What happened? A timeline of notable and sometimes nutty Minnesota music news for 2018.

Gully Boys

Gully Boys Emily Utne

The calendar tells me it’s been less than 12 months since January 1, 2018, though it feels like at least 12 times that many. Here’s what happened in the time since.


The Twin Cities region prepares itself for the coming onslaught of Super Bowl 52. Out in Chanhassen, the City Council grants Paisley Park’s request for permission to serve liquor during a special Super Bowl-related event. Prince fans gripe that it’s not what the teetotaling Jehovah’s Witness would have wanted; further gripes accumulate after halftime performer Justin Timberlake announces that he’ll be holding a listening party at Prince’s home.

In another blow to live music on the West Bank, the Viking Bar closes. The joint, once one of the hotbeds of the Minneapolis folk scene, had just reopened in May 2016 under new ownership, after a decade of dormancy.

Local fellas Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis whip together an event called Super Bowl Live to showcase Minnesota music in a series of concerts held outdoors on the newly refurbished Nicollet Mall. Performers include Prince associates such as Sheila E., the Time, the Revolution, and the New Power Generation; rockers like Bob Mould, Soul Asylum, and the Jayhawks; and Idina Menzel, who is roasted by Minnesotans for suggesting on Twitter that 47 degrees is cold.



Astralblak Graham Gardner

The Super Bowl happens. Justin Timberlake does a weak-ass Prince tribute during an otherwise acceptable halftime performance. A whole bunch of famous people come to town, including Cardi B, who draws fire for “appearing” at pricey events rather than performing, and not including Travis Scott, who’s criticized for not even appearing at a scheduled show at Myth.

As expected, McNally Smith College of Music, which abruptly shut its doors just before Christmas the previous year, declares bankruptcy. The for-profit music school auctions off its building and equipment for about $1 million later in the year—less than a sixth of what it owes to creditors, including employees and students.

Local rap/R&B crew ZuluZuluu, winners of the 2016 Picked to Click poll, change their name to Astralblak, for reasons of cultural respect. Later in the year, they release a new album, Seeds.

Norm Rogers, the early Jayhawks drummer who went on to play with Cows and worked as a bartender at Brit’s Pub for years after that, dies at the age of 61.

Two historic venues reopen. In Dinkytown, the Varsity Theater, under new ownership and hoping to put the dark Jason McLean years behind it, begins booking music again. And up in Duluth, the renovated NorShor Theater is back in business.


After operating for 18 years as a treasure trove of used media—video games, vinyl, CDs, DVDs, and the like—Discland in Bloomington closes up shop.

Aspiring 19-year-old St. Paul rapper BillyThaKid (birth name Billy Robles) dies from gunshot wounds after a fight breaks out on a party bus in Inver Grove Heights.


Bob Dylan, who has advertised everything from women’s undies to luxury cars, begins shilling his own brand of whiskey, Heaven’s Door. (You know, like the song, but without the knocking.) Shortly afterward, he’s sued by the whiskey manufacturer Heaven Hill for choosing too similar a name, which wouldn’t be the first time Bob’s been accused of plagiarism. Still, you’d think booze peddlers wouldn’t want their brand name to remind people of death, right?

Cameron Heacock, the frontman of Minneapolis hard-rock band American Head Charge, is arrested in California while driving a stolen van filled with 13 no-less-stolen guitars. Not recommended.

Minnesota celebrates Prince on the second anniversary of his death with a series of events around town. We also learn that a Prince memoir will be published and that 35 of his albums will be reissued.

After Dessa sings the national anthem at the Twins home opener, a bald eagle flips out and attacks Mariners pitcher James Paxton. (Neither man nor fowl is injured.) The rest of Dessa’s year goes much better: She releases an excellent new album, Chime, and her equally fine essay collection, My Own Devices.


Minnesota state representative Ilhan Omar appears in the video for Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You.” In November, she’s elected to Congress from Minnesota’s 5th district. Coincidence? (Yes.)

Another Memorial Day weekend means another successful Soundset. The intense heat doesn’t discourage rap fans of all (but mostly young) ages from packing together at the fairgrounds to see the likes of Logic, Erykah Badu, a reunited Wu-Tang Clan, and Migos, whose set is cut short after they make a tardy appearance.


As Har Mar Superstar launches a series of well-attended Sam Cooke tribute shows, local producer Afrokeys calls the white singer out for cultural appropriation. Happily (and unusually for this kind of internet spat), the confrontation leads to a productive conversation, and Har Mar pledges to donate a portion of the proceeds to African-American community organizations.

What is it with Twin Cities musicians and name changes? Caroline Smith becomes the latest sorta-local (she’s based in L.A. these days) to get in on the trend as she recasts herself as Your Smith. Later in the year, she releases Bad Habit, an EP, under the new name.

Nineteen-year-old Kaitlyn Strom from Litchfield, Minnesota, becomes an instant hero to millions (or at least about three of us in the City Pages office) when she gets her head stuck in a truck tailpipe at the Winstock country music festival. “Yeah I’m the tail pipe girl whachu know about it?” she announces on social media.


Hymie’s Vintage Records on East Lake Street goes up for sale. Owners Laura and Dave Hoenack, who bought the beloved 30-year-old Minneapolis record shop biz from Jim “Hymie” Peterson 10 years earlier, explain that they want to spend more time with their kids.

Universal Music demands that YouTube take down a video that the Star Tribune’s Aaron Lavinsky shot of thousands singing “Purple Rain” in the street outside of First Avenue on the night of Prince’s death. For once, people getting mad about something on the internet matters: Universal soon backtracks and the video returns.

Thomas Abban, the winner of the 2017 City Pages Picked to Click poll, signs to RCA Records, which reissues his album A Sheik’s Legacy. We can’t promise other musicians that winning P2C will get them signed to major labels, but, hey, apparently it doesn’t hurt.

Runway Studios in Edina, the building that once housed Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ Flyte Tyme Studios, where Janet Jackson and other superstars recorded, is sold to a housing developer.


The State Fair begins. City Pages sends Ryan Warner to review every single Grandstand show—yes, even the Beach Boys—and either he survived the ordeal or his next of kin were able to cash the check we sent him.

In a bold move that shocks the radio industry, Cities 97 rebrands... as Cities 97.1. We’re still reeling.

Catalyst Music, the nonprofit that operates the all-ages club the Garage in Burnsville, announces that it will be opening a second, more centrally located all-ages venue at the Old Swedish Bank Building in St. Paul.


Prince receives an honorary degree from the University of Minnesota. Though he didn’t live to receive the honor, he’d been told it was in the works before his death. His response? “Cool.”

The Parkway Theater on Chicago Avenue reopens, showing movies and booking comedy in addition to serving as a much needed music venue in south Minneapolis.

First Avenue buys another club just up the road, the not exactly beloved Fine Line Music Cafe, which City Pages had recently ranked as the worst venue in the Twin Cities. Did First Avenue buy any other properties in 2018? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out.


Well, what do you know? In the second of two major real estate purchases this year, First Avenue buys the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul from MPR. It seems these folks are in it for the long haul.

Gully Boys officially become the best new music act in Minnesota as they win the 2018 edition of Picked to Click, City Pages’ annual poll of local music know-it-alls.

The Hold Steady return to Minnesota to play SurlyFest, their first Twin Cities show since opening for the Replacements in 2014. They also play their first ever shows at the 7th St. Entry—an all-ages matinee and an evening drunk show.

Viva Beck, beloved for the quirky cable-access TV show she put together with her husband, Jerry, for more than 20 years, Viva and Jerry’s Country Music Videos, dies at the age of 79.

The local music community rallies around Aaron “Hix” Lee of Red Daughters after a mugger shoots and wounds him in northeast Minneapolis.


The long-running Punk Rock Bowling Monday series at Memory Lanes announces that its final show will be in December. Why? “The bowling alley figured out that they could make way more money selling bowling than live music,” says booker Tom Burt.

After more than six years as morning show host at Cities 97.1, Keri Noble announces that she’s leaving radio to focus on her music.


Dave Rusan, the designer of Prince’s Cloud guitar, tries to fend off an attempt by attorneys for the Prince estate to challenge his trademark on the iconic instrument. “It’s my legacy,” Rusan protests.

And finally, looking ahead to 2019, the Minnesota State Fair announces its first two Grandstand bookings: Hootie and the Blowfish and “Weird” Al Yankovic.

Read music editor Keith Harris' overview the year in music (along with his year-end lists) here. And check out our other editors' and contributors' year-end lists here.