words by Kelsey Simpkins
photos by Lora Hlavsa and Kelsey Simpkins
Best for: Seeing local acts, catching up with friends, no cover, heading over after beers at Dangerous Man.
Favorite/memorable shows: Taj Raj's last show (ever)
Drawbacks: If you don't live in NE, it's a short trek to the area. Also it's small, and when it's crowded, good luck getting to the bar, the bathroom, or outside.
Why I love the place: Those booths.
7th Street Entry
Best for: Going to a show alone, going to a show with friends, catching smaller/lesser-known/up-and-coming nationally touring acts (Foster the People and Glass Animals played here at once point whaaaaaat), local album releases and contests, seeing bands up close, dancing your face off, meeting artists at the merch table, being downtown Minneapolis, seeing all sorts of local musicians in the audience.
Favorite/memorable shows: Half Moon Run, Empress Of, French Horn Rebellion, Painted Palms, Hollow & Akimbo and the like, 50+ shows I've seen there. Pretty much all of them.
Drawbacks: The room is like a triangle, and sometimes I wish there was a liiiiittle more space on left side of the the stage. But there's a street there. So. Not gonna change.
Why I love the place: You can go early, park in the $6 garage one block away, get your wristband, walk through, grab a drink at the Depot next door, catch up with friends, see the opener, met them at the merch table, get another cheap drink, see more music (dance/cry/sing along), met those artists, go get pizza at Pizza Luce around the corner at midnight before the drunk crowd, go home pleased as heck.
Amsterdam Bar & Hall
Downtown St Paul
Best for: Happy hour with friends, small shows in the front room where the bar is.
Favorite/memorable shows: The River Monks, Lemolo, The Soil and the Sun
Drawbacks: It's... St Paul. Downtown St Paul. But still, it's like a ghost town on nights and weekends.
Why I love the place: That outdoor patio and the beer selection.
Best for: Going on a date - but not a first date. Too expensive, too romantic, and reaaaally loud. Maybe like, second or third date. Special occasion. Great for artists who want a romantic, intimate atmosphere and a small stage.
Favorite/memorable shows: Har-di-Har (singing a German drinking song)
Drawbacks: Overly expensive drinks, super dim lighting, loud, and the cover gets included in your tab. You can call for reservations (like "tickets") but I've never had anyone ask if I had a reservation... so get there early or no seats for you.
Why I love the place: Great food (omg go on the weekends and get brunch), friendly bartenders, right off the river at St Anthony on Main. Beautiful.
Cedar Cultural Center
West Bank Mpls
Best for: Catching nationally and internationally touring acts, salsa or other types of dance nights, a big stage that can fit large, multi-instrumental groups, seated shows or all-standing room shows, actually being able to see acts (tall stage), seeing local Minneapolis acts collaborate.
Favorite/memorable shows: Glass Animals, that one Radiohead cover show with local Minneapolis acts, Typhoon, Chelsea Wolfe, Kaki King (on my 21st birthday!), Mountain Man, and so many more!
Drawbacks: Small bathrooms, long lines for drinks.
Why I love the place: Parking is nearby at the flat lot behind Acadia or the U of M garage across the street, a good drink selection, it's a nonprofit and mostly volunteer-run, has a super diverse lineup of acts, and is committed to the community.
Fine Line Music Cafe
Best for: Catching nationally touring acts that are more pop or dance focused.
Favorite/memorable shows: Jr Jr, Sir Sly, BROODS, St Lucia
Drawbacks: Parking isn't great in that area of downtown, the drinks are horrible, and the venue is so long/deep that you can end up way far away from the stage in the back at a big show.
Why I love the place: You can get pizza across the street at Pizza Luce beforehand. "Love" is a strong word for Fine Line though.
First Ave Mainroom
Best for: Seeing a big-name (indie) band, catching nationally-touring acts with good fellow nationally-touring openers, buying good merch, not getting stuck in any one spot within the venue, dance nights, going out with friends, making friends with strangers.
Favorite/memorable shows: Daughter, Sylvan Esso, Purity Ring, Stars, Lucius, Washed Out, Walk the Moon
Drawbacks: Super expensive drinks (ouch) and the floor is pretty much concrete - your back and feet might hurt after. No, not just us old folks.
Why I love the place: Historic venue that lives up the hype. A must-see show venue in downtown.
Best for: Dance nights, catching local/small-name groups, intimate shows, non-music events (like poetry readings).
Favorite/memorable shows: Robat
Drawbacks: It's a basement, not the best venue for live music.
Why I love the place: One of the only decent places to go dancing on weekends in Minneapolis.
Whittier / Eat Street Mpls
Best for: Late night shows and snacks, jazz at brunch on Sundays, great drinks, well-priced beer, good people, local shows, experimental music residencies.
Favorite/memorable shows: Haley (Bonar) on Halloween, Holidae, New Year's Eve with Rogue Valley, Valley Maker, Wingman, okay like, all of them.
Drawbacks: Parking is a chore, but two blocks away and you'll probably find something on the street. And squeezing into the bar to get a drink can be tough, but just get friendly. Also dinner is like $20 or more, don't do it.
Why I love the place: $5 sipping shots, the back bar, the patio, the upper level, the lighting, the sound, pretty much everything.
Kitty Cat Klub
East Bank Mpls
Best for: No cover shows, local acts, dance nights.
Favorite/memorable shows: something local I can't remember
Drawbacks: Parking in Dinkytown is rough. People get assaulted in the area. Campus, man.
Why I love the place: One of the first places I went to in Minneapolis.
Nomad World Pub
West Bank Mpls
Best for: Local shows, drinking with friends, hanging out outside.
East Bank Mpls
Best for: Seeing unique big names on their way through town.
Favorite/memorable shows: Father John Misty, Sufjan Stevens
Drawbacks: You feel like you're going to fall off the balcony. Or is that just me?
Why I love the place: Awesome lobby, epic, historic venue.
secret living rooms and businesses
Best for: Not knowing who you're going see until you show up, hanging out with strangers.
West Bank Mpls
Best for: Great beer selection, sweet potato fries, and small local acts.
Best for: Taking your parents, seated shows, high quality jazz.
The Southern Theater
Seven Corners / West Bank
Best for: Okay so they don't really do music shows anymore, but maybe they will again some day? They were amazing.
Favorite/memorable shows: The Farewell Circuit, LOTT, and The Ericksons at The Southern Theater Sessions
Triple Rock Social Club
West Bank Mpls
Best for: Catching nationally touring indie and alternative rock acts, hanging out in the back or dancing right up front, chilling with friends.
Favorite/memorable shows: Mew, Other Lives, Now, Now
Drawbacks: There's only a tiny parking lot behind the venue (free), otherwise you have to walk a bit from wherever you park in the West Bank. Maybe don't walk that far alone if you're a woman, I used to but as of last year I stopped doing it.
Why I love the place: Sweet all-black aesthetic, easy to talk to bands at the merch table, the unspoken black leather hoodie-jacket dress code.
Best for: Catching up with friends, seeing an international or national act on a much smaller stage, hanging out with a great beer even when there's not a show, local acts and release shows.
Favorite/memorable shows: David Bazan, Brolly, Farao, Snowmine, Small Black
Drawbacks: ...It's in St Paul? You'll probably have to drive there.
Why I love the place: Free parking! And there's a photo booth. And great beer. And lots of places to stand. Or sit. It got remodeled recently and now serves some food. I miss Turf Club.
The Warming House
South Mpls / East Harriet
Best for: Avoiding the bar crowd, having a super intimate experience in a small seated space.
Favorite/memorable shows: Adam Svec
Drawbacks: Super small, and once you sit you're kinda stuck for the whole show.
Why I love the place: It's under a bike shop in my old neighborhood.
East Bank Mpls
Best for: Catching nationally touring acts at a medium-large venue with a gothic feel and modern bathrooms.
Favorite/memorable shows: Frightened Rabbit, Bombay Bicycle Club, Royal Canoe, Jonnyswim
Drawbacks: Parking in Dinkytown sucks and they make you pay for water.
Why I love the place: Easy to see acts on the tall stage.
Did I miss something? Where is your favorite venue for live music in Minneapolis/St Paul? Share the love!