Year in Music 2014: A Twin Cities Rock 'n' Roll Yearbook

Jeremy Messersmith had a royal year.

Jeremy Messersmith had a royal year.

Sifting through every Vine, every Facebook invite, every opinionated 140-character review, and every impassioned show during a year -- hell, even a single day -- in the Twin Cities music community would be impossible. But plenty of us can't help but watch the familiar cycles of creative growth and decay with anticipation for what is yet to come.

Before Gimme Noise closes a chapter and starts a new one for 2015, here are the stories that were particularly uplifting, strange, sad, or a bit of all three from the past year.

See also:
The 20 Best Twin Cities Concerts of 2014


• Before Weird Al Yankovic gets to Lorde, Minnesota-bred Molly Dworsky (as "Borde") parodies "Royals." She turns it into a viral statement about being useless after graduating from Hopkins High. Later in the year, as "Scorde" she takes on the Kiwi's hit "Team."

Molly Dworsky makes us hear "Royals" like never before.

Molly Dworsky makes us hear "Royals" like never before.

• Local label Forged Artifacts (France Camp, Gloss, Observer Drift, etc.) joins New York-based Frenchkiss Records Label Group.

• First Avenue's picks for the Best New Bands of 2013 take over the mainroom and 7th St. Entry. Rock and soul group Black Diet, who later win's Are You Local? contest and release debut Find Your Tambourine, set themselves apart as one of the year's festival favorites. The rest of the formidable bill boasts Allan Kingdom, BBGUN, Frankie Teardrop, Fury Things, GRRRL PRTY, and Southwire.

• We assembled an oral history of 89.3 the Current for the station's ninth anniversary.

Bob Dylan awkwardly provides a voiceover and appears in a Chrysler ad aired during the Super Bowl. He ends the spot by reading this copy: "So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. We... will build... your car."


Drone Not Drones founder Luke Heiken orchestrates a 28-hour benefit concert at the Cedar. Low, Dosh, BNLX, and dozens more take turns adding to a continuous wave of experimental noise as a crowd morphs from standing to curling up in sleeping bags.

• Mysterious teenage R&B singer Spooky Black's "Without U" video arrives. The internet goes nuts for his Black Silk and Leaving releases, which combine a sense of humor and a sweet voice that even entices rap mogul DJ Khaled.

Heiruspecs bassist Sean McPherson unveils Too Big to Fail, the jazz-soul fusion debut of his Twinkie Jiggles Broken Orchestra side project. Then in April, he reteams with the St. Paul rap group to put out their first album in six years, Night Falls.

See also:
The Jeremy Messersmith Index


• Following 18 months of touring, garage punks Howler show no signs of a sophomore slump on World of Joy. With ex-Prissy Clerks Howard Hamilton and Clara Salyer's new band Whatever Forever opening, the guys decorate the Triple Rock with balloons for their release show and then tear the place up.

• Both Barely Brothers Records and Agharta Records celebrate grand openings in St. Paul.

• Big shows include Miley Cyrus at Xcel, Perfect Pussy at the Entry, and the Arcade Fire with a dress code at Target Center featuring a cover of Prince's "Controversy." Future Islands talk to us about their breakout performance on Letterman and keep up the intensity at Triple Rock.

Jeremy Messersmith enjoys his most exposure yet following the release of <em>Heart Murmurs</em>. More on that <a href="" target="_blank">over here</a>.

Jeremy Messersmith enjoys his most exposure yet following the release of Heart Murmurs. More on that over here.

• The Current and Twin Cities Public Television announce a hip-hop event to be staged at the Fitzgerald in May. After a public meeting to discuss the event, several members of the hip-hop community sign an open letter expressing concerns about its format and planning process. After more public discourse, the event is postponed indefinitely.

• RIP: Gary Burger of the Monks, rapper Dodi Phy.


St. Vincent showcases a new self-titled album of synthesizer-meets-scorched earth guitar at the State. In a tightly scripted performance, she turns herself into an android who can shred like a virtuoso and lets out a "YA?" to make the Scandis proud.

• Volunteer-run record store Extreme Noise marks 20 years in business with three celebratory and punk as fuck weekends: Triple Rock in April, Memory Lanes in June, and In the Heart of the Beast in October.

• The Minneapolis City Council passes an ordinance requiring all venues and bars with Class A and Class B liquor licenses to provide free earplugs. Dispensers and plugs to fulfill the program are donated by 3M. We ask "Can Minneapolis make earplugs cool?"

The Howler lineup earlier this year. Max Petrek (far left) later leaves the band.

The Howler lineup earlier this year. Max Petrek (far left) later leaves the band.

• The building that used to be home to St. Paul metal and punk venue Station 4 is put up for sale.



Atmosphere take back the headlining slot for Soundset's seventh event to celebrate the release of Southsiders. The gorgeous afternoon attracts a sell-out crowd of 30,000 to Canterbury Park for everyone from Flatbush Zombies to Nas to Toki Wright previewing Pangaea. The day almost doesn't feature Wiz Khalifa, who is busted with pot in Texas earlier in the weekend.

• Ex-Journey frontman Steve Perry makes a surprise cameo during the Eels show at the Fitzgerald to sing "It's a Motherfucker" and Journey classics "Open Arms" and "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'."

• Powerful new albums come courtesy of retro soul singer Sonny Knight (I'm Still Here), Haley Bonar with keyboards and heavy guitars in her holsters (Last War), the politically engaged rhyming of Muja Messiah (God Kissed It the Devil Missed It), and the trippy hip-hop production of Psymun (Pink Label).

St. Vincent puts on a mystifying show at the State.

St. Vincent puts on a mystifying show at the State.


• The Current and Walker Art Center's Rock the Garden expands to two days with De La Soul and Spoon as headliners. Dessa, Lizzo, and Jeremy Messersmith also take part.

• Not only does Taste of Minnesota return with a lackluster lineup heavy on classic rock and country acts, but flooding forces the event to move 40 miles west of Harriet Island to the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia.

• Clear Channel's Alt 93.3 enters the FM airwaves and is met with immediate scorn.

• Big shows come courtesy of Australian stars a generation apart -- Courtney Barnett at the Varsity and Nick Cave at the State. Also, the unpredictable Lauryn Hill turns in a winner at First Avenue. Females in rock series Girl Germs launches at First Avenue and Heliotrope makes its return.


Sonny Knight releases <em>I'm Still Here</em> and takes over the summer festivals.

Sonny Knight releases I'm Still Here and takes over the summer festivals.

• After a solo EP from Dave Simonett earlier in the year, Trampled by Turtles unveil the results of their atmospheric collaboration with producer Alan Sparhawk, Wild Animals. The Duluth Americana pickers' experimentation pays off beautifully, and sets the stage for their first Festival Palomino event at Canterbury Park.

Cause Spirits & Soundbar's fifth anniversary party quickly morphs into a weekend of shows marking the Lyn-Lake venue's closing. Rumors circulate that it would become a sports bar, then a crowd-funding campaign is linked to a rumored Cause comeback slated for the fall. It has yet to reopen.

• Imagine Dragons and Atmosphere perform a free show at TCF Stadium during Major League Baseball's All-Star Weekend. MC/VL return, but charge admission.

• City Pages hosts its second 10 Thousand Sounds Festival with Poliça playing their only local show of the year (until New Year's Eve, anyhow). Sylvan Esso, Allan Kingdom, Carroll, Frankie Teardrop, and Tree Blood fill out the downtown party.

Desdamona is a rappin' lunch lady in a Kmart ad.

• We go nuts taking a cardboard cutout of Prince everywhere in Minneapolis.

• After some viral social media attention, eight-year-old Dylan Spoering plays a piano recital on the porch of his south Minneapolis home in the rain to a crowd of hundreds.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, of course.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, of course.


Sir Paul McCartney breaks Target Field's streak of full-stadium country shows. Looking upright, healthy, and just the right amount of shaggy, the 72-year-old mugs and strums like a man half his age on a day Gov. Mark Dayton dedicates to him.

• Following a summer of silence, the Turf Club reopens with a new kitchen, bathrooms, and a higher ceiling among its renovations. Its opening-night soiree features a twangy cocktail of Dead Man Winter, Frankie Lee, the Cactus Blossoms, and Erik Koskinen. We love it.

Totally Gross National Product's yearly party at Icehouse signals the return of Andrew Broder's Fog after six years, features a laser-bathed Leisure Birds set, and brings out Ryan Olson and Zach Coulter's white-suited Taggert & Rosewood personas. No sign of Jason Feathers, though.

• RIP: Run Westy Run founding member Kyle Johnson, and local music scribe Tom Hallett.


Trampled by Turtles released <em>Wild Animals</em> and launched Festival Palomino.

Trampled by Turtles released Wild Animals and launched Festival Palomino.


• After playing several festival dates with Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, the Replacements keep it simple in St. Paul. In plaid suits and good humor, the 'Mats finally play a hometown show as the final concert at Midway Stadium before its destruction. "Unsatisfied" and "Skyway" at the end are near perfect.

• Guitar-obsessed Prince reteams with WB and releases two albums, a solo jam called Art Official Age, and a collaboration with his band 3rdEyeGirl called PlectrumElectrum. His banner year also includes the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain (co-star Apollonia returns to mark the occasion), an eight-minute jam on a Chris Rock-hosted Saturday Night Live, and a complete exit from social media.

• Ten years after the release of Ipecac Neat, P.O.S. has a triumphant return to solo performing after getting a new kidney in March. He calls it the Fucking Best Show Ever, and invites out-of-town guests like Busdriver, SZA, and Open Mike Eagle for the downtown bash.

• After a sign debuts in June, the 400 Bar experiment at the Mall of America is called off before it ever opens.

• RIP: Musician and ZVEX Effects wizard Andy Richardson.

Sir Paul McCartney finally played Target Field.

Sir Paul McCartney finally played Target Field.


• Riding high on local hit "Let 'Em Say" with her boo Caroline Smith, Lizzo makes her TV debut on Late Show With David Letterman with "Bus Passes and Happy Meals" and gives the talk show host a huge hug at the end.

• Big gigs include Pearl Jam's three-hour lovefest at the Xcel, Ryan Adams cockily charming Northrop Auditorium, Insane Clown Posse filling Myth with Juggalos, and Low dressing up like ZZ Top for their Halloween show opening for Slowdive at Fine Line. Rappers Stitches and Chief Keef's concerts at the Cabooze get the plug pulled.

• The Ericksons' Bring Me Home proves that their fluid songs can be filtered through electronics, and Southside Desire's self-titled second album tightens their soulful core.


Allan Kingdom wins the 2014 Picked to Click poll -- narrowly edging out fellow St. Paul act on the rise Hippo Campus. In addition to releasing one of the year's dominant hip-hop albums in Future Memoirs, Kingdom creates work with the Stand4rd that makes for a mind-melting experience on record. Two local headlining shows featuring Kingdom, Spooky Black, Bobby Raps, and Psymun sell out and showcase their budding chemistry.

Prince releases two albums -- one with 3rdEyeGirl.

Prince releases two albums -- one with 3rdEyeGirl.

• Garth Brooks and Bob Dylan basically move in. The country legend plays a record sold-out 11 concerts at the Target Center, and proves that Minnesota's appetite for country music is insatiable. Dylan does only three shows at the Orpheum.

• British alt-R&B star FKA Twigs performs at Paisley Park the night after a hotly tipped, sold-out Fine Line show.


• What would a Year in Music be without a Doomtree Blowout? Next year, we'll find out. The hip-hop collective make their 10th string of December shows their last, and throw sold-out shows all over town -- including the Surly Brewery as part of the unveiling of a Doomtree beer. Their next album, All Hands, arrives in January 2015.

• Owners of the 331 Club and Amsterdam Bar & Hall lay out plans to revamp the Como Lakeside Pavilion in 2015, and Nye's Polonaise Room -- home of the World's Most Dangerous Polka Band -- announces it will close. (Some folks react negatively.)

• RIP: Jordan Leininger, bassist for Twin Cities folk-rock act Big Lake.


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