The Year in Music 2007

Nick Vlcek

The RIAA came to Minnesota for a major victory. Local radio suffered some minor setbacks. The underground scene lost its Church, and the 400 Bar lost a few bricks. From the Prince-a-thon to the unexpected notoriety of Tay Zonday to the marriage of the DJ and fashion scenes, we reflect back on the 2007 experience.


A homebody graduate student at the U of M sets his academic pursuits aside for a moment to join YouTube. Adam Behnar, alone in his room with a webcam and a keyboard, has begun his transformation into Tay Zonday. The kid who sings "Chocolate Rain" in James Earl Jones's voice will be the source of a million "WTF?"s across the internet by the time fall semester begins. Eventually, he'll appear on Jimmy Kimmel, open for Girl Talk at First Ave, and make a commercial video for Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper. But in January, he's still Googling "Zonday" to make sure no one else got there first.


Longtime acoustic duo Storyhill celebrate the release of their latest (self-titled) record with a show at Dinkytown's Varsity Theater on Valentine's Day. But when the fire marshal, apparently a fan of polished folk harmonizing, shows up, he finds a venue packed too tightly for his liking. The event is shut down, the Varsity admits it oversold tickets and apologizes to fans, and the concert is rescheduled. The upside? The Varsity adheres to its laughably low official capacity from this point on, making it the best place in town to see a sold-out show. Seriously, everyone could comfortably ride unicycles around inside. Or are unicycles always uncomfortable rides?


The third annual Voltage: Fashion Amplified show easily sells out First Avenue. The pairing of the fashion and music scenes was a novelty when organizer Anna Lee introduced the event in 2004. But by 2007, it's as common as peanut butter and jelly. Local fashion magazine L'Etoile and its savvy events blog chart the weekly happenings where popular DJs lay down the score for the latest thing coming down the catwalk (in an art gallery). The cross-pollination of the art, style, and music scenes infuses all parties with new flair and energy.


Free alternative weekly paper The Pulse had covered the local music scene with such low-budget diligence and enthusiasm that a friend (who'd apparently overlooked the South American action bulletins and city politics coverage) mistook it for a 100-percent music rag. Yet with the end of its print run in sight, publisher Ed Felien unceremoniously fires music editor Steve McPherson. The paper hobbles along for another month or two as an online-only endeavor before ceasing publication.


Ah, the Church—possibly the coolest venue in the city, though not really legally a venue, and definitely not an active place of worship. A place of free expression and filth, a studio for artists and a tour stop for experimental musicians, the deconsecrated Olivet Methodist chapel hosts underground events for 15 years before the property is sold to the neighboring Children's Hospital. In a world where fire codes and insurance concerns and smoking bans and ID checks have made the scene starchy (if safe, yawn), it was a divine miracle that the place managed to survive as long as it did. Despite some 11th-hour efforts to save it, the Church holds its last show in June, and by November it is demolished.


Prince blows into town to transform a dubious PR event—the release of his signature fragrance—into a triple-show blowout. The highlight is his decision to play a late-night gig at First Avenue, his first in 20 years. The dearly devoted park themselves on hot sidewalks to snag one of the $31.21 tickets. Heartbreakingly, mounted police disappoint the sunburned hordes when they shut the show down after little more than an hour. But a few months later, Prince demonstrates that no one uses pointlessly rigid law enforcement to sap the joy of Prince fandom like the man himself. His lawyers send cease-and-desist notices ordering the removal of his likeness from various Prince fan websites. His fans, defending their right to post pictures of their Prince tattoos, threaten to sue to protect their rights to fair use.

Music blog Reveille launches. The Rev squad includes former City Pages writer Jim Walsh, ex-Pulse music editor Steve McPherson, and some of the more prominent local bloggers—More Cowbell's Kyle Matteson, HowWasTheShow's Andrea Myers, and Rob van Alstyne. The website hosts band interviews, show previews, CD reviews, and even a column by unhinged Alaskan Tom Hallett. (After some Michaelangelo Matos-penned criticism of Hallett's column on Idolator, Hallett, permanently stuck in rant gear, is sacked.)


Just a wink over the river from downtown, Northeast enjoys the advantage of an elegant one-tavern-and-church-per-street-corner ratio. But its live music scene was a bit lacking until the revitalized 331 Bar came along with a winning program of seven nights of entertainment and zero nights of cover charges per week. This year, Stasiu's Place threw its hat into the ring. Booked by Ouija Radio frontwoman Christy Hunt, the Nordeast dive most famous for its urinals now hosts local indie bands (for a nominal cover) on weekends.

Over on the West Bank, the brick facade on the corner of the 400 Bar partially crumbles off. The damage is superficial, and the club is evacuated. KARE 11 reports that one person was hit by a falling brick but had only minor injuries. The building is still structurally sound, and the repairs could be a positive step for the venue, which tends toward a waterlogged squishiness during rainstorms.


Benefit concerts for the victims of the 35W bridge collapse give emotional and financial support to the survivors. Events include the hip-hop gig "A Time to Build" at the Entry, a first-(venue)-responder August fundraiser at the Fine Line, and a late-September blowout at First Ave. The scene particularly rallies around one of its own—Mercedes Gorden, a severely injured dancer whose fiancé is longtime Transmission DJ Jake Rudh. Tapes 'n Tapes headline her relief concert as she becomes a public voice for the worried wounded and their families-turned-caregivers.


The Recording Industry Association of America wins its first file-sharing jury trial, in Duluth. Brainerd resident Jammie Thomas is found liable for copyright violation after making songs available for download on the website Kazaa. Thomas, who maintained that she was not actually a Kazaa user, was ordered to pay $9,250 for each of the 24 songs named in the case. The RIAA has filed tens of thousands of lawsuits against illegal downloaders in the past four years, and this victory seems to ensure that defendants in such suits will continue to accept settlement offers.

The Foo Fighters perform on Saturday Night Live, and onstage with them is none other than the Twin Cities' own Jessy Greene. The violinist (and proud Gasthof's waitress), who performs with acts ranging from Dessa to the Jayhawks to Romantica, spent the latter half of 2007 touring with Dave Grohl's rock band.


Longtime Cities 97 radio DJ Jason Nagal is fired by Clear Channel higher-ups. His Sunday-night show, Minnesota Music, had given local acts a shot at airplay on the alt-rock station. Earlier in the year, hometown bands had lost another place on the airwaves when Sunday evening's Homegrown with David Campbell got canned in the Drive 105-to-Love 105 transition. So who's hanging in there? Over at the Current, Chris Roberts's (what else?) Local Show is still going strong on (when else?) Sunday nights. When Roberts went abroad for three months this fall, Campbell even got a crack at hosting the broadcast.


Andrew Broder's band Fog draws a review on Pitchfork for its latest album, Ditherer. Other local bands who got national exposure this year include Cloud Cult, for their Meaning of 8 release, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie for The Patron, Low for Drums and Guns, Romantica for America, Brother Ali for The Undisputed Truth, and the ever-popular Motion City Soundtrack.

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