It was the middle of April 2001, and -- just like the Prince song says can happen -- it snowed. The job candidate spent a couple days in interviews talking about how much he still knows about the Twin Cities, even though he moved away in high school and missed the '90s here.
Not until he headed over to First Avenue one night did he knew just how full of it he was. A pair of local hip-hop acts, Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities, had packed the club. Fans there knew most of the lyrics. This was definitely not the music scene he remembered.
Since then, he has witnessed many other dramatic changes within Minnesota music. Here's a list of the defining moments that made it a decade of transformation.
He got the job, by the way. April snowfalls are about the only time he regrets it.'Prince' returns, starts NPGMusicClub.com (May 16, 2000)
Everyone had a good laugh over that phallic symbol thingie as his name. After this press conference to announce he was back as Prince, though, the music industry took him very seriously again. The name-game was all to wiggle out of his contract with Warner Bros., freeing him to sell music independently via his website.
Lasting impression: In a decade when the Internet reshaped the music industry (Radiohead would be held up as great instigators -- seven years later!), you can once again say our Minneapolis superstar set the royal standard.In the loop with Dosh (June 1, 2002)
It seemed small and inconsequential at the time: Martin Dosh, the quiet drummer for experimental bands such as Lateduster, started tinkering with tape loops, drums, organ and other electronic gear to craft a surprisingly organic-sounding debut solo record. He went on to release three more acclaimed records and tour behind them as a truly solo act, then wound up helping shape Andrew Bird's live band, which kept him on the road all this year (Friday night's Cedar gig is only Dosh's third in town this year).
Lasting impression: Electronic loops and homemade albums would become commonplace locally. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Dosh cited by younger and even older musicians as an influence.Pitchfork spoons up Tapes 'N Tapes (Feb. 27, 2006)
TNT's debut record "The Loon" was darn near plucked out of obscurity straight into an international buzz bin when its record earned an 8.3 rating by Chicago-based PitchforkMedia.com (founded by Twin Cities area native Ryan Schreiber). A month or two later, the band earned New York Times and Rolling Stone write-ups and played a bonanza of gigs at South by Southwest. Two years later, though, the band's nearly equal follow-up record, "Walk It Off," would be dismissed by the same blog.
Lasting impression: Blogger fame is fleeting, but a hometown base and sturdy live show persist. Solid Gold seemed to be following TNT's lead on that this year.The Current flows (Jan. 24, 2005)
Kicking off with Atmosphere's "Shhh" -- an ode to loving where you're from -- the Current (89.3 FM) immediately showed Minnesota music the love that corporate FM stations had dismissed. A few months in, First Ave booker Nate Kranz credited the station for rising attendance, like a Low gig that drew twice as many as its previous show. A year in, national agent Jackie Nalpat said the station puts the Twin Cities "right behind New York, L.A., San Francisco and Chicago" as a city to play for touring indie-rock acts.
Lasting impression: Whatever you think of its gradual downshift toward increased repetition, or of Minnesota Public Radio's $46.5 million "nonprofit" offices, there's no way to deny that the Current continues to raise the profile and drawing power of indie bands in the Twin Cities.Prince's 7/7/07 run (July 7, 2007)
It started with an only-in-Princedom concert at Macy's to hawk the singer's perfume line. The party moved to Target Center for a hearty if somewhat erratic mega-concert. The climax was the late-night gig at First Ave, where he hadn't played in 20 years. Just as the club show hit its groove about 50 minutes in, though, Minneapolis police shut it down. The singer (who had a relatively busy day) hadn't gone on until almost 3 a.m., and he had gone too far past curfew.
Lasting impression: If the city's own megastar can't even get respect on a day he brought 20,000 people downtown and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue, then imagine how officials might treat a hip corner bar like the 331 Club (whose music was unplugged for five months in 2006-07) or even its cornerstone First Avenue (which lost its load-in area this year to new two-way street configurations). Prince hasn't played in Minneapolis city limits since.Soundset rides again (May 24, 2009)
After bursting out of the gate the previous year with 12,000 attendees outside the Metrodome, the Soundset indie-rap festival faced a tougher race in year two when it moved out (way out!) to Canterbury Park horse track in Shakopee. Even organizers were surprised by the 15,000 turnout, mostly thanks to Rhymesayers' stable of rappers. No other local acts besides Prince would draw so well this decade.
Lasting impression: Soundset validated Twin Cities hip-hop in the eyes of: the many parents who had fun accompanying their kids; concert industry watchers who didn't think countless sold-out nights at First Ave were anything to squawk at; ignorant curmudgeons who believe every hip-hop concert involves gang-bangers and violence, and mainstream news outlets who think Taste of Minnesota and Aquatennial Block Party are still summer's biggest live music events. Not that any validation was needed.Concert for Karl (Oct. 21, 2004)
Cancer sadly took his life nine months later, but Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller at least got to enjoy this unforgettable show held in his name at the Quest (only the venue has been forgotten). It included the one and only reunion by Hüsker Dü's Grant Hart and Bob Mould, plus sets by Paul Westerberg, Golden Smog and the Gear Daddies.
Lasting impression: The sendoff for Mueller stands out as a last hurrah for the '80s heyday of Minnesota music. It was one of the last gigs by Soul Asylum's founding trio. Mould and Hart went back to trading insults the next day. Westerberg would be a recluse for the rest of the decade, and Gear Daddies frontman Martin Zellar moved to Mexico.
One thing that did carry on: Benefits for musicians with mounting health bills happen just about every other weekend nowadays.Lifter Puller ends, Triple Rock begins (June 6-8, 2003)
Saying he was "nauseated" by the new Hard Rock Cafe and other gentrification in his hometown since he moved to New York two years earlier, Lifter Puller frontman Craig Finn said the opening of the Triple Rock's musical half "confirms that the scene's not lying down -- that independent music is still alive and thriving in the Twin Cities." Finn's band reunited to break in the club over three nights, and then it never played again. He and guitarist Tad Kubler returned to the club a year later with the Hold Steady.
Lasting impression: Finn not only forecast the scene's most hopping/relevant new rock venue of the '00s, but also planted a seed for the most high-profile Minne-centric rock band of the decade (never mind that the Hold Steady is based in New York).First Avenue 35th anniversary (Dec. 14, 2005)
Still stinging from aggressive Clear Channel/Live Nation competition and an ownership battle that shut it down for three weeks the previous year, the club called on the Jayhawks, Golden Smog, Mike Watt, the Hold Steady, Curtiss A, Doomtree and many more to trumpet its standing as one of the last of the great independent rock halls.
Lasting impression: It worked. The club prospered in the second half of the decade, with some weeks seeing four or five sellouts and some bands (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon, TV on the Radio) choosing to play there instead of theaters twice the size.Mark Mallman's Marathon 2 (Sept. 4-6, 2004)
"It wasn't about anything but having an absolutely awesome time. I want you all to have a really good time in your life."
That was more or less Mallman's closing statement, 52.4 hours after he first took the stage at the Turf Club. He combed through a 500-page book of lyrics and about half the musicians in town for support, earning loads of respect for being so nuts.
Lasting impression: Mallman's words can be heard echoing anytime there's an unconventional festival, or everytime a band does something adventurous like playing a seven-night run in 7th Street Entry or five clubs in one night. Those kinds of good times were plentiful this decade.
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