Twin Cities Year in Music 2011

Howler, Astronautalis, Pink Mink, and more

Local hip-hop artists gather on the side stage at Soundset to pay tribute to Eyedea during one of his side project Face Candy's only gigs since his passing. Kristoff Krane, Carnage, Joe Horton of No Bird Sing, and more deliver freestyle verses about their fallen friend, and those same artists and many more reconvene at Cherokee Park on the one-year anniversary of Micheal Larsen's death, October 16, to dedicate a park bench, picnic table, and plaque in his honor.

The summer of 2011 finds nearly every big-name pop star steering a tour bus entourage into town, with both the Xcel Energy Center and Target Center keeping busy concert schedules. Pop stars Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and the nostalgic supergroup NKOTBSB come to town, along with powerhouse rock reunion tours like Mötley Crüe and Poison, and Journey, Foreigner, and Night Ranger.

More May notes: Fans of Trampled by Turtles are nearly trampled themselves at the popular speed-bluegrass group's Spring Jam gig at the University of Minnesota, causing the police to come in and pull the plug; Adele reschedules her First Avenue show, beginning a months-long drama of date shifts and cancellations that eventually finds her performing at the Xcel Energy Center in August.


Pink Mink CD-release show on the Mississippi River
Erik Hess
Pink Mink CD-release show on the Mississippi River
The Original 7ven at Mall of America
Tony Nelson
The Original 7ven at Mall of America

Just a few months after celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his popular new-wave/indie/Britpop dance night Transmission, DJ Jake Rudh is brought on staff at the Current to host a weekly hour-long show (catch him every Thursday night from 10 to 11 p.m.).

Let's get meta for a moment: Cee Lo Green quits Twitter temporarily after creating a PR nightmare for himself in Minnesota. Turns out Cee Lo didn't like our review of his Target Center show, where he opened for Rihanna, so he replied directly to our @gimme_noise Twitter account and to the author of the review (yes, that's me), by saying, "I respect your criticism but be fair! People enjoyed last night! I'm guessing ur gay?and my masculinity offended u?well f--k u!" Needless to say, GLBT advocacy groups aren't too happy about his tweet, and he spends the next few weeks apologizing to everyone who will listen.

The Stone Arch Festival of the Arts celebrates its 17th season and what turns out to be its last. Founder Ira Heilicher (son of legendary Soma Records head Amos Heilicher and a vocal local-music advocate) passes away in August, and by the next month most of the nonprofit organization's staff has disbanded to pursue other projects. In recent years, the festival had become a reliable showcase for Minnesota musicians, as the performances had expanded onto four separate stages and the event was one of the largest free outdoor music and art festivals in the Twin Cities.

Other June memories: Rumors swirl about the possibility of Paul McCartney coming to Target Field for the stadium's first public concert, but after a gig is scheduled for September 1 it's later canceled; Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy's mash-up project Wugazi (which combines—you guessed it—Fugazi and Wu-Tang Clan songs) lights up the internet; and Twin Cities Radio founder Jazzy J passes away at the age of 60 after a battle with cancer.


Elliot Hill, best known locally as the drummer for the Softrocks, passes away at the age of 26. Hill was diagnosed with colon cancer in late 2010, and the cancer advanced to an untreatable stage and was diagnosed as terminal in April. In addition to drumming with the Softrocks and, earlier, with Ennui, Hill worked as a roadie for Pink Mink and played in a comedy band with his friend and roommate Christy Hunt. He had just started a family with his wife, Ashlee Fanning, and the two welcomed their daughter, Veronica Hill, in May.

The University of Minnesota's TCF Stadium hosts its first concert, and it's enormous: Nearly 60,000 fans navigate through the U's construction to get to the stadium, where U2 had constructed a gigantic claw-shaped stage and lighting rig to project their show to every corner of the arena. In typical over-the-top U2 fashion, the group perform through a downpour that seems to only make them play harder and toss in an oh-so-appropriate cover of "Purple Rain."

New restaurant Republic, which took over the space occupied by Preston's Urban Pub on Seven Corners, gets city approval to start hosting live music in the side room. The intimate new room, called Aux 1, promises to remain an all-ages venue, and is overseen by Matty O'Reilly, who has experienced similar success with the Aster Cafe on St. Anthony Main and the 318 Cafe in Excelsior.

Pink Mink set sail for a CD-release show on the Mississippi River with Birthday Suits; Kanye West and Jay-Z announce, then cancel, the Twin Cities stop of their Watch the Throne tour; Austin, Minnesota, native John Maus receives loads of national blog attention for his Pitchfork-approved second album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.


Recognizing a void in the large-scale music festival circuit, the Somerset Amphitheater reopens with a new owner and new name (it was previously known as Float-Rite) for the first annual SoundTown festival. The expansive amphitheater was previously home to primarily heavy-metal and country festivals, but new owner Matt Mithun is hoping to revitalize the space and gear his festivals toward the indie-heavy Current crowd. The first year's headliners are the Flaming Lips, and the band performs along with a couple dozen other national and local acts to a small crowd curious to investigate the new endeavor. Plans are already in the works for a bigger and better round two.

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