Twin Cities Year in Music 2012

From P.O.S. to Prince to Polica, 2012 was a golden year in Minnesota music

Atlas Sound principal Bradford Cox gives one of the most bizarre and compelling performances of the year at the Cedar Cultural Center. After receiving a misguided request for "My Sharona," he launches into an hour-long garbage compaction of the Knack's '70s hit. It shocks some, and incites others to raise their chairs above their heads. Later, Cox writes, "It was a very natural show and the people that didn't like it can suck my dick."

Vitriol for buzz band Howler hits an all-time high after frontman Jordan Gatesmith makes some disparaging remarks about the Minneapolis music scene in a U.K. interview. He calls out the 4onthefloor as "Mumford & Sons crap," and the band responds to him by creating a song by that name to the tune of the Mumfy staple "The Cave." The unintended media blitz seems to take off a lot more than their America Give Up viral marketing campaign featuring an irrepressible grouchy man in his basement.


Trampled by Turtles' Stars and Satellites may have gotten frontman Dave Simonett and the Duluth folk-grass group some undeserved flack for being more mellow than previous albums, but it has a wild release show at First Avenue. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Duluth Mayor Don Ness both dive into the crowd, with varying success. The cover of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" has the sold-out crowd bellowing lustily along as the night ends.

Mayor R.T. Rybak crowd surfing at the Trampled by Turtles show
Erik Hess
Mayor R.T. Rybak crowd surfing at the Trampled by Turtles show
Kenny Chesney
Tony Nelson
Kenny Chesney

Upstart label Forged Artifacts announces its first limited-edition vinyl release is Nice Purse's scrappy surf-rock statement Slumber Girls. Later in the year, the imprint run by ex-blogger and local music enthusiast Matt Linden also issues delectable treasures from minimalist synth-swirler Olsen Twinns (Found Things), chill psych-rocker Observer Drift (Corridors), and tough-as-nails indie team Prissy Clerks (Bruise or Be Bruised).

Adding to April: Lively Loring Park eatery and music space Nick and Eddie closes its doors. Proprietor Doug Anderson eventually relocates his interests downtown to the old City Billiards space and opens the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge in October. Bloodnstuff's fisrt album is riotous. Aby Wolf adds electronics and soul for her debut A. Wolf & Her Claws record.


Rhymesayers' fifth Soundset festival draws a sizeable crowd for Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and loads more despite blistering heat early on. The weather turns, and Canterbury Park is evacuated as heavy rains set in. Atmosphere's headlining set shifts to First Avenue, and Slug opens the set with the greeting, "Welcome to the storm shelter."

Amsterdam Bar & Hall hosts the inaugural Girls Got Rhythm Fest, formed by editor Dana Raidt (formerly of now-defunct METRO magazine) and promoter Travis Ramin. With Ronnie Spector, the Muffs, the's, and Caroline & the Treats on board, it's a weekend spotlighting female rockers from around the globe.

More May memories: Minnesota Public Radio reporter Chris Roberts posts a feature posing the question, "Is Minnesota Music in a golden age?" and the community is aflutter with opinions on both sides. One of the local hip-hop scene's founding fathers, I Self Devine, returns with a flurry of new material, including The Sound of Low Class Amerika. MaLLy show's the scene's promising future on The Last Great.... Both debut their albums at the Entry.


Brother Ali is arrested with 13 others at an Occupy Homes protest at the Cruz family home in south Minneapolis. Social activism is a constant in 2012 for Ali, who also joins the Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin, rallies against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and hosts a second Day of Dignity at the Masjid-An-Nur mosque. His fifth solo album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, encapsulates these social concerns in alternating doses of brusque and beatific delivery.

The Live Nation-run River's Edge Music Festival on Harriet Island opens to large, but not sold-out attendance. Fans cluster around headliners Tool and Dave Matthews, but Diplo, Scissor Sisters, and Flaming Lips draw niche groups for the first event of a five-year commitment on the island.

Additional June notes: The Walker Art Center's Rock the Garden winning streak stays active with the Hold Steady, tUnE-yArDs, and a wealth of local favorites while dodging rain threats. The seemingly finished Stone Arch Festival of the Arts is revived and renamed the Stone Arch Bridge Festival by a team fronted by Somerset Amphitheater's Matt Mithun. Singer-songwriter Kevin Steinman moves to Norway for more-affordable treatment for ulcerative colitis. floods in duluth lead to artists with wet basements, and benefit efforts crop up.


After a bid for a Paul McCartney concert withers, Target Field's first live show is Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw's Brothers of the Sun tour stop. The stadium overflows with cowboy hats and boots, and a barefoot Grace Potter is the night's strongest set. Later, tickets for Chesney's return visit — on July 12, 2013 — sell out within a half-hour.

Somerset Amphitheater's second SoundTown festival — set to include Florence + the Machine, Jane's Addiction, Weezer, and Girl Talk — is canceled due to low ticket sales. Dr. Dog, Best Coast, and Jeff the Brotherhood are among acts who play shows in Minneapolis instead.

Further July details: Soul Asylum's first album in six years, Delayed Reaction, emerges. Later, founding guitarist Dan Murphy leaves the group. Wilco receive the key to Duluth during an outdoor performance at Bayfront Park. Dessa teams with the Elixery for a signature lipstick for charity.


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