We’ve got local Minneapolis resident Rebekah Cook to give us the insider’s low down on the best places to listen to music in Minneapolis.
I grew up about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities. As far back as I could remember, I was making the trek to “the Sin Cities aka Mpls/St. Paul” to go to a show. We’d pile in as many people as we could into my sister’s sky blue Ford Contour (until I could drive myself), get a slice at Pizza Luce, and try not to give off the “I’m from Western Wisconsin vibe” as we stood really cool watching our favorite band of all time (at that time).
Some of my favorite memories of my teen and early 20’s years are centered around seeing live music. Like when Bethany lost her shoe in the mud-pit at Warped Tour 1999, or when Marcos got kicked in the head by someone’s cowboy boot while they were crowd-surfing at the Fine Line (that’s when people used to let us crowd surf—throw your fist in the air!) or falling in love with my now husband as we sat in the fog, watching Wilco play for what seemed like days (in the best way) in Canal Park.
Minneapolis and St. Paul have a serious history of important bands and musicians that have called it home, from Prince, to The Replacements, to Dillinger Four, Bob Dylan, The Andrews Sisters, Babes in Toyland, Hüsker Dü and on and on and on. So when I see all these City Guides telling you where to eat, where to shop, where to drink and where to sleep, it makes me cringe that they don’t tell you where to see live music. So thanks to Radisson Red for understanding that it’s important to know the musical venue landscape of a city – as a resident and as a guest. One of my first suggestions to out-of-town guests is for them to see a show. And I direct them to any of the following music venues depending on what I think they would be into, what they like to eat or drink and what their budget is.
One of the best ways to describe ‘The Turf’ is the most recent Frankie Lee Record Release Party. He had folks like Jenny Lewis, The Cactus Blossoms dudes, Har Mar Super Star jump on the stage with him. And then after the show in The Clown Lounge, there was basically a pick-up show where you’d here “I’ll jump on the drums!” and random groups of local musicians would have super-fun, super-group-jam session. The Turf Club is located in Midway, just off the Green Line in St. Paul. The surrounding neighborhood isn’t necessarily the Twin Cities’ beacon, however, it’s super centrally located. The recently did an update and did a good job keeping it like a dive bar, saving the beloved Clown Lounge downstairs and paying attention to the important things, like making sure the bathrooms aren’t nasty. It’s mostly standing room only and they bring in mid-sized acts. And you know the vibe is good because band will return tour after tour to this green-jeweled-gem.
INSIDER TIP: there’s a parking lot behind the turf that you can usually nab a parking spot – for free! Enter from the alleyway from Walgreens off of University and Snelling.
DRINKS: Though you’re most likely going to get your typical rail dive-bar cocktail and beer selection, they have craft beer on tap, and depending on who’s working, you might get a decent Old Fashioned.
FOOD: With the recent remodel they did add some food, but it is bar food. But who doesn’t love some good tots with a show?!
PRICE: There’s always a cover for shows. Typically around $15-$20.
331 Club’s tagline is “Never a Cover” because they, never have a cover. Most days of the week, this NE Minneapolis bar hosts a variety of different types of music, for free! I have friends that have a weekly hangout session at ‘The 331’ for years. It’s a local’s staple with many regulars.
INSIDER TIP: You’ll see Trivia Mafia on the calendar a lot. And at “The 331”, it’s a big deal. Because this cult-following bar trivia is now in bars all over the Twin Cities, but it start at “The 331”. And it’s super fun! It’s old-school, team-based, pen-and-paper trivia. No touch screens! So if you’re around and this is going on, make sure to hit-it-up.
DRINKS: It’s a bar. You can pretty much get anything. But you’ll see a lot of people with PBR. Their Happy Hour is amazing!
FOOD: Tacos! They basically just serve tacos (and they are pretty decent) and very affordable.
PRICE: Everything is budget friendly. $3 drinks during happy hour, $3 tacos, and Never A Cover.
Cedar Cultural Center
This old-theater turned music venue is located in Cedar-Riverside, near the West Bank campus of the University of Minnesota. The Cedar is a non-profit and work to promote intercultural appreciation through global music and dance. It’s an all-ages venue, and the only all-ages venue of its kind in The Midwest. They bring in acts of various backgrounds, both local and known world-wide. I’ve seen hip-hop shows, gone to panel-led discussions, been to my friend’s CD release show, and danced to Trampled by Turtles, all at The Cedar.
INSIDER TIP: It is volunteer based. Don’t get mad at the ticket lady at the door.
FOOD and DRINKS: They usually have wine, beer, and cider as well as NA drinks available, but it will feel like a concession stand. Don’t forget to tip the volunteer.
PRICE: Varies based on artist.
Rebekah Cook is the Director of Operations for “the coolest store in the world”, Forage Modern Workshop in Minneapolis. When she’s not scouring the interwebs for the best new design for you, she’s hanging with her husband and daughter, or seeing live music.