Twin Cities Year in Music 2011

Howler, Astronautalis, Pink Mink, and more

Also in February: A series of benefits spring up for Grant Hart, the Hüsker Dü drummer-turned-solo songwriter, after he loses many of his possessions in a house fire; wildly popular dance night Get Cryphy celebrates two years of parties in the Record Room; improvisational hardcore collective Marijuana Deathsquads head to L.A. to play their first coastal residency (they also take up the Bowery Electric in NYC for the month of October) and work on their first album; Lady Gaga discontinues her deal to distribute Born This Way exclusively through Target after the Minnesota-based company donates money to action group MN Forward and, by proxy, notoriously anti-gay gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.


Volcano Choir, the side project of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and the members of Milwaukee's Collections of Colonies of Bees, play their only Twin Cities show (and one of only two shows they've ever played in the U.S.) at the Cedar. That same night, Doomtree's Sims and Jacksonville-born rapper Astronautalis perform a sold-out show across the street at the Triple Rock, and the reception is so positive that it convinces Astro that he should leave his temporary home in Seattle and shack up in the Twin Cities. "That night was the nail in the coffin," he tells us when he makes the move in June. "I had been talking about it for a while, but the next day was when I started looking for apartments."

Beloved Nye's Polonaise Room staple Ruth Adams passes away at the age of 79. Known as the smiling accordinist for house regulars the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band, Adams had appeared everywhere from The Daily Show to a parade scene in Drop Dead Gorgeous in addition to holding down a tri-weekly gig at Nye's, and was a defining character of northeast Minneapolis. Adams and her band averaged 60 to 70 songs a night, for two to three nights a week for 35 years, meaning her fingers played likely more than 200,000 songs for fans at Nye's.

Astronautalis performing at a Four Fists show
Tony Nelson
Astronautalis performing at a Four Fists show
Nicki Minaj at  Xcel Energy Center
Staciaann Photography
Nicki Minaj at Xcel Energy Center

In the same month, former Bash & Pop bassist Kevin Foley passes away unexpectedly in his sleep at the age of 52. Foley's death comes just two years after the equally sudden death of his brother, Steve, a late-career Replacements drummer who was Kevin's bandmate in Bash & Pop alongside 'Mats bassist Tommy Stinson. When Stinson comes to town to play solo shows in May and November, his rendition of Bash & Pop's best-known single, "Friday Night Is Killing Me," is easily the highlight of both sets.

More March madness: Gayngs play their last show in Minneapolis and head out on their last tour before breaking up to focus on other projects; and Minnesota ups its presence at the South by Southwest music festival once again, with twice as many bands chosen to play official showcases as in 2010—making it damn near impossible to wander the fest without bumping into a familiar face from the homeland.


Longtime Twin Cities songwriter Tim Mahoney makes his nationally televised debut as a contenstant on NBC's The Voice. The show's gimmick is that the judges listen to the contestants with their backs turned. In the first episode, when judge Adam Levine swivels around to see Mahoney standing in front of him, he laughs and says, "So it's gonna get a little weird for a second ... I thought you were a chick." The two laugh it off and Levine becomes Mahoney's vocal coach on the show, but he is eliminated a few episodes later.

Craig Finn returns home to play a rare solo show as part of MPR's Wits series, where he appears as the musical guest at a show that features Fargo-born writer Chuck Kloseterman. Finn seizes the opportunity to debut three brand-new songs, then spends the summer in Austin, Texas, laying down the tracks for his first solo record. Clear Heart Full Eyes is due out January 24.

Pachyderm Studios, best known as the recording site of Nirvana's final studio album, In Utero, as well as the place where dozens of local bands holed up in the early- to mid-'90s to record their work, shows up on an Edina Realty website. The four-bedroom, five-bathroom house and the six-acre Canon Falls property are sold for about $300K. By the end of the year, a website promising the "future of Pachyderm" is up, and Gay Witch Abortion report that they are headed to the studio to record with engineer John Kuker.

Other notable moments: The Current debuts its new 24-hour all-Minnesota-music streaming service the Local Current; the Twin Cities celebrates its biggest Record Store Day yet; Rogue Valley perform their final of four seasonal CD-release shows and embark on a national tour in the fall; and unbeknownst to fans, Hildur Victoria release their final album as a band, with singer Margaret Lane leaving the group a few months later to pursue other projects.


Adding insult to injury, the Twins' dramatic, disappointing baseball season is made all the more painful when the organization removes longtime music director Kevin Dutcher, who was with the team from 2000 up until last year's inaugural season in the new stadium, and replaces him with 96.3 NOW programming assistant Dan Edwards. Local music programming is quickly phased out in favor of Auto-Tuned club mixes, much to the chagrin of area artists who once had the chance of receiving some airplay in the stadium.

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