Whoever says there is nothing to do in the Twin Cities just isn’t looking hard enough. When the snow melts (sometimes in April, when Minnesota is being particularly cruel), the music rises until it fills every coffee shop, concert hall and green space in the Cities. Come summertime you barely have to walk out your door before encountering an onslaught of performers intent on culturing you. In fact, the Twin Cities has ridden the wave of young people exploring its streets, expanding the music scene to match. To battle heat-induced boredom and the summertime lull, the Twin Cities has a few tricks up its sleeves.
And yes, there is something for everyone. First off: free outdoor concerts almost every night.
“Music in the Parks” featured the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra, Minnesota Sinfonia and a hodgepodge of classical community groups who mainly performed for families and teenagers on classy first dates. Not a classical music fan? No problem. Venture away from the parks and picnic baskets and you’ll find the streets of Minneapolis brimming with people pouring into concert venues on a cool summer’s night.
On just such a night in June, Chance the Rapper rocked the garden, and fans swarmed Boom Island Park to see him perform. But don’t be mistaken. The event was not for Chance alone. Rock the Garden was also meant to highlight more up-and-coming bands, such as Polica and Hippo Campus, who have only emerged over the past few years. These bands brought a youthful energy to the event, one that was characterized by a hoard of balloons that skipped playfully across the crowd.
Also full of youth and vibrancy was the Basilica Block Party. Now, don’t be skeptical once I tell you that this party takes place outside a Catholic Church. The basilica stairs provide an amphitheater-esque backdrop to one of three stages, and the effect was reminiscent of an ancient Roman theater. Yet, no Etruscan actors made an appearance this summer. Instead, 20 bands entered the church, and performed for two hot nights of July. Gary Clark Jr. and Death Cab for Cutie started the festival out strong on the first day, then Phillip Phillips and The Fray brought it home on the second. The basilica thus traded organ music for the deep buzz of bass guitars and drum beats, and young people flocked to its steps.
A little history lesson: the Basilica of Saint Mary, where the party took place, was actually the first basilica built in the United States. Perhaps more impressively, it is also the first basilica to make the 180-degree transition from mass on Sunday to ‘turn up’ on Friday in the matter of a few days. But unlike your own block parties (assuming those still exist, and that you live on a block), this party has raised over five million dollars, and all that money goes to restoring the basilica. Yes, rock and beer can go a long way.
If you prefer something more calm than a rock concert, yet more upbeat than classical music, then the Twin Cities Jazz Festival might have been the festival for you. This past June, a crowd of jazz-loving city dwellers of all ages and creeds gathered in St Paul. Michael Franti and Butch Thompson sandwiched the festival headliners, drawing in thousands of fans. As you can judge from the performers, peace and rejuvenation were recurring themes throughout the festival. Through smiles and soul-searching, there radiated an overwhelming sense of community.
This showed in small, yet powerful ways. At Michael Franti’s concert, children perched on their parent’s shoulders watched in earnest as the crowd sang along. Under Franti’s direction, people with piercings and dreadlocks of all shapes and sizes joined hands and spun ’round under the summer sun. These concerts were family-friendly, teen-friendly, dog-friendly and pretty much every kind of friendly you can imagine. By the end, we were all feeling a bit faint from the dancing and the pot smell and the contagious feeling that everything was going to be alright. And with concerts around every corner of the Twin Cities, it was easy to slip into that cushy summertime feeling.