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Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

With an endless supply of watering hole options in Minneapolis and St. Paul, it's gotta be hard for a discerning music fan to make a call on which bar he or she is going to wander into, order a beer, and get some quality live entertainment. The pressure of narrowing down the options is daunting, which is why Gimme Noise compiled an ultimate short list to go have a PBR or two, and hear tasteful music performed by talented folks they recognize from the organic grocer, the fair-trade coffee shop, and definitely other bars on the list. (RIP, Uptown Bar.)

Here's our top ten bars in the Twin Cities with local music on tap.

See Also:
The 14 Twin Cities college bands you need to hear
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Ryan Cutler

10. Amsterdam Bar and Hall
6 W. 6th St., St. Paul

The Amsterdam Bar and Hall has added notable intrigue to its downtown St. Paul surroundings. Aside from the Dutch-inspired cuisine and drinks (Curried yam kroket, anyone?), the Amsterdam follows the same calendar format that its sister club the 331 does: easy, approachable music that doesn't scare anyone away, plus some Trivia Mafia sprinkled in each week for good measure. With two stages and multiple configurations for the large, welcoming room, and Eclipse Records right next door, it's a veritable compound at Wabasha and 6th Street. What would we do without it? Plus, the Amsterdam may be the only honest-to-God bar in town that has Heineken, Amstel Light, and Duvel on tap. They were serious about the Dutch thing, guys. Really serious.

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Hilary Stein

9. Memory Lanes and Flashback Café
101 Glenwood Ave. N., Minneapolis

Herein lies the magic of Memory Lanes: some good old-fashioned bowling alongside local music -- with a decked-out stage in the middle of the lanes. With the ironic flair of the bowling shoes, and a third pitcher of beer, it's awful close to heaven. The cherry on top comes with the Flashback Café, which ensures that no matter how many Jameson-gingers you toss back, there will always be tater-tots available. Punk Bowl goes down every Monday, Rock 'n' Roll Bingo settles in on Wednesday, but rockin' times are had every day of the week.

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Steve Cohen

8. Lee's Liquor Lounge
101 Glenwood Ave. N., Minneapolis

It's hard to pinpoint what the best part of Lee's Liquor Lounge is: the old-school paneling on the walls, the brown-and-cream-checkered tile floor, the taxidermy, the neon signs and pink stage lights, or the history of the bar itself that traces back several decades now. Maybe it's that when you step into Lee's, you kind of feel like you just stepped into a Texas roadhouse, minus the accents and the cowboy boots. The music at Lee's is as dependable as the drinks there, featuring entertainment in one form or another every night of the week. Between monthly appearances by a Johnny Cash tribute band (Church of Cash), a Van Morrison tribute band (the Belfast Cowboys), Classic Country Mondays, and a GLBT Country Barn Dance, there's never a bad night at this low-key joint.

 

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

7. Icehouse
2528 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis

With its sleek, dark interiors, icy lighting, and $5 sipping shots, Icehouse is like the sexy new girl next door: tempting, exciting, and oh-so-convenient. Even better is the mass of local artists covering the calendar at Icehouse, from JT Bates' Monday Night Jazz Implosion (weekly, featuring a rotating line up) to Showcase Night every Thursday to any number of shows from your favorite local flavors. Located in the highly accessible Whittier neighborhood and featuring late night bites till midnight, a night at Icehouse is a no-brainer. Take our advice: order the howl-worthy Year of the Wolf (tequila and agave nectar) and get comfortable at a shadowy barstool while you enjoy the local talent.

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Mackenzie Orth

6. 331 Club
331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis

The 331 Club is northeast Minneapolis's most dependable spot for both late night music and drinks that don't mess around. The no-frills watering hole is a well-worn sort of place, with a staff as experienced as the barstools, and the 331 invariably ends up keeping most of the neighborhood well liquored. It serves as a comfortable place to wander in, grab a Lone Star, and tap your foot to the lively tunes of the Roe Family Singers -- a 331 staple -- or any host of well-curated local music roster. Plus, there's Trivia Mafia's Drinkin' Spelling Bee, a bi-monthly drinking -- er, spelling contest. If there's anything not to like about the 331, no one's been able to spot it.

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

5. Cause Spirits & Sound Bar
3001 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

It's not a Saturday night in Uptown unless you've been carded by a grizzly bouncer at Cause -- formerly Sauce -- then shuffled your way inside the rowdy club, squished your way through the hallway and into the Sound Bar for dream lineups of locals at high volumes. It's possible to be literally an inch from the night's performers, or to chill in the elevated seating in the back to watch the whole room respond. The experience isn't totally complete until you've bought a CD from the local music vending machine, and slammed a slice of bar pizza.

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

4. Hexagon Bar
2600 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis

Many will argue that the Hexagon Bar in Seward should top this list. Appearance-wise, it's grungiest, most coming-apart-at-the-seams dugout (read: credible) still clinging to life -- even after years of post-Prohibition partying and pre-smoking ban lung abuse. After nearly 80 years in business, the Hex still holds fast to its traditions -- how many other bars in town will offer a meat raffle on Saturdays? The Hex has live music Tuesday through Saturday, and often is the first to book the finest bands from the local house show circuit. There's never a cover and there's usually a drink special, which makes the Hex a perfect place to end your night.

 

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

3. Triple Rock Social Club
629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis

The Triple Rock Social Club is where the hipster meets the punk kid and they acknowledge, somewhat begrudgingly, that things like Free Bacon Wednesdays are too universally awesome to not be celebrated. Whether you're at the Triple Rock for a concert in the Showroom or you're just there for a side of whiskey with your bacon, this West Bank mainstay is a gold standard guarantee for good times. Plenty of local, national, and international acts favor the simple stage, easy sight lines, and straightforward, no-frills service; if walls could talk, the ones within the T-Rock would probably have the wildest stories. Between Triple Double Tuesdays (featuring Triple Double DJs in the Showroom and 241's on rail drinks and taps) and Free Bacon Wednesdays (seriously, genius), who needs the weekend?

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

2. Turf Club / Clown Lounge
1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul

Upstairs is a whiskey-soaked bar that happens to have a stage hosting arguably the best slate of rotating local residencies; downstairs is a basement lounge with wood paneling on the walls, a tiny back corner stage, and a vintage jukebox. The Turf Club and its underground Clown Lounge make up a well-worn St. Paul landmark with character (and characters) galore. Just enough booths gushing their foam stuffing and the endless array of random knick-knacks behind the bars are endearing distractions during breaks in the music. Since Turf is stranded in the Midway limbo between the bustle of Minneapolis and the heart of St. Paul make it an underdog, and what hipster can't help but root for the underdog? The next time you're on your way to the Turf, walking past the porn shops and that weird Chinese buffet that's always open and perpetually empty, take a moment to appreciate what a true gem of a place it is, and avert your eyes from the Light Rail tracks.

Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Photo by Erik Hess

1. 7th St. Entry
701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis

When it comes to the history, nothing beats the 7th Street Entry. The intimate, squished little side-room garage of a space has seen enough gigs to have lived its 43-year 30-plus-year history a million times over, and there's an understanding that local album release shows here can be game-changing. The sound at the Entry always manages to make the band sound somehow slightly better, the audience somehow significantly more attractive -- or that could just be the magic of the PBR tallboys and black walls. Without even trying too hard, the 7th Street Entry has become the hip venue by which all other hip venues are judged -- and very rarely do the others match the venerated charm. 


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