hicks

Picked to Click Top 10:

1. STNNNG 66

2. The Deaths 51

3. Kill the Vultures 45

4. Chariots 36.5

5. Brother and Sister 34

6. Duplomacy 32

7. Chris Koza 31

8. The Get Up Johns 26

9. (tie) The Blind Shake 25

Fort Wilson Riot 25

Stunning Revelations
Get to know the members of Picked to Click winners STNNNG
(pronounced “STUNNING”)
Photo by City Pages


Jesse Kwakenat, bass

What was the first concert you went to and what do you remember about it?
Oh man. Guns N' Roses with Soundgarden opening when I was in the ninth grade. I think it was at the Target Center. To share how awesome it was, here is a rough timeline of events:

9:00 p.m.: Soundgarden takes the stage to a 3/4-packed Target Center.

9:03 p.m.: Chris Cornell de-shirts.

9:15 p.m.: The band rips into "Outshined," and Cornell really delivers the line "Feeling Minneeesoooota" to the bewilderment of all in attendance.

9:35 p.m.: Soundgarden exits, no encore.

10:45 p.m.: In an attempt to keep all of the fans at bay while waiting for Axl to be show ready, the Jumbotron begins zooming in on ladies willing to "pose" for the camera. My 14-year-old mind is blown.

12:15 a.m.: We leave three songs into G N' R's set to meet an enraged Dad/ride who had been waiting since 11:30 p.m.


Who do you think will be the next U.S. president?
Hillary Clinton. I really do believe she can do it. Kanye West for v.p.? Okay, I know, but how awesome would that be?


What's the strangest thing a crowd member has said to you after one of your shows?
"I like your bass parts on the record." Or, "Is your singer always like that?" To which I replied, "Yes, but usually much more sweaty."


Who's better, the Velvet Underground or the Stooges?
Velvet Underground. That's just the way it is. The rest of the band may kill me for this.


Favorite novelist, poet, or playwright: Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita is amazing.


I don't understand what people like about: A lot of things. But calling them out never seems to pay off either, so therein lies the quandary.


Adam Burt, guitar

Which historical figure would you most like to have as a road manager?
Socrates, so I could opine with him on philosophical matters of great import during the boring parts of the tour.


What was the first non-kids' record you owned, and do you still own it?
MC Hammer's Too Legit 2 Quit, and yes, I do. On cassette.


What's your favorite STNNNG song to play and why?
"Explosive; More Intense." I use a slide to play the most annoying guitar solo in the world. I try to one-up myself on the scale of annoyingness with each performance of that song.


How do you deter people from calling the band "Sting"?
I do not deter it. I encourage it.


Favorite movie actor:
Fred Willard


I know a lot about: Jandek. As much as one can know, that is.


J. Michael Ward, drums

What song do you most wish you'd written?
Is this like, "What's your favorite song?" Because there are a lot of songs out there. I really like "Person to Person" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. I'll put it on almost any mix tape for a prospective girlfriend. Otherwise, probably Sicbay's "Who Wrote the Night?" or "Anarchy Burger" by the Vandals or pretty much anything off U.S. Maple's Talker album, which is hands down my favorite record from start to finish.

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