Summer Guide 2017: Music & Festivals

Model is Sophia Deutsch. Photo by Emily Utne.

Model is Sophia Deutsch. Photo by Emily Utne.

Click here to see the complete 2017 Summer Guide

Amadou and Mariam

Cedar Cultural Center

Desert blues will always be at the core of their sound, but this blind, Malian-born/Paris-based husband-and-wife duo have adapted to varied pop production techniques without ever sounding slick or money-grubbing. They broadened their audience in 2005 with the footloose Euro-reggae of the Manu Chao-produced Dimanche à Bamako, went for an even brighter sound in 2009 with Welcome to Mali, then collaborated with American rockers like Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio on Foilia in 2012. Judging from the electronic groove of “Bofou Safou,” their first track in five years, their upcoming album La Confusion may be their greatest stylistic departure yet. But if their past recordings are any indication, the new music, no matter how different, will still sound like Amadou and Mariam. All ages. 7 p.m. $45. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-338-2674. July 27 —Keith Harris

Bruno Mars

Xcel Energy Center

For nearly a decade, Bruno Mars has been dedicated to the art of creating 24-karat pop gold. Before the Honolulu native emerged as a solo performer, he made his name writing pop mega-hits; some are classics (like CeeLo Green’s “Fuck You”), others have aged less well (Flo Rida’s “Right Round”), but regardless, his compositions were everywhere. His first solo album, 2010’s Doo-Wops & Hooligans, officially made Mars a star in his own right, with two of its singles (“Just the Way You Are,” “Grenade”) rocketing to No. 1. He’s been a consistent hitmaker ever since, ubiquitous even when his own material cooled down; his appearance on Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” heavily influenced by the Minneapolis sound, kept Mars in the spotlight throughout 2015. Though his music can come up a little short on substance, the 31-year-old makes up for that with showmanship during live performances such as his Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show and his Prince tribute at this year’s Grammys. 8 p.m. $47-$122.50. 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-265-4800. August 5 —Michael Madden

Pizza Lucé Block Party

Downtown Minneapolis

Despite the fact that no Hold Steady song mentions Pizza Lucé (how can that be?), Craig Finn will headline the noted Twin Cites’ pizza chain’s annual downtown Minneapolis block party this year, topping off an impressively deep lineup of local talent. He’s joined by Allan Kingdom, whose new album, LINES, extends the St. Paul-based MC’s spacey brilliance in some interesting new lyrical directions, yet still barely hints at what an electric live performer he is. Rounding out the bill is the great, now surnameless Haley (previously Haley Bonar); onetime Lizzo accomplice Sophia Eris, who’s launched her own solo career and also moonlights as a Go 95.3 on-air personality; and Fury Things, the rockers whose band name spares writers the trouble of having to describe their sound. Plus pizza from Lucé and beer from Surly. With Tabah, Static Panic, Fanaka, and Modern Era. Noon to 10 p.m. Free. 119 N. Fourth St., Minneapolis; 612.333.7359. August 12 —Keith Harris

John Misty

Surly Brewing Festival Field

There’s no other artist today quite like singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, the former Fleet Foxes drummer who reinvented himself after leaving that Seattle indie folk band in 2012 to become Father John Misty. His first album under that name, 2012’s Fear Fun, is accessible in traditional ways, offering the psych-folker “Nancy from Now On,” the rock-oriented “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” and the twangy “I’m Writing a Novel.” But though he had songwriting credits on some recent pop blockbusters (Beyonce’s Lemonade and Lady Gaga’s Joanne), his solo output has gotten increasingly outré, culminating with this April’s Pure Comedy. The charmingly indulgent 74-minute record practically eschews straightforward melodies in favor of open-ended song structures, the British arranger/composer Gavin Bryars’ gorgeous orchestrations, and conversational musings on religion and 21st-century pop culture. Tennis opens. 18+. 5 p.m. $45. 520 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 763-999-4040. August 19 —Michael Madden

Kendrick Lamar

Xcel Energy Center

No contemporary rapper combines ambition and skill as consistently as Kendrick Lamar. He was a preternaturally learned lyricist and technician right out of the gate, offering glimpses of his potential on early underground releases, most notably Overly Dedicated and Section.80. With his subsequent major-label leap he entered “best rapper alive” conversations. 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is a truly cinematic album that evoked his Compton beginnings in incredible visual detail while creating banger after banger, while his 2015 opus To Pimp a Butterfly challenged listeners with increasingly political lyricism and contributions from virtuoso jazz musicians Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper. Following last year’s demo collection untitled unmastered., Kendrick released his proper follow-up to TPAB, this April’s DAMN., a comprehensive showcase of his abilities as an MC, from the glorious shit talk of the No. 1 single “HUMBLE.” to the intricate storytelling of “DUCKWORTH.” YG and D.R.A.M. open. 7:30 p.m. $39.50-$99.50 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-265-4800. August 19 —Michael Madden

Open Streets Minneapolis

Various locations

Each summer Open Streets Minneapolis closes main drags throughout the city to cars, encouraging foot and pedal traffic instead. As folks make their way up and down the streets, they’ll discover a variety of pop-up happenings, including sunrise yoga sessions, mini skate parks, bands on wheels, shops with fresh lemonade, and chalk art for kids. Last Sunday, Open Streets took over Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis. This week, they’ll continue to make their way through the city with the downtown closing of Washington and North First Avenue (Sunday, June 11). The schedule also includes happenings on Lake and Minnehaha (Sunday, July 23), Northeast (Sunday, August 6), Franklin Avenue (Sunday, August 27), West Broadway (Saturday, September 9), and south Nicollet (Sunday, September 24). For maps and more info, visit Through September 24 —Jessica Armbruster

Little Mekong Night Market

Little Mekong

A little taste of South Asia’s bustling street markets is coming to St. Paul this summer. Stroll along University Avenue in the Little Mekong district, between Mackubin and Galtier Streets, to find Lao-Cajun crawfish, kimchi fries, frozen pops, Lao-style tacos, egg rolls galore, and pretty ice cream rolls made right in front of you. Vendors selling jewelry, artisan eats, clothing, and more will be on hand, in addition to wellness centers offering free health screenings. There will be games and crafts for kids, and several performance stages. This year’s theme is “Celebration of Water,” which will be reflected in several hands-on activities. An interactive piece by playwright Katie Ka Vang, textile artist Khamphian Vang, and digital artist Christina Vang will include a river made of cloth. More info can be found at 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday; 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Free. 422 University Ave. W., St. Paul. June 10-11 —Sheila Regan

Stone Arch Bridge Festival

Stone Arch Bridge

Not only does the Stone Arch Bridge Festival feature a gratifying assortment of disciplines (including painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed media), the artwork is exhibited on one of the most geographically striking stretches of Minneapolis, making for a wonderfully eclectic summertime stroll. Timed to coincide with Father’s Day weekend, the fest offers an assortment of family-friendly attractions. There’s the gleaming chrome of the vintage automobile show and an ongoing slate of free concerts performed on stages throughout the grounds. Anyone needing a break from the kiddies, however, can find sanctuary in a sectioned-off beer fest where, for a nominal fee, adults can revive themselves with samples from local and national brewers. With a smorgasbord of food vendors serving an array of snacks, the festival continues to serve as a fitting tribute to the charming environs of the Stone Arch Bridge. For more info, visit 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. 212 SE Second Ave., Minneapolis. June 16-18 —Brad Richason

2017 Beer Dabblers

Loring Park/CHS Field

This year brings the sixth annual Pride Dabbler (June 23) and ninth annual Summer Dabbler (August 26) to the Twin Cities. The Pride Dabbler at Loring Park offers a lineup of 50 Minnesota breweries, who have each come up with a Lady Gaga-themed beer. As people drink, they’ll enjoy tunes from the Flip Phone crew, Lady Lark, and Apollo Cobra. Meanwhile, the Summer Dabbler takes place across the river at CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, and features over 100 breweries pouring more than 300 beers. Both festivals celebrate local makers while basking in the outdoors — rain or shine. The beer may be front and center at both, but the festive outdoor fun truly sets Dabbler apart from other brew fests. Tickets and more info can be found at $45-$55; $20 designated driver. June 23, August 26 —Loren Green

Twin Cities Pride

Loring Park

Twin Cities Pride is so huge and expansive, with lots of happenings to enjoy. Do you love a great parade? They’ve got you covered. Are picnics more your thing? There’s a family-friendly one just for you (June 18). Then there’s Queer Prom at Hell’s Kitchen (June 11), an art exhibition at Radisson Red (opening June 8), comedy showcases (such as Fortune Feimster and Tig Notaro on June 22), live music, theater performances, documentary screenings, sporting events (including Lynx and St. Paul Saint nights), and an Equality March on the Capitol (June 11). And then there’s the annual festival in Loring Park, the big ol’ LGBTQ meet-and-greet where you can connect with organizations, social groups, artists, and businesses all celebrating Pride. Now, some may wonder: Do we need a Pride Festival anymore? Hasn’t equality been achieved? Same-sex marriage is legal, right? There are still plenty of critical issues, including trans rights, the fight against bathroom bills, struggles against all kinds of discrimination, and terrifying persecution in countries around the globe. It’s more important than ever to come out and stand united against hate, but also to celebrate the strength and vibrancy of the community. For a full schedule of happenings and locations, visit 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the park. Free. 1382 Willow St., Minneapolis. June 24-25 —Sheila Regan

Open Eye Figure Theatre’s 15th Annual Driveway Tour

Various locations

For the 15th summer, the mad puppeteers at Open Eye Figure Theatre are bringing their act to driveways — and yards, and parks — across the Twin Cities. This year, they’re touring three free 30-minute shows that alternate across various dates. One features a time-traveling robot that helps a boy face down a bully, a second is about a city girl who finds farm friends when technological toys fail her, and a third is about a boy whose imagination turns a cow into a boat. Program manager Peter Rusk enjoys seeing the diverse crowds the driveway performances attract. “We really get a huge range of people. You come into their homes; they’re welcoming you and they’re welcoming their community as well.” Driveway Tour stops are posted on the company’s website; you can host a show in your own ’hood if you’re willing to help do a little fundraising. If you want to see all three of this summer’s driveway shows in one go, you can hit up the July 29 Ice Cream Social at Open Eye’s home base in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis. For the complete schedule, visit July 7 through August 11 —Jay Gabler

Summer X Games Minneapolis

U.S. Bank Stadium

For four days this July, Minneapolis is going to the extreme (or x-treme, as it were). The greatest action-sports athletes from around the world will come together for the annual Summer X Games at U.S. Bank Stadium. The event features the best in skateboarding, BMX, and motocross. But unlike other festivals, the X Games is just as much about the lifestyle and culture that goes along with extreme sports. A mix of local and national musicians will perform during nightly concerts, among them Atmosphere, Prof, Aesop Rock, punk outfit A Day to Remember, and electropop wonderboy Flume. This will be the first time that U.S. Bank Stadium will host a major international festival, and fans are expected to pour in from all over the globe to see the very best extreme athletes. Whether you’re a fan of insane stunts and street sports, or just want an excuse to wear your JNCO jeans from 20 years ago, this is the must-see sports event of the summer. Find more info at $20-$750. 900 S. Fifth St., Minneapolis; 612-338-4537. July 13-16 —Patrick Strait

Minneapolis Aquatennial

Various locations

Now in its 77th year, the Minneapolis Aquatennial gives you the opportunity to enjoy a variety of fun events. The Torchlight Parade and 5K downtown run are always popular (both are on Wednesday, July 19), as is the Twin Cities River Rats’ water ski show on the Mississippi River (Thursday and Friday) and the grand finale fireworks near the Stone Arch Bridge (Saturday night). Following up on the success of last year’s Candid Canines Film Festival, the event is moving to a bigger location and joining the Aquatennial lineup. The screening will take place at Target Field Station, and features a compilation of fan-submitted dog vids spliced into 40 minutes of mind-melting cuteness. There will be multiple showings between 4 and 9 p.m. Thursday, July 20. Dogs are welcome, too, and all proceeds will benefit Can Do Canines Assistance Dogs. For a complete schedule, check out July 19-22 —Patrick Strait

Red Hot Art Festival

Stevens Square Park

While the larger Twin Cities art fairs will host artists from around the nation this summer, Red Hot Art Fest has always gone all local. This year, the Stevens Square Park celebration is turning sweet 16. For two days, thousands of revelers will find hundreds of Twin Cities artists exhibiting and demonstrating their trades, including printmakers, comic artists, painters, and jewelry designers. Around 20 bands will take the stage mid-afternoon into the evening, with the official lineup announced closer to the event. Food trucks will keep crowds nourished, and there will also be outdoor games and family activities. Follow the event at 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. 1801 Stevens Ave. S., Minneapolis. July 22-23 —Jessica Armbruster

FLOW Northside Arts Crawl

North Minneapolis

For the past 12 years, FLOW has showcased creative talent and businesses on the North Side. During the three-day festival, hundreds of artists will share their work at street festivals, special receptions, and hands-on happenings. There will be large-scale creations, street parties with live music, delicious foods from local restaurants, and fun for kids. Sign up for a special dinner event for foodies, take in some free festival happenings, and meet your neighbors. West Broadway, from the Mississippi River to Penn Avenue, Minneapolis. July 27-29 —Jessica Armbruster

Greenway Glow 2017

Midtown Greenway

How cool is it that Minneapolis has a highway for bikes? The Midtown Greenway, built on an abandoned railroad track a block off of Lake Street, provides a car-free experience for bikers and pedestrians making their way across town. Each year, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, the organization that’s tasked with making sure the trail is safe and clean for all users, fundraises by hosting the Greenway Glow, an event that includes a community arts festival and several different bike opportunities. The main festival, which is free, includes more than two dozen art installations, performances by local artists, and a slow-roll seven-mile ride at 8 p.m. There’s also two VIP bike rides, which include free tacos and beverages, a T-shirt, and glow lights. One is 10 miles at 8 p.m. and and the other is 8:45 p.m. Don’t forget to wear a costume, as there are awards for the best looks, as well as prizes for the largest team and the top fundraisers. Registration and more info can be found at p.m. to midnight. Free; $35, plus $15 minimum in raised funds. 2834 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis. July 29 —Sheila Regan

Fringe Festival

Various locations

It’s been a big year of change for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. For her first year as executive director, Dawn Bentley plans to stay the course. “Understanding how this machine operates is my main goal for this year,” she says. That means that the all-play ticketing system that debuted last year will return, so buying admission for one show means getting a wristband for the day. The festival will be reviving the VIP pass (formerly known as the “ultra pass”) option this year, for super fans who want in on the entire run. Another welcome return: This year the Jungle Theater will be a Fringe venue for the first time since 2010. Republic at Seven Corners will once again be Fringe Central, the official hangout for artists and patrons to quaff a brew and share the scoop on what’s hot and what’s not. With 168 different shows over 11 days, there’s a lot to take in — as Bentley knows well. “I’ve been a Fringe attendee for much of the last 23 years, so I’m very interested in learning the inner workings,” she says. “Next year we’ll be celebrating a quarter-century, which is no small feat for an arts organization that operates, literally, on the fringe.” Plan your Fringe by checking out the schedule, which will be announced July 1, at August 3-13 —Jay Gabler

Red Stag Block Party: In Cahoots

Red Stag Supperclub

The local beer scene is a tightknit community with plenty of camaraderie. There’s also competition. At Red Stag’s annual block party, you get both of these things, as seven beers are pitted against each other in a friendly bout where fans vote for their favorites. Each variety is a collaborative effort between two local breweries. This year’s teams are Modist/Dangerous Man, Fulton/Bad Weather, Schell’s/Indeed, Surly/Steel Toe, Bang/Fair State, Bauhaus/Sociable Cider Werks, and Bent Paddle/Able. All seven beers are unique to the event, and the team results are often hard to predict. What will happen when a cidery works with a German-inspired brewery? How will the outspoken Surly collaborate with the quiet-natured Steel Toe? There are many questions, and the answers can only be found in a plastic cup outside at the Supperclub. Music is another highlight of the fest. Get down to the likes of Catbath, RLGDPPL, Graveyard Trio, Black Market Brass, the Blind Shake, 4onthefloor, and Epitome No Question. A portion of beer sales go to a charitable cause selected by the winning brew team. 2 to 8 p.m. Free. 509 First Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612-767-7766. August 6 —Loren Green

Philemon and Baucis — Planet in Peril: A Picnic Operetta

Various locations

The Picnic Operetta is a lot to get your head around if you’ve never experienced it before. Yes, there’s opera... and pop music, and farm-fresh snacks. Oh, and a politically charged theme. Last summer’s show was a satire of the Trump candidacy. This year, a Haydn adaptation titled Philemon and Baucis — Planet in Peril explores gentrification as a metaphor for species extinction. “It uses the music of Queen, and takes some inspiration from the big flip in housing,” says producing artistic director Scotty Reynolds, who has helped lead the annual production since its founding in 2009. “Some of the biggest rent spikes in New York were when the AIDS generation was dying and being replaced by a completely different mindset.” The operetta tours to locations across the metro area and greater Minnesota. Last year, says Reynolds, audiences enjoyed it — even if they thought the show’s buffoon was just what America needed. “We did get some audience feedback that went, ‘Nice show. I’m still voting for Trump.’ I got the feeling that they had a good time, and I hope that even when we’re being satirical there’s something charismatic and loving about the way we present villains.” $10-$20 suggested donation. Make reservations by calling 1-800-838-3006, or visit for locations and info. August 13-September 23 —Jay Gabler

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Festival Fairgrounds

Huzzah! The Renaissance Festival is returning to Shakopee for its 46th season, once again encouraging visitors to indulge in all manner of medieval fantasy. For many, the festival is a chance to put on elaborate period attire, but those lacking velvet doublets and leather bodices need not worry. The 22-acre festival grounds are irreverently anachronistic, evoking an immersive kingdom teeming with minstrels, maidens, and knights. While the 16 stages allow for a plethora of entertainment options, just as much spontaneous fun can be had while engaging in chance encounters with the roving bands of jesters, hypnotists, dancers, and storytellers. Between jousts and sword fights, visitors can browse the 250 artisan booths in search of such souvenirs as ornately detailed costumes, handcrafted jewelry, and intricately forged metalwork. Food and beverage options similarly abound, moving beyond the ever popular turkey leg and ale to incorporate surprising variety. With each weekend featuring a special theme, visitors can even mix the medieval hijinks with other idiosyncratic interests. Tickets and more info can be found at 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, plus September 4 and 29. $14.95-$25.95; season passes available. 12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee; 952-445-7361. August 19-October 1 —Brad Richason

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fairgrounds

It’s natural to feel conflicted when the Minnesota State Fair rolls around. There’s excitement, as the festival is an opportunity to gorge on fried foods and sweets, there’s plenty of fun things to do and explore, and there’s usually at least one must-see concert to get excited about. However, soon the weather will change, the school season will begin, and beer on a patio will be an impossibility. It’s best to enjoy things while they last. This year’s get-together will offer tasty eats and brew, joyfully rickety rides in the Mighty Midway, gentle farm animals, art exhibits, and live music in the Grandstand and on a slew of free performance stages. There will be freebies to score from various vendors, contests to enter, and people to meet. Chat up a local politician at a booth, or make new friends while standing in line for the hottest new food offering. Remember to bring sunscreen, as this the party usually hits during the peak of the dog days of summer. Daily 6 a.m. to midnight; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Labor Day. $9-$14. 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul; 651-288-4400. August 24-September 4 —Jessica Armbruster