By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
A quick scan of the biggest Twin Cities music happenings of 2009 isn't exactly uplifting: Venue after venue was shuttered, while the biggest local act to break was a watered-down, Auto-Tuned electro-pop kid from Owatonna. Time magazine recently declared that the '00s were the worst decade in America, and the Minneapolis community certainly wasn't spared the rippling effects of economic decline and music-industry upheaval. But before we get too down on ourselves and give a big ol' middle finger to aught-nine, let's remember the silver lining: The Twin Cities is still a diverse breeding ground for talent, plenty of our best rappers and songwriters got their due in the past year, and a few new venues even sprung up in the wake of all the closings.
So while we suffered more than a few blows over the past 12 months, there's still plenty to be proud of in our corner of the musical world. As the winter chill sets in and we prepare for the dawning of a new decade of Twin Cities music, let's take a moment to count our blessings and remember some of the biggest events that shook up our scene in 2009.
Only two days into the new year, news of sound engineer Tom Cesario's death ripples through the community. Cesario worked on and off at First Avenue, freelanced for bands like Yo La Tengo, and most recently had toured as the soundman for longtime friend Martin Dosh. Cesario was only 35 at the time of his death. As Dosh tells City Pages, "He died too soon."
The Chinese zodiac tells us that 2009 is the Year of the Ox, but in terms of the local music scene, our records tell us this was the Year of P.O.S. The Doomtree crew member releases his second solo album on Rhymesayers and spends the rest of the year playing to increasingly larger audiences and building up quite the hype. By year's end, Mr. Alexander finds himself performing on the MTVu Woodies, nominated for Spin's "Rapper of the Year," being added to the Warped Tour lineup, selling out First Avenue, receiving a favorable rating on Pitchfork, and flying to Europe to greet a whole new continent's worth of fans. Those who have been following P.O.S. from the beginning are left shaking their heads, as he joins the ranks of Rhymesayers artists-done-good on a national and global scale.
Back home, Jayhawks diehards are treated to the release of a Gary Louris and Mark Olson duet record, Ready for the Flood. It's the first time in over a decade that the two have laid down tracks together, and a pair of Minneapolis shows confirm that the founding Jawhawks members' harmonies and chemistry are still goosebump-inducing after all these years. A clan of obsessive audiophiles immediately starts gossiping about the possibility of a full-on Jayhawks reunion.
Prince releases a three-CD set exclusively through Minneapolis-based retail chain Target for a mere $11.98. The set includes two new Prince albums, LotUSFLOW3R and MPLSoUND, as well as a debut by his protégé Bria Valente. As with much of Prince's recent work, the albums are hit-and-miss, with a few catchy singles mixed into a collection of somewhat generic R&B and pop cuts. Prince promotes the new albums by playing a three-night stand on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, dressed in a winning combination of white socks and platform flip-flops. Later in the year, Prince quietly leaves his house in L.A. and returns home to Minneapolis, creating a stir around town as locals start spotting him at places like Envy Nightclub. Once the rumor mill is in full swing, Prince announces that he will open his Paisley Park doors for a party. He surprises guests by taking the stage punctually at 11 p.m. and playing for a solid three hours, spanning his entire back catalog and ending with an encore of "Purple Rain."
After spending a few years splitting his time between hosting 89.3 the Current's Local Show and producing segments for Minnesota Public Radio's news department, Chris Roberts announces that he will be moving to the news division full-time. He is replaced by David Campbell, who has a decade's worth of experience volunteering for KQRS and Drive 105's local broadcast, Radio Homegrown, and is a familiar face to anyone who has seen his ELO cover band, E.L.nO., perform or shopped at the Electric Fetus. With Campbell at the helm, the show expands into a two-hour broadcast that incorporates live performances, interviews with members of the music community, and show announcements into a mix of old and new local tracks.
To the utter dismay of the local hip-hop community, the Dinkytowner Cafe announces it will be closing its doors on May 31. In the latter part of the decade the Dinkytowner had developed into a hotbed of independent hip-hop talent with recurring events like Brandon Allday of Big Quarters' producer summit, Last of the Record Buyers, and Unicus of Kanser's weekly live hip-hop night, the Hook Up.
While the small fish in the local hip-hop world are reeling from their most recent loss, the big fish throw their most impressive party yet at Soundset '09. Presented by Rhymesayers, the event sells out Canterbury Park and showcases hometown heroes like Brother Ali, P.O.S., Eyedea & Abilities, Heiruspecs, and members of Doomtree alongside national acts like El-P, Pharcyde, and MF Doom.