Twin Cities Year in Music 2010: The highlights
Doomtree MC, teacher, poet, and writer Dessa releases her first solo album, A Badly Broken Code, and launches an incredible year of nonstop touring, garnering critical accolades from coast to coast for her stunning blend of hip hop, spoken word, and experimental pop.
Minnesota Public Radio's 89.3 the Current celebrates its fifth birthday with a victory lap at First Avenue so outrageous that even Prince shows up to pay his respects. Mason Jennings, P.O.S., Lookbook, the Twilight Hours, and Solid Gold perform at the party, and both St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak show up to congratulate the station for its support of the local music community.
Noise-rock trio Gay Beast embark on their first European tour, the first of several local acts to make the trek abroad. Brother Ali, Romantica's Ben Kyle and Luke Jacobs (along with fiddler Carrie Rodriguez), Real Numbers, and Banner Pilot are just some of the Minnesota acts to tour Europe in 2010.
Bassgasm debuts at First Avenue, splitting the venue into five performance spaces and inviting dozens of DJs including Derrick Carter and Dieselboy to re-create the rave atmosphere of the '90s inside the cavernous club. Spearheaded by local techno DJ Woody McBride (DJ ESP), the first installment packs the club with dance lovers, leading promoters to book a follow-up, Bassgasm 2, in July.
Electronic music producer Gigamesh, a.k.a. Matt Masurka, is invited to remix Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me" for his debut album. The Gigamesh-remixed single goes on to top the Billboard charts, selling over two million copies and launching Posner's career as a Top 40 artist. Later in the year, Gigamesh jumps on another trend and finds success online with his treatment of the "Double Rainbow" viral video. By the end of the year, he moves to Miami to work full-time with his producer trio DiscoTech.
Local arts program MN Original debuts on Twin Cities Public Television. The new weekly program offers in-depth interviews and video segments on artists, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, and other local creatives. Already in its first year, the show has proven its commitment to documenting our vast and wide-ranging music community; musicians featured on the show have ranged from iconic rockers like the Suburbs and Suicide Commandos to indie-pop act Rogue Valley, mandolinist and fiddler Peter Ostroushko, alt-country pioneers the Jayhawks, jazz singer Debbie Duncan, folk duo the Pines, hip-hop trio No Bird Sing, and many, many more.
Drum-and-guitar duo Peter Wolf Crier are signed to Jagjaguwar, home of fellow Midwest indie bands like Bon Iver and Gayngs. The signing gives their debut album, Inter-Be, national distribution and sends the band out on a series of high-profile tours with bands like Heartless Bastards, Rogue Wave, and Dawes.
P.O.S. jets to the California desert to represent the Twin Cities at massive music festival Coachella, along with frequent collaborators Marijuana Deathsquads. A week before his Coachella performance, P.O.S. and MDS play three back-to-back, mostly unannounced warm-up gigs in Minneapolis, delivering incredibly intimate, bone-chilling sets at the Turf Club, Triple Rock, and Nick and Eddie.
R.T. Rybak returns to the Mainroom to declare "First Avenue Day" on the club's 40th anniversary, April 3, following a sold-out show by Spoon. The year is filled with changes and renovations at the iconic downtown Minneapolis venue: June marks the opening of new restaurant and bar the Depot Tavern; the summer is spent repainting the exterior walls and re-evaluating which bands ought to be honored with white stenciled stars; and for the first time, a women's bathroom is installed in the 7th St. Entry.
Rogue Valley, the new vehicle for songwriter Chris Koza, release their first in a series of full-length records tied to the seasons of the year and announce their plan to release four albums and perform four release shows in the span of 12 months. By the end of the year they are still on track, with albums Crater Lake, The Bookseller's House, and Geese in the Flyway released in the spring, summer, and fall, respectively, and the band are at work recording the final installment in their grandiose anthology.
First Avenue is made over once again, but this time with yards upon yards of white, flowing tulle. The "Last Prom on Earth" celebrates the release of the mega-collaboration Gayngs' debut album, Relayted. The group, featuring members of Bon Iver, Solid Gold, the Rosebuds, Megafaun, Doomtree, Lookbook, and Leisure Birds, light the blogosphere on fire with their immaculately arranged, ambient electro-funk jams and fill First Avenue for two back-to-back shows that feature all 24 members of the "band." Prince crashes the Mainroom for the second time this year, this time sashaying up to the side of the stage with guitar in hand, then decides not to join the band onstage at the last minute. Damn.
A mere 24 hours after the "Last Prom on Earth," Gayngs producer and bandleader Ryan Olson rallies his improvisational electro-noise band Marijuana Deathsquads on the banks of the Mississippi River for an epic Art-a-Whirl performance. An expanded lineup of Deathsquads, who have spent every Wednesday night so far this year at Nick and Eddie honing their thrashing, blistering dance roar, sprawls out onto docks, the tops of houseboats, and a raft floating downstream to perform an echoing, roiling, yet surprisingly coherent river jam.
Bobby Meide, drummer for longstanding local rock band the Flamin' Ohs, passes away just a few weeks after being diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Korsakoff's syndrome. "I have played with Bobby since 1970," Flamin' Ohs lead singer Robert Wilkinson writes on his band's Facebook page. "I am heartbroken."
Historic online Twin Cities hip-hop forum DUNation.com is shut down suddenly. No explanation is given for the disappearance of the board, save for a YouTube video posted by its moderators of Gravediggaz' "1-800-SUICIDE" and the words "Bye bye..."
The reunited Jayhawks play three back-to-back nights in the First Avenue Mainroom to the delight of legions of diehard fans. The band, which consists of the Tomorrow the Green Grass lineup (Mark Olson, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman, Karen Grotberg, and Tim O'Reagan) have such a blast playing together again that they announce another First Ave show before the year is over. They will return to the Mainroom on January 29.
Jimmy2Times, a.k.a. Dan Marcoulis, leaves Minneapolis for New York City just a few months after celebrating the two-year anniversary of his dance night Get Cryphy! with cofounder Plain Ole Bill. Get Cryphy! continues its monthly residency in the Record Room with regular spinners DJ Fundo and DJ Last Word, plus a series of rotating guests.
After facing possible cancellation for the summer, the Loring Park tradition of hosting music and movies in the park is kept alive with "Four Nights in Loring: Local Bands, Local Films." Communist Daughter, Mayda, Red Pens, and Marijuana Deathsquads perform in the park on Tuesday nights in August prior to screenings of Minnesota-related films selected by City Pages readers.
Just a year into its existence, Sauce Spirits & Soundbar is forced to change its name due to an already established Sauce Pizza chain opening up a franchise in St. Louis Park. The Sauce Pizza place goes out of business before the end of the year, but the Lyn-Lake music venue decides to keep its new anagrammed name, Cause.
The Bedlam Theatre is forced to vacate its two-story building on the West Bank with only two months' notice to make way for a displaced mosque, uprooting popular monthly dance night Bomp! and forcing the directors of the nonprofit organization to start from scratch searching for a new location. The Bedlam had occupied the quirky space for four years and had established the locale as a hotspot for experimental theater and underground music. Since vacating its building, the theater company has moved to the Ivy Building in the Seward neighborhood and has been partnering with other venues to produce events. Bedlam hopes to have a more definite plan for relocation come spring.
The intimate Aster Cafe on St. Anthony Main begins hosting music, branding itself as a "listening room" and hosting mostly singer-songwriter and country-folkie fare. The cafe was revamped in June by co-owners Matty O'Reilly and Tom Peterson, who also operate the similarly minded 318 Cafe in Excelsior.
Just two months after playing the First Avenue Mainroom for the first time, rising local electro-dance duo Lookbook announce they are taking an "indefinite break." Maggie Morrison and Grant Cutler quickly cancel all their remaining shows as a band and dive headfirst into other projects, Morrison with improvisational electro-jam group H.U.N.X., and Cutler with his sweeping solo project, Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords, and his ambient project 2012.
Mark Mallman performs his Marathon 3, which spans 78 hours of continuous performance at the Turf Club. Over 100 musicians cycle in to help Mallman complete his marathon song, including Chuck Prophet, Sean Tillmann (Har Mar Superstar), Greg Norton, John Munson, and myriad more. In his 78th hour, Mallman clenches a bouquet of daisies between his teeth and climbs atop his keyboard as the packed Turf Club roars its approval and thousands more watch the grand finale online. His father climbs onstage and hangs a giant gold medal around his son's neck as Mallman wipes tears from his cheeks and picks up the microphone one last time, concluding the madness with the simple phrase, "Love thy neighbor."
On the 10th date of their first and only U.S. tour, which happens to fall on 10/10/10, the 10 touring members of Gayngs are stranded in Austin, Texas, and forced to cancel their set at the Austin City Limits Festival after their bus driver absconded to Nashville with their gear. Turns out there was a dispute over the terms of their tour bus contract, which the band never signed and which the bus company owner cited as his reason for taking back the bus. Gayngs later sued CJ Star Buses for the damages lost in the fiasco, and legal action is still pending.
St. Paul rapper, poet, musician, and artist Micheal Larsen, a.k.a. Eyedea, is found dead in his home just three weeks shy of his 29th birthday following an accidental drug overdose. Larsen, who performed as part of the Rhymesayers duo Eyedea & Abilities as well as improvisational hip-hop group Face Candy and experimental rock group Carbon Carousel, was a beloved fixture of the local community and a friend to many. His sudden death leaves many shaken to the core. At a memorial show on his birthday, an all-star lineup of musicians, including Kimya Dawson, Themselves, Abilities, Kristoff Krane, No Bird Sing, Abstract Pack, Roma di Luna, and more, perform in Larsen's honor at First Avenue. "We all gotta remember to push and challenge the people we love to do better," Atmosphere's Slug told the crowd, choking on tears at the end of the night. "This dude pushed everybody he loved to do everything better. That's something we could all use more of. Push those people and make those people push and challenge you." Additional memorials, fundraisers, and art exhibits are planned through the end of the year, as fans and friends come to terms with the darkness left behind when a bright flame is snuffed out way too soon.
Ghana-born rapper M.anifest returns to West Africa for a 10-date tour and to collaborate with his grandfather J.H. Kwabena Nketia, a respected African composer and ethnomusicologist, for the first time. His journeys are documented by aspiring filmmaker Justin Schell, who is in the midst of directing his first feature-length documentary, We Rock Long Distance. Over the next year, Schell also plans to travel to Puerto Rico with Maria Isa and to Thailand with Hmong spoken-word artist Tou SaiKo Lee, and to chronicle the Twin Cities-based musicians' musical collaborations abroad.
Legions of local musicians get drunk and disorderly at the now-annual Replacements Tribute, which unites 'Mats fans of all stripes over Thanksgiving weekend at First Avenue. This year's tribute culminates in a front-to-back performance of the Replacements' Tim, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Also celebrating a 25th anniversary, but in an entirely different manner, is the Dakota Jazz Club, which hosts a blowout week of performances featuring gospel singer Robert Robinson, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, piano legend McCoy Tyner, and Davina and the Vagabonds.
After debuting a few tracks on the Current and giving out his album as a free insert in U.K. newspapers, Prince announces a run of five shows in New York and New Jersey in honor of his album 20Ten. To promote the shows, the Purple Yoda crashes an episode of The View, causing co-host Sherri Shepherd to fly into a tizzy and blurt out, "You don't understand, I have wanted to make love to you my whole life!"
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