Twin Cities Year in Music 2012
B FRESH Photography
This is our Year in Music. A golden year. A year of festivals. An election year. A year of personnel changes. A year of P.O.S., come to think of it.
Not to say that his Doomtree crew is any less prevalent, but Stefon Alexander asserts his dominance as a solo artist with We Don't Even Live Here, a masterstroke featuring him and his weird friends smashing windows into our minds with bangers like "Get Down" and "Fuck Your Stuff." Work with Marijuana Deathsquads, bandmate Mike Mictlan, and his protege Lydia Hoglund of Bomba De Luz also occupies P.O.S. in 2012. "This is up there with the most artistic years I've had," he tells City Pages.
As we find out, it's a year of focusing daily on his kidneys. "I'm either full of dialysis solution or I'm in some sort of pain, or I'm super tired," he says. This nagging struggle keeps him from going on the road, and he's "pretty destroyed" after a release show at First Avenue back in October. "I could definitely go on," he asserts. "Some people have been worrying about me, but I'm not going to push myself harder than I can go."
Sometime in January 2013, Stef is scheduled to get a kidney transplant, but he won't get to know where his new organ is coming from until the whole thing is done. Plenty of people are in his corner. Evidence aplenty is the $37k and counting donated to help defray his medical costs. The last few weeks of 2012 are a chance to focus on getting better and some new creation, but not hip hop. "I've been working on heavy metal and thrash music," he says. "I'm playing my guitar and stepping away from rap right now."
While Stef's off strumming, or performing at the eighth Doomtree Blowout, or whatever, let's page through the rest of a 12-month onslaught of musical activity.
Daniel Levy, the 21-year-old son of the Honeydogs' frontman Adam Levy, takes his own life after a battle with mental illness. A memorial service at McNally Smith College of Music featuring tributes and performances by John Munson, Aby Wolf, and Crescent Moon follows in February. The Honeydogs' first album in three years, What Comes After, is released.
Music editor Andrea Swensson says a tearful goodbye to City Pages, and starts at the Current as their music reporter. Northfield-born Reed Fischer, who was working as a music editor at City Pages' sister paper in Fort Lauderdale, pulls on some Smart Wool and takes the helm.
January bits: First Avenue completes the first round of renovations for the year by removing a stairway leading up to the bathrooms and a small bar on the main floor. An upgrade to a booming new sound system comes later in the year. Only a year and a half after switching from B96 to the less rap-heavy top 40 pop station 96.3 NOW, the station becomes K-TWIN. Violence erupts yet again at the TC Hip Hop Awards.
Poliça drop their debut album, Give You the Ghost, via Totally Gross National Product, and after a sold-out First Avenue release show, they basically hit the road for the rest of the year. Stops at SXSW, Lollapalooza, and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon follow, and the album is reissued on slightly larger boutique indie label Mom + Pop with the Dark Star EP in August. They are also the subjects of a Dan Huiting-filmed Pitchfork.tv documentary titled Hold You Just a Little While.
Former Replacements guitarist Bob "Slim" Dunlap suffers a serious stroke, and recuperates throughout the year. Jim Walsh organizes a "Hoot for Slim" on St. Patrick's Day at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Later in the year, Replacements Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson team with Kevin Bowe and Peter Anderson to record a four-song vinyl EP to benefit Dunlap's recovery.
After declining to perform at the ceremony, Bon Iver win Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album for Bon Iver, Bon Iver at the 2012 Grammys. Confusion ensues on Twitter, and many wonder "Who's Bonny Bear?" Also that night, while picking up the Best Pop Solo Performance Grammy for "Someone Like You," Adele personally thanks co-writer Dan Wilson from the stage.
February highlights: Former Prince drummer Bobby Z recovers from a heart attack and stages a Revolution reunion with Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Brown Mark, and Dr. Fink. It's the first time they've played a full show together since 1986. The Cactus Blossoms, featured in a new mural on the side of the Turf Club, begin a year-long residency at the venue.
New venue the Brick, AEG Live's addition to downtown Minneapolis, opens with a hyped Jane's Addiction concert. Nearly everything that could possibly could go wrong that night does — too few sight lines, bathroom inaccessibility, and general crowding — and the club is tagged with a negative rep. Future bookings, including Fun., the Shins, and Marilyn Manson, shift to other venues, and the club's future is in question. Months later, after lowering the capacity and making renovations, it re-emerges as Mill City Nights and breathes a sigh of relief when public outcry wanes.
Atlas Sound principal Bradford Cox gives one of the most bizarre and compelling performances of the year at the Cedar Cultural Center. After receiving a misguided request for "My Sharona," he launches into an hour-long garbage compaction of the Knack's '70s hit. It shocks some, and incites others to raise their chairs above their heads. Later, Cox writes, "It was a very natural show and the people that didn't like it can suck my dick."
Vitriol for buzz band Howler hits an all-time high after frontman Jordan Gatesmith makes some disparaging remarks about the Minneapolis music scene in a U.K. interview. He calls out the 4onthefloor as "Mumford & Sons crap," and the band responds to him by creating a song by that name to the tune of the Mumfy staple "The Cave." The unintended media blitz seems to take off a lot more than their America Give Up viral marketing campaign featuring an irrepressible grouchy man in his basement.
Trampled by Turtles' Stars and Satellites may have gotten frontman Dave Simonett and the Duluth folk-grass group some undeserved flack for being more mellow than previous albums, but it has a wild release show at First Avenue. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Duluth Mayor Don Ness both dive into the crowd, with varying success. The cover of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" has the sold-out crowd bellowing lustily along as the night ends.
Upstart label Forged Artifacts announces its first limited-edition vinyl release is Nice Purse's scrappy surf-rock statement Slumber Girls. Later in the year, the imprint run by ex-blogger and local music enthusiast Matt Linden also issues delectable treasures from minimalist synth-swirler Olsen Twinns (Found Things), chill psych-rocker Observer Drift (Corridors), and tough-as-nails indie team Prissy Clerks (Bruise or Be Bruised).
Adding to April: Lively Loring Park eatery and music space Nick and Eddie closes its doors. Proprietor Doug Anderson eventually relocates his interests downtown to the old City Billiards space and opens the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge in October. Bloodnstuff's fisrt album is riotous. Aby Wolf adds electronics and soul for her debut A. Wolf & Her Claws record.
Rhymesayers' fifth Soundset festival draws a sizeable crowd for Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and loads more despite blistering heat early on. The weather turns, and Canterbury Park is evacuated as heavy rains set in. Atmosphere's headlining set shifts to First Avenue, and Slug opens the set with the greeting, "Welcome to the storm shelter."
Amsterdam Bar & Hall hosts the inaugural Girls Got Rhythm Fest, formed by editor Dana Raidt (formerly of now-defunct METRO magazine) and promoter Travis Ramin. With Ronnie Spector, the Muffs, the 220.127.116.11's, and Caroline & the Treats on board, it's a weekend spotlighting female rockers from around the globe.
More May memories: Minnesota Public Radio reporter Chris Roberts posts a feature posing the question, "Is Minnesota Music in a golden age?" and the community is aflutter with opinions on both sides. One of the local hip-hop scene's founding fathers, I Self Devine, returns with a flurry of new material, including The Sound of Low Class Amerika. MaLLy show's the scene's promising future on The Last Great.... Both debut their albums at the Entry.
Brother Ali is arrested with 13 others at an Occupy Homes protest at the Cruz family home in south Minneapolis. Social activism is a constant in 2012 for Ali, who also joins the Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin, rallies against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and hosts a second Day of Dignity at the Masjid-An-Nur mosque. His fifth solo album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, encapsulates these social concerns in alternating doses of brusque and beatific delivery.
The Live Nation-run River's Edge Music Festival on Harriet Island opens to large, but not sold-out attendance. Fans cluster around headliners Tool and Dave Matthews, but Diplo, Scissor Sisters, and Flaming Lips draw niche groups for the first event of a five-year commitment on the island.
Additional June notes: The Walker Art Center's Rock the Garden winning streak stays active with the Hold Steady, tUnE-yArDs, and a wealth of local favorites while dodging rain threats. The seemingly finished Stone Arch Festival of the Arts is revived and renamed the Stone Arch Bridge Festival by a team fronted by Somerset Amphitheater's Matt Mithun. Singer-songwriter Kevin Steinman moves to Norway for more-affordable treatment for ulcerative colitis. floods in duluth lead to artists with wet basements, and benefit efforts crop up.
After a bid for a Paul McCartney concert withers, Target Field's first live show is Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw's Brothers of the Sun tour stop. The stadium overflows with cowboy hats and boots, and a barefoot Grace Potter is the night's strongest set. Later, tickets for Chesney's return visit — on July 12, 2013 — sell out within a half-hour.
Somerset Amphitheater's second SoundTown festival — set to include Florence + the Machine, Jane's Addiction, Weezer, and Girl Talk — is canceled due to low ticket sales. Dr. Dog, Best Coast, and Jeff the Brotherhood are among acts who play shows in Minneapolis instead.
Further July details: Soul Asylum's first album in six years, Delayed Reaction, emerges. Later, founding guitarist Dan Murphy leaves the group. Wilco receive the key to Duluth during an outdoor performance at Bayfront Park. Dessa teams with the Elixery for a signature lipstick for charity.
YN Rich Kids, featuring young rappers in a North Community YMCA after-school program, go instantly viral with the crunchy video for "Hot Cheetos and Takis." While bloggers adore the imagery of "hands red like Elmo," the Kids dodge interviews and line up a handful of performances in the months to follow.
Additional August highlights: Knotfest attracts an onslaught of Slipknot fans to Somerset Amphitheatre for a fire-breathing, rain-soaked day of metal fuselage. Jam, EDM, rap, and indie enthusiasts also populate the Wisconsin party grounds for the Summer Set Music & Camping Festival. Owl City unleashes comeback album The Midsummer Station, featuring the unavoidable duet with Carly Rae Jepsen "Good Time." Teen folk prodigy John Mark Nelson emerges with the touted Waiting and Waiting to an adoring Entry crowd. Hipshaker DJ crew celebrates its 10th anniversary at Kitty Cat Klub, while Long Doe Records reach 10 years with a party at the Cabooze. Mark Mallman's Marathon 4 has him recording a seven-day song as he travels in a van from New York to Los Angeles.
The supremely curated Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Lost R&B Grooves from Minneapolis & Saint Paul 1964-1979 debuts with a resounding boom. Secret Stash Records' compilation revives 21 tracks from the Valdons, Wanda Davis, Prophets of Peace, and Wee Willie Walker, among others. The Cedar Cultural Center hosts a sold-out release show boasting an all-star band and dancing admirers.
After opening in July, Eat Street restaurant/venue Icehouse proves prominent as host of the Totally Gross National Party — a bacchanalian fete for Marijuana Deathsquads' Tamper. Disable. Destroy mixtape. Trading between outdoor sets on the side patio and the luxurious hardwood stage inside, the Deathsquads, P.O.S., Poliça, Heavy Deeds, Tha Clerb, and many more unfurl one of 2012's most body-blasting live events.
September's memories continue: Former Pachyderm Studio owner Matt Mueller is killed in a traffic accident in California. The Hip Hop Harambee, featuring Talib Kweli and Sims, debuts at the Nomad. Eventual Picked to Click champs the Chalice drop the We Are the Chalice EP at 7th St. Entry backed by Sexy Delicious — meanwhile, Mint Condition are their sexy, delicious selves in the Mainroom for Music @ the Speed of Life's steamy release party. City Pages cover subject Carnage the Executioner busts back with Respect the Name.
A bleached-blond Cat Power, a.k.a. Chan Marshall, berates and calls for the ejection of a pair of credentialed photographers, including City Pages' Erik Hess, early in her Mill City Nights performance. A mix of mortification and amusement erupts from the crowd — mostly the latter for non-press — and Marshall shakes it off to strut and serenade through selections from 2012's Sun.
Prince's dome gets revamped with an afro for his visit to The View to promote a trio of Welcome 2 Chicago dates. These shows follow eventually debunked rumors that the Purple One would perfom in downtown St. Paul. A jaunty song called "Rock and Roll Affair," which bears a passing similarity to "Take Me With You," debuts.
Let It Be Records' Ryan Cameron is dissed by Target when attempting to retrieve the letters "I" and "T" featured in his shuttered store's original signage. The store's old Nicollet Mall location is now a cushy office space for the company, and the "IT" is now mounted in a lounge area.
Additionally in October: Both the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra cancel concerts amid disputes with management over salary cuts. Detroit dance-rock pranksters Electric Six release live album Absolute Pleasure, which was recorded at First Avenue, and put the venue's stage manager Conrad Sverkerson on the cover. Obscure experimental folk artist Jandek performs in Mankato.
The streets intersecting at Xcel Energy Center are renamed in honor of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the weekend of two soul-drenched shows in St. Paul. "They want to honor us, but not too much," the Boss remarks on night one. The three-hour concerts are a return to Wrecking Ball touring after campaign performances for President Barack Obama leading up to the 2012 election.
Estimable art-wave trio BNLX finally kick the EP habit after going seven deep and release a self-titled full-length album. Appearing tastefully on its cover is the group's fetching tour manager Wiggy Ackerson, a Boston Terrier. The two-night BNLX Fest is a commotion at Cause featuring the titular act, as well as buzzy electro duo Wiping Out Thousands and other musical friends toasting the release.
November also brought: Madonna performs in the Twin Cities for the first time in 25 years for two Xcel Energy Center shows — with mixed results. The Fine Line Music Cafe celebrates 25 years in business. David Byrne's Playing the Building exhibit, a vintage organ hooked up to a roomful of noise-making pipes and gadgets, comes to Aria in the Warehouse District. Guante and Big Cats unveil rap social critique You Better Weaponize, and Gay Witch Abortion burst back into relevance with Opporntunistic Smokescreen Behavior. Not long after Solid Gold break a long absence with Eat Your Young, former guitarist Paulie Heenan is killed in Madison after being misidentified by police.
For Doomtree's eighth(!) Blowout series, the hip-hop collective scale back from 2011's seven-night run at the 7th St. Entry to do "only" three straight nights in the First Avenue Mainroom. These shows come not long after the debut of Team the Best Team, a 70-minute tour documentary DVD filmed by Chris Hadland, and cap a touring-heavy year.
The 2013 Grammy Awards nominees include local Americana duo the Okee Dokee Brothers in the Best Children's Album category for Can You Canoe?, detailing their canoe trip down the Mississippi River. Another local looking to grab a trophy is Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs, whose Pecados Y Milagros is up for Best Regional Mexican Music Album.
December tidbits: Nicholas "The Feelin" Mrozinski reaches at least the final four on the third season of NBC singing competition The Voice. Curtiss A astounds with a 100-plus slate of songs for his annual John Lennon Tribute at First Avenue.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.