Twin Cities Year in Music 2011

Howler, Astronautalis, Pink Mink, and more

After taking a year off from presenting the Music & Movies series in Loring Park, the Walker Art Center steps back up to the plate to present a four-night run. Unfortunately, due to weather the first night is moved to a much smaller indoor space, while the last night is moved onto the Walker's own grounds, making the tradition feel more fragmented than it has in the past.

Husband-and-wife duo Alexei and Channy Moon Casselle announce the end of their folk-turned-soul group Roma di Luna, and their last few shows find only Channy leading the band. Almost immediately, Channy (now known as Channy Leaneagh) dives into her new project, Poliça, recording a full-length album with Gayngs producer Ryan Olson and performing riveting sets, while Alexei continues performing in Kill the Vultures as well as a new, sprawling improvisational project called Coloring Time, who make their debut as a 20-person freestyle group at the Cedar.

Additional August action: The Pizza Luce Block Party pulls in its biggest crowd yet with headliner P.O.S., causing many to wonder if the festivities have outgrown the narrow confines of the street outside the Uptown restaurant; Elite Gymnastics gain traction nationally with a pair of digitally released EPs.


B FRESH Photography
Ms. Lauryn Hill at First Avenue
Steven Cohen
Ms. Lauryn Hill at First Avenue

The Family, a Prince-formed band that recorded one album and played one sold-out show at First Avenue back in 1985, reunites under the new name fDeluxe to record an album and perform at the Loring Theater. Fronted by St. Paul Peterson and Susannah Melvoin, the twin sister of Revolution guitarist Wendy and a onetime fiancée of Prince, the band makes a funky “debut,” Gaslight, which hearkens back to the once-prevalent Minneapolis Sound.

After a couple of years of uncertainty, Eclipse Records opens in a new location in downtown St. Paul right next to the new Amsterdam Bar and Hall. The all-vinyl store is part of some serious cultural revitalization on that stretch of Wabasha Street, thanks in part to the support of St. Paul Director of Arts and Culture Joe Spencer, who championed adding Amsterdam and Eclipse to downtown as well as a neighboring poster-and-print shop, Big Table.

More in September: Bon Iver fever catches on in Minneapolis, as the band performs for the first time in two years at two sold-out Orpheum Theatre shows; Maria Isa and Muja Messiah decide to cement their musical friendship in a new project, Villa Rosa, releasing an album together and playing a series of shows.


Brother Ali closes down the streets surrounding his mosque in north Minneapolis, Masjid An-Nur, for a full day of community outreach called Day of Dignity. In addition to distributing free health care services, haircuts, meals, winter clothing, school supplies, and health/hygiene kits to the public, Ali caps off the day by performing a free show with fellow Rhymesayers artist Freeway.

As the Occupy movement picks up steam, local musicians step forward to lend their voices to the OccupyMN protests. Artists ranging from hip-hop acts Toki Wright, Sean Anonymous, and Guante to R&B maven Mayda to former Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart perform in solidarity with the movement, while Jeremy Messersmith pens and releases a free track inspired by the events called "Blue Sky (Corporations Are People My Friend)."

Tom Keith, sound effects man for A Prairie Home Companion and co-host of MPR's long-running roots-heavy Morning Show, passes away at the age of 64 after suffering a heart attack in his home. Best known for character sketches he performed under the psuedonymn Jim Ed Poole, Keith was an integral part of MPR's history. Garrison Keillor pens a touching tribute to Keith in the days following his death.

Other October notes: Minnesota accessory designers Coco & Breezy, who left our state recently for New York City, show up in the Beyoncé video for "Party"; Mr. Dibbs, a one-time Atmosphere tourmate and friend of the Twin Cities' Rhymesayers label, reveals that he has been undergoing a series of surgeries after being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, and a series of local fundraisers spring up in his honor.


Another in a series of Prince-related band resurgances and name changes, the Time announce they will release a new album under the name the Original 7ven. In addition to recognizable frontman Morris Day and fDeluxe/the Family drummer Jellybean Johnson, the re-emergence of the Original 7ven marks a return to the stage for seminal producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and their new single "#trendin" is awesomely cheesy and catchy.

Laura Kennedy, the original bassist and co-founder of seminal no-wave band Bush Tetras, passes away. She was diagnosed nearly two decades ago with Hepatitis C, a "scourge of an illness" she once wrote she believed she contracted in the '80s while living and playing in New York, and her death was caused by complications from that illness. Born in Cleveland, she moved to NYC in the late '70s and eventually made her way to the Twin Cities 12 years ago to live with her girlfriend.

More November notes: The Twin Cities' love affair with Dawes continues as they come to town to perform one of several sold-out shows in the area this year—they return on December 30 and 31 to play the Varsity and yes, tickets have already been snatched up; Gwar guitarist Flattus Maximus, a.k.a. Cory Smoot, passes away on his tour bus just hours after performing with the band at First Avenue.


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