Year in Music 2016: A rock 'n' roll timeline of Minnesota music


Lizzo Atlantic Records

To see why 2016 was the fucking worst for music, click here. Counterpoint: Click here to meet eight local music-makers who rocked 2016. 


The Pohlad media empire launches Go 95.3 FM, the first modern hip-hop frequency in the Twin Cities since 2010. “This is like the Ketel One of rap stations,” boasts music director/DJ Mr. Peter Parker.

Former Minneapolis band Is/Is changes their name for obvious reasons. “[Is/Is] has metamorphosed from an intentional non-signifier to an unintentional reminder of what can be horrible in this world,” reports the indie-rock group that will henceforth be known as Candace.

Longtime Cities 97 DJ Brian Oake jumps ship for 89.3 the Current’s Morning Show. “I’ve always been a fan [of the Current]; this is my music,” he says.

DJ Jake Rudh’s popular Transmission dance night ditches the Varsity Theater as sex-crime allegations against its owner, Jason McLean, mount. Citing the scandal, nationally touring bands Against Me!, Baroness, and Warpaint all nix gigs.

Gaelynn Lea

Gaelynn Lea Michael K. Anderson


“Sweet Lou” Snider, the master barroom pianist for decades at Nye’s Polonaise Room, dies from cancer at 81.

“Are you ready to be entertained? Are you ready to be transformed?” asks Bruce Springsteen as he plunges into his impassioned The River Tour stop at Xcel Energy Center.

Long-running St. Paul music/food/fireworks festival A Taste of Minnesota finally dies. The fest reemerged from bankruptcy in 2014 … to Waconia, Minnesota … with P.O.D. and Foghat.

“I’m bigger than anything you can imagine. This makes Taco Bell big because they got the best-known, most loved, charismatic personality in Minnesota to sell their product,” comic/pitchman “Fancy Ray” McCloney on his Super Bowl ad for Taco Bell’s Quesalupa that took place inside Treehouse Records.


Live music returns to the condo-rich Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, as the James Ballentine VFW Post 246 announces a spiffy new, 400-capacity concert space.

Lizzo signs to Atlantic Records! The irrepressible Minnesota-launched rapper/singer/new MTV host issued her major-label debut, the Coconut Oil EP, in October.

Swedish sad-boy rapper Yung Lean cancels his show at the Fine Line in the wake of online bomb threats.

Duluth’s Gaelynn Lea bests more than 6,000 other entrants to win National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Contest. The inspirational singer/fiddler’s prizes include an enviable Tiny Desk Concert of her own, plus a national tour.


Doors open at The Warming House, the intimate new music venue in south Minneapolis where “anyone can come and sit and listen to music and hear all the words,” says co-founder Brianna Lane.

The collective heart of Minnesota shatters into a million purple pieces as Prince Rogers Nelson is discovered dead of a painkiller overdose at his Paisley Park compound in Chanhassen. The Minneapolis-born music god was 57.

Locals Bobby Raps and DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip score viral fame with “Feed the Streets,” their contribution to the Watch the Stove mixtape issued by General Mills’ meat palletization brand Hamburger Helper. “Honestly, we got a shit-load of Hamburger Helper,” Tiiiiiiiiiip says of the corporately synergized perks.

The legendary Iggy Pop humped amplifiers, writhed on the floor, and effectively behaved like a crazed puppy possessed by rock ’n’ roll at Northrop Auditorium — his first Twin Cities show in 15 years.

"Watch the Stone" album cover by Wale Agboola

"Watch the Stone" album cover by Wale Agboola


Obadiah Gamble, an adorable 7-year-old Vikings fan, captivates YouTube with “Hey Teddy,” his plea for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to attend his birthday party; Bridgewater later heeds the call.

Done fishin’: Storied West Bank tavern/music hall Viking Bar reopens after a decade of dormancy.

Queen Bey and Sir Paul both dazzle Minneapolis, Beyoncé with her unapologically powerful Formation Tour at TCF Bank Stadium and McCartney with his vital-as-ever twofer at Target Center.

ROOT OF ALL EVIL, KFAI’s beloved metal radio show, roars past episode 1,500. “We’ve done everything we can do to keep the show alive and make it grow — I think Earl would be proud of that,” co-host John Allen says of the show’s founder, late local metal hero Earl Root.


No garden or island? No problem for sweaty, strong, temporarily relocated Rock the Garden. The fest didn’t stumble with the Flaming Lips and Chance the Rapper at Minneapolis’ Boom Island Park, which is really more of a peninsula.

Motion City Soundtrack (Photo: Anthony Saint James)

Motion City Soundtrack (Photo: Anthony Saint James)

Not a great month for high-profile concerts, as City Pages writers found Justin Bieber sleepy and uninspired, Macklemore thoroughly wack, and the Cure tiresome. Phish and Sturgill Simpson proved more agreeable.

Minneapolis indie-rap institution Rhymesayers Entertainment signs Sa-Roc — the label’s second non-male rapper in 21 years. “I feel like it’s a step in the right direction,” reports the bruising, metaphysical MC. 

Motion City Soundtrack, our state’s most successful pop-punk exports, call it quits. “I never thought this would be my life, so thank you,” frontman Justin Pierre says at his band’s So Long, Farewell Tour stop at Varsity Theater.


Twin Cities indie-pop stars ON AN ON shut it down three years after striking blog fame. “Someone else will come and be the next buzz band,” frontman Nate Eiesland says. “Getting big should be a byproduct of great work.”

Drake’s irresistibly corny star power shines bright at Xcel Energy Center alongside his Summer Sixteen Tour partner Future.

Tim Kaine begins his Replacements mega-fan campaign, as the Democratic VP candidate reveals that Let It Be is his favorite album. Later stops see him repeatedly name-drop Trouble Boys, the essential new ’Mats bio, and desperately try to bond with U of M students over the ’80s Minneapolis band.

ZULUZULUU (Photo: Sarah White)

ZULUZULUU (Photo: Sarah White)

Urgent update: Senator Kaine weighed in hours after this issue was published: 

“It’s not going to be a party — I write sad songs, you know that, right?” Adele warns at the onset of her awe-inspiring, highly personable show at Xcel.


RIP, Monty Lee Wilkes. The veteran sound engineer for the Replacements, Prince, and First Avenue dies of cancer at 54.

Hello, U.S. Bank Stadium. Bro-country godfather Luke Bryan baptizes the taxpayer-funded $1.1 billion concert space in Miller Lite; hard-rock heavyweights Metallica pummel it with sound the following night.

The Bon Iver ethos radiates from Eaux Claires, the one-of-a-kind music and arts festival from mastermind Justin Vernon and the National’s Aaron Dessner. Vernon uses his Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin, fest to live-debut Bon Iver’s latest, September’s 22, A Million

KING (Photo: Alex King)

KING (Photo: Alex King)

Three months after the surprise closing of Patrick’s Cabaret, it’s announced that Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood will score a new music venue in that space — the Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge, which opened September 2.


’90s rock ’n’ roll reunion fever strikes: Semisonic unveil plans to perform their 1996 debut in its entirety on January 7 at First Ave; ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson reports his Bash & Pop has a new record “coming soon.”

So long, Mill City Nights. The downtown Minneapolis venue that infamously debuted as the Brick shutters after four years. Music Hall Minneapolis is reportedly set to launch in its space.

Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater scores a humdinger of a Minnesota lineup: rap superstar Lizzo, mostly dormant, cult-loved indie-rock faves Lifter Puller, and Rhymesayers heavy-hitters Atmosphere and Brother Ali.

Local standouts Murder Shoes join fellow locals ON AN ONFrankie Teardrop, In Defence, GRRRL PRTY, and Motion City Soundtrack at the great gig in the sky… which is to say they all broke up this year.


They’re not breaking up, but Duluth bluegrass stars Trampled by Turtles thank fans for “for an amazing first chapter” and go on hiatus.

The all-star “Official Prince Tribute Concert” at Xcel Energy Center loses John Mayer and Christina Aguilera at the last minute, but preserveres with five hours of often unforgettable, sometimes regrettable nods to the Purple One.

Fargo-born pop legend Bobby Vee (“Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Suzie Baby”) dies at 73.

Two troubled geniuses deliver the goods: Kanye West with his eye-popping statement of purpose at Xcel, and Beach Boys creative force Brian Wilson with his fragile mastery at the Orpheum Theatre.


If we’re to believe City Pages, and we absolutely should, Picked to Click champions ZULUZULUU are the state’s best new music act. The funky Afrofuturists won our annual poll in a landslide. 

Lizzo tries to lift the nation’s spirits with a rousing performance on the post-election episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Thieves swipe gear from the van of Doomtree rapper Sims, but a GoFundMe campaign quickly recoups the $19,000 in losses.

Our loveable, inscrutable Bob Dylan announces he won’t accept his Nobel Prize for Literature at the December ceremony due to “other commitments.”


Twin Cities music star Dessa earns worldwide exposure with her contribution to the mega-hyped Hamilton Mixtape. Lin-Manuel Miranda, star/creator of the Broadway smash from which it’s inspired, “lives up to — and exceeds — his reputation as a generous, funny, approachable guy,” Dessa says.

Five Minnesota acts net 2017 Grammy nominations — the Okee Dokee Brothers, KING, Mint Condition, Prince, and Eric Timothy Carlson, the local artist behind the artwork of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.

CNN, Huffington Post, TIME, and others hype a pro-consent rewrite of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” from twentysomething Twin Cities singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski.

Bob Dylan doesn’t receive his historic Nobel Prize in person, but the Hibbing-bred icon does supply a brilliantly penned speech for the ceremony in Sweden.