The Minnesota State Fair is a really great opportunity for local enterprises — from farmers to shed-builders to restaurateurs to those people who make goofy shit to put in your lawn — but it’s never been a boon for local musicians.
I mean, sure, you can see your uncle’s garage country band play at the Leinie Lodge or see your sister drunkenly fumble through Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on the Food Building’s karaoke stage. But other than that, the focus is on the Don Henleys of the world. Even 89.3 the Current’s Music-on-a-Stick — once featuring a who’s who of local musicians — has all but eschewed local talent in favor of headliners like Weezer and the Avett Brothers.
As it stands, the only stage with a commitment to Minnesota-made music at the fair is the Schell's Stage at Schilling Amphitheater, where you can catch acts the likes of Sawtooth Brothers, Jillian Rae, Reina del Cid, Sarah Morris, Mark Olson, and Sonny Knight and the Lakers. Hats off to the West End Market for keeping it niche in a time of bloated mass appeal.
Maolu — “Deepest Corner” (feat. DomOnEarth)
There might not be a better aesthetic matchup in the Twin Cities right now than Maolu and DomOnEarth. The two baritone emcees have a similar (but complementary) storyteller style, and their deliberate but offbeat deliveries are nearly magnetic over a beat. In the video for “Deepest Corner” off My Thoughts Exactly, the two showcase their chemistry.
We’ve seen the 19-year-old Maolu (and video director Vern) on Local Frames before, but DomOnEarth, who features on the chorus as well as the more powerful verse, is a recent returnee to the Minnesota scene. He’s spent the last eight years in Dallas, though he’s a Gopher State guy at his roots. Now that Dom is resettled in the Twin Cities, he’s got a forthcoming project, Couch Surfer, and he and Maolu will be collaborating often.
They open for Lil’ Durk at River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud on September 9.
Qaanaaq — “Skeleton”
You’ll remember Gus Watkins from his serial genre exploration GenreBeast, the third iteration of which we featured on Local Frames. Now, Watkins is ready to close out the experiment with his fourth (and final) turn as Qaanaaq, an angsty, raw-as-hell prog-rock band.
The project’s album, Separate/Weak, comes out on September 2, and the new video for single “Skeleton” has just reached YouTube. Rather than guess at some contrived meaning, we’ll let Watkins explain how the Jessie Roelofs-directed drama should be interpreted.
“The video shares the experience of watching a loved one battle something that is often out of their control,” Watkins wrote in an email. “It's about the kind of thing that continually falls apart and needs to be re-worked until it finally cannot be repaired any more and is better off just being unraveled.”
The Hell and the Quiet — “Gotta Run”
Angst doesn’t always manifest in prepubescence. It’s not all hair dye and Drop D. Angst can be the most adult dilemma you ever experience; thus the Hell and the Quiet’s latest single “Gotta Run.”
The outlaw country quartet’s latest video shows how malaise can give way to an outright rebellion, and the four tell the story in lazy, contemplative guitar licks and measured drum parts. Their nervousness is dusty and cathartic, not greasy and embarrassing.
From the EP Why You Gotta Say These Songs Ain't Cool?, “Gotta Run” is far from the Hell and the Quiet’s only solemn stomp. See also standouts “Fever to Spread” and “Coming Home,” which inhabit the same Western anxiety.
Cram — “Mascot” (feat. Chester Watson and Gabriella Jacobs)
Cram is a strange animal, man.
Part analog nightmare, part synthetic drug trip, part early-MTV slow jams, the squad of Janitar Jones, Tommy Bathwater, Juan Lobsternostrils, and Alfred Ziplock don’t ask to be taken seriously on the surface level. Songs like “Eat Weed” off CRAM Vol. 2 only play into the hysteria of their image, but their music can sometimes be somber and reflective. Like those quiet moments between turnups.
New song “Mascot,” which features vocals from Chester Watson and Gabriella Jacobs, has no goofy pretense or over-the-top bars. It’s a lucid melody that jousts against nearly exhausted existential verses. Directed by Alan De Leon Taverna, the video for the song is a pop art hallucination that plays into the disorientation in the song’s lyrics.
Kid Automatic — “Realest One”
Woozy club rap can be exhausting and prototypical, but something about Kid Automatic overrides all the cynicism. The Minneapolis rapper’s newest song, “Realest One,” is busy with hi-hats and mechanical snares and slathered with Young Thug-style Auto-Tune, but it’s an undeniable jam for the up-and-comer.
With professional quality visuals provided by 42 Lights Media, Kid Automatic shows that he belongs right beside the industry rap heavyweights heard on Go95.3, even if he’s yet to really explode in the Twin Cities scene.