MSP lands live music venue: 5 things to know

In this instance, the landing plane is a "metaphor" for "music" arriving at MSP.

In this instance, the landing plane is a "metaphor" for "music" arriving at MSP.

We've heard of the band Jefferson Airplane ... but Minnesota bands performing adjacent to airplanes? 

Last week, McNally Smith College of Music and the team behind Minneapolis gastropubs Republic won a bid that will bring live music (and hopefully lots of Wings covers) to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The venue itself — to be located between gates C and D inside Terminal 1 — will be branded as a Republic, one that will house the McNally Smith College of Music Stage. Construction will begin in January, with an opening date slotted for sometime next summer. The new spot will be modeled after the live-music setup at the airport in Austin, Texas, reports Chris Osgood, VP of organizational development at McNally and member of Twin Cities punk-rock vets the Suicide Commandos.

So, beyond that, what exactly can we expect? 

“The blueprints are just drafts; we don’t quite know what the interface with the travelers will be," Osgood tells City Pages. "Our discussions have been really preliminary; before we got the bid, there wasn’t a real reason to talk nuts and bolts." 

Fair enough! Here's what we do know: 

1. The winning bid topped a similar bid to bring live music to MSP 

“Until we got [to the bid], we didn’t know who our competition was," Osgood says. "I didn’t know we were going up against my friend [Twin Cities restaurant magnate] Kim Bartmann and the Cedar Cultural Center. We became a part of a bid of a group called SSP America put together. It was their idea that we would be a good musical component. It was SSP America that found Republic, found LoLo American Kitchen, and found us, and put us on the same page.”

2. Expect a Republic-y vibe

“It’ll be close to the vibe of [Republic] and the 318 club in Excelsior," Osgood says of the aesthetic. “The whole thing is underpinned by Minnesota beer." The space is around 3,800 square feet, Republic co-owner Matty O'Reilly says in an email, calling the still-fresh design phase "the fun part." 

3. Bookings will pull heavily from McNally's talent pool

“At McNally Smith, we’re very interested in showcasing the diversity of the kinds of music we teach, and the kinds of music our students make," Osgood says, name-checking McNally-associated musicians Cory Wong, Alison Scott, and Eric Foss.  "This is a big opportunity for students, alumni, and to a certain extent, faculty."

“It will be a great way for our students to gain valuable stage experience in front of a diverse audience,” adds John Krogh, McNally's VP of marketing. 

4. There will be an emphasis on musical diversity, but likely no rock 'n' roll

"We’d like it to run the gamut from hip-hop and spoken word, all the way to string quartet, and everything in between, jazz duos, combos ..." Osgood says. "Whether we can have full-on rock bands out there, we don’t know yet, but the answer is probably not.”

“The musical diversity that the school represented was a big part of why we were chosen as a partner, and ultimately, why this bid won over some of the alternatives," Krogh says. 

5. McNally thinks the airport presents a "world-class" music opportunity 

“When travelers are experiencing music, you generally have to go to them. And if the travelers are at MSP, that’s where we want to be," says Osgood, who has visited Austin's airport venue and helped bring pop-up McNally performances to MSP in the past. "It’s a pretty erudite audience. In its own way, [the airport] a world-class place to play and be. It’s sort of like being asked to play the Super Bowl and going, 'Nah, I don’t know if we know the right songs.' Any city that wants to tout itself as a music city, is going to have a venue like that.”