The year in music 2017: A rock ’n’ roll timeline of Minnesota music


P.O.S Chad Kamenshine

January 1, 2017 seems like a long, long time ago. Here's what's happened since.


United Properties reveals its initial plans for a new music venue near Target Field. Later in the year, we learn that concert booking behemoth Live Nation plans to operate the forthcoming 2,000-capacity space, which will be modeled after the historic Fillmore theater in San Francisco.

Semisonic drummer Jacob Slichter slips on some ice and fractures his wrist, causing the alt-rockers to postpone their planned reunion shows. The band goes on to perform their 1996 album The Great Divide in its entirety at the Turf Club and First Avenue in June, and will return to those venues to play all of 1998’s Feeling Strangely Fine in December.

P.O.S releases Chill, Dummy, his first solo album since his 2014 kidney transplant. “So much of the lyrics are written at me, kind of freaking out about reconnecting with my friends and reconnecting with life after being sick,” the rapper tells City Pages.

Tommy Stinson’s band Bash & Pop, which reunited in 2016, returns to Minneapolis to play the Entry. Where does the now New York-based former Replacements bassist hang when he’s in town? The Loon Café. “Their food’s pretty decent,” according to Tommy.


Haley Graham Tolbert


Houston rap wild man Riff Raff hangs up on City Pages when we ask him about the time he spent attending Hibbing Community College. “I cut him three weeks into the season,” his former college basketball coach writes in our comments section. “Wasn’t a fan of his basketball skills and definitely not a fan of his music.”

Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles releases Furnace, under the name Dead Man Winter, with lyrics influenced by his recent divorce. “This was... almost like a vomit of lyrics that came out of that experience,” he tells City Pages. “It still makes me nervous, not having any kind of veil or a metaphor.”

Ron Upton, a beloved member of the Twin Cities music community, dies at the age of 58. Upton was a door man at the Uptown Bar until it closed in 2009, and he later worked at Cause Spirits and Mortimer’s.

A huge selection of Prince’s albums, including his ’80s classics, begins streaming on Spotify for the first time. Countless stingy millennials who have never been in a record store finally get to hear Sign o’ the Times.


Following an extensive rehab project, the Palace Theatre re-opens as a music venue in St. Paul, owned by the city and managed by First Avenue. Atmosphere, the Jayhawks, and Phantogram play the first three shows on opening weekend.

Much-hyped young local pop-rockers Hippo Campus release their first full-length album, Landmark. “I feel like the new record is less bouncy compared to our older stuff, and probably different from what people are expecting,” singer and guitarist Nathan Stocker tells City Pages.

Haley Bonar makes the “very personal and joyful decision” to drop her surname and begin performing as simply “Haley,” citing the crude jokes she endured and to shed patriarchal baggage. Sez Haley: “Let’s face it folks, we all come from a vagina!”

Rock ’n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry dies at the age of 90. His final album, Chuck, released posthumously, ain’t bad.


Lil Wayne doesn’t make it to his Target Center show; concertgoers don’t learn that he’s canceled until after all the opening acts have performed. This was Weezy’s third Twin Cities cancellation in three years, and Go 95.3 boycotts the rapper’s music in protest.

With owner Arnellia Allen confronting “major health issues,” the St. Paul supper club Arnellia’s closes after a 25-year run. The closing announcement describes Allen (accurately) as “the Black Joan Collins of a modern day Dynasty.”

Bob Dylan releases a rap album and Allan Kingdom puts out another album of standards. Oh wait, we got that backward. Anyway, both Kingdom’s Lines and Dylan’s Triplicate are pretty snazzy collections.

A surprise—and, oops, illegal—Prince EP appears online, and is then almost immediately yoinked from circulation. The tracks on Deliverance were recorded with engineer Ian Boxill, who finished and distributed them before the folks at Paisley Park got wise.


Chuck Berry


Treehouse Records owner Mark Trehus announces that the historic record store on the corner of 26th and Lyndale will close at the end of 2017. Formerly Oarjokefolkopus, the store was the epicenter of Minneapolis punk in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Minneapolis singer and guitarist Jesse Larson, who gigs around town in the band MPLS, finishes in fourth place on the TV singing contest The Voice, a show that’s featured a fair amount of Minnesota talent over the years.

A probate judge in Carver County officially announces who Prince’s heirs are, but the settlement of the superstar’s estate hits a snag when Universal demands to back out of a licensing deal for a chunk of Prince’s catalog.

Rhymesayers present their 10th annual Soundset festival at the State Fairgrounds, with both national performers (including Lauryn Hill and Travis Scott) and plenty of local rap talent.


Justin Vernon’s third annual two-day Eaux Claires festival in Wisconsin is once more a success, despite a few downpours, with Chance the Rapper and Wilco headlining.


Sonny Knight

Stokley Williams, the lead singer of veteran Minneapolis R&B act Mint Condition, releases his first solo album, the excellent Introducing Stokley.

Purple Rain is remixed and reissued with bonus tracks—the first we get to hear of the music stashed away in Prince’s storied vault. The re-released tracks sound better than ever; the newly released tracks are terrific too.

Revered Twin Cities soul man Sonny Knight dies of lung cancer at age 69. A longtime mainstay of the local music scene, Knight found acclaim late in life when he released his 2014 comeback album, I’m Still Here, on Secret Stash Records.


The new owners of the Varsity Theater announce that they will soon be hosting live music again. Sex abuse allegations against the Varsity’s previous owner, Jason McLean, had all but shut down the Dinkytown venue.

KFAI shakes up its programming schedule. In the community radio station’s biggest move, former Current and Go DJ Barb Abney is paired with young KFAI volunteer Miss Brit to host a morning show.

The summer concert season gets underway with Guns N’ Roses rocking U.S. Bank Stadium and both Billy Joel and Florida Georgia Line filling Target Field—all in one weekend. 


Chad Hanks

The Minneapolis Armory, best known as the site where the videos for Prince’s “1999” and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” were shot, announces that it will open as a massive music venue in time for New Year’s Eve.


Justin Vernon announces a January 2018 music festival in Cancun called Days Have No Numbers, but almost immediately cancels the affair amid fan complaints about the high ticket prices.

Minneapolis attorney Aaron Wayne Davis is placed on “administrative leave” by his firm when City Pages publicizes the fact that he runs the neo-Nazi metal label Behold Barbarity.

It’s a bad month for white supremacy all around. Jake Rudh pulls his Transmission dance party from Club Jäger after City Pages reveals that the bar’s owner contributed to David Duke’s Senate campaign.

Donna Grantis, the guitarist in Prince’s late-career band 3rdEyeGirl, premieres her new group—featuring local musicians Bryan Nichols, JT Bates, Cody McKinney, and Suphala—at the Dakota.


Grant Hart dies at age 56 of complications from liver cancer and hepatitis C. As the drummer for Hüsker Dü and one of the group’s two principal songwriters, Hart helped put Twin Cities punk on the map in the ’80s.

U2 performs at U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s the third and final concert at the new football arena this year, following G N’ R in July and Coldplay in August. Justin Bieber, who was also scheduled for the Bank in 2017, canceled his tour.

The promising young St. Paul rapper Poppy Loco dies in Hennepin County Medical Center from gunshot wounds, one day after his 24th birthday.

Duluth folk musician Charlie Parr releases a new album, Dog, and opens up about his long struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. “I want to live a life where I’m not ashamed,” Parr tells City Pages.


Rumors that Justin Timberlake will headline the halftime show for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in February 2018 turn out to be true. Timberlake last performed at the Super Bowl in 2004, where he played a part in the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” that would unfairly hobble Janet Jackson’s career.

Two essential new books about Minnesota music history are published: Andrea Swensson’s Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound and Chris Riemenschneider’s First Avenue: Minnesota’s Mainroom.

Rock ’n’ roll loses two of the greats. New Orleans piano man and ’50s hitmaker Fats Domino dies at the age of 89, and beloved heartland rocker Tom Petty dies at 66.

The Current hires local MC, educator, and activist Toki Wright to host a hip-hop show. 


After 19 years, the Triple Rock Social Club, which had been integral in the development of the local punk, hip-hop, and metal scenes in the Twin Cities, closes for good. Club co-owner Erik Funk’s band Dillinger Four and Detroit hardcore legends Negative Approach play the final show on November 21.

Thomas Abban, a young (and mysterious) singer and guitarist who built local buzz throughout 2017, wins City Pages’ 27th annual Picked to Click poll.

Minneapolis and St. Paul both elect new mayors. Ahead of Election Day, City Pages asked the prominent candidates what one album they’d want to have if they were stranded a desert island. St. Paul mayor-elect Melvin Carter III chooses Earth, Wind & Fire’s Greatest Hits while Minneapolis’ next mayor, Jacob Frey, picks an audiobook, How to Build a Boat.

Chad Hanks, the bassist for Minneapolis nu-metal band American Head Charge, dies at age 46 after a long illness.


Numero Group releases Savage Young Dü, a box set of some of Hüsker Dü’s earliest recordings. The artfully packaged release is the first in a planned series of remasters and previously unreleased tracks.

Whiskey Junction announces that it will close at the end of 2017. The bar’s owners blame Minneapolis’ recent decision to increase the minimum wage to $15—though that will not take full effect till 2024.

The Whittier dive bar Mortimer’s, under new ownership, begins booking live music. Punk veterans Likehell will headline the first show on December 27, which is also the birthday of late Mort’s doorman Ron Upton.

In its annual “Year in Band Names” feature, the A.V. Club commends three Twin Cities bands for their monikers, including the Controversial New 'Skinny Pill.' “I believe it was City Pages earlier this year that mused aloud whether we would even still be a band by the end of the year, and while we have in no way exploded in popularity since then, we haven’t exploded apart either,” the band’s Skyler Nowinski tells us. “There’s probably some poetry there!” Congrats to TCNSP—and to you, City Pages readers—for surviving 2018. Probably. Unless I have just catastrophically jinxed us all.

Read more about the year in music here, and check out our staff and contributors' year-end lists here.

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