Nine Best Minnesota Shows of 2009
I am a great believer in quality over quantity, therefore 2009 was a good year for me musically. I hope the new decade is filled with more great music for everyone. Here are my top nine concerts of 2009. Minnesota ROCKS!
- The Hold Steady at Basilica Block Party – Minneapolis, MN 7.11.09– Wow, wow, wow! This show was a musical riot. It was spiritual. It was energetic. It was a perfect summer evening. When The Hold Steady play Minneapolis one can expect fireworks, but I didn’t expect this. Standing front and center of The Hold Steady’s preacher, Craig Finn, as the historic Basilica of St. Mary church shadowed the crowd from behind is something I will never forget. I have been a part of many rock concerts, but there are only a handful of shows I have witnessed that compared to this. The band was insane and the crowd was dieing for more. It was a fist-pumping, musical uniting, rock-n-roll religious experience for the ages. This was easily a top 10 concert ever for me.
- The Decemberists at Walker Art Center – Minneapolis, MN 6.20.09– 2009’s version of “Rock the Garden” was a great success. It was a hot summer day but thankfully when the headliner, The Decemberists, hit the stage, the sun had finally surrendered. The band wasted no time working straight through their gorgeous 2009 rock-opera album, The Hazards of Love. The addition of Becky Stark who played the role of the beautiful princess, and Shara Worden who played the evil forest queen was priceless. Their added theatrics made this much more than any old rock concert. I witnessed poetry in motion. Singer/songwriter, Colin Meloy, appeared to be having a blast as 10,000 fans rocked across the grassy landscape behind the wonderful Walker Art Center. Once again the crowd was terrific making this an unforgettable summer evening.
- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at The Turf Club – St. Paul, MN 4.15.09 – This was the most soulful concert I witnessed in 2009. The former Drive-by Truckers singer and guitarist has been on his own for a few years, and on this night he showed all of the strengths of that experience. Jason Isbell’s voice is pure. Very few voices move me the way Isbell’s can, and I was fortunate to witness him at his very best this night. His backing band, the 400 Unit, must be complimented as well. They played flawlessly to a respectfully attentive sell-out crowd. This night was beautiful, and leagues better than when they returned to the The Turf Club on November 20th. That night they sounded tired.
- Wilco at 10,000 Lakes Music Festival – Detroit Lakes, MN 7.23.09 – Leave it to Wilco to cue “The Price is Right” theme song before stepping on stage. Wilco was the main stage headliner on Thursday night of the seventh annual 10,000 Lakes Music Festival in Detroit Lakes, MN. Having the alt-rocking powerhouse band, Wilco, headline a night at a predominantly jamband festival had me a bit worried, but Wilco prevailed, even while being under the barrage of glowsticks at one point. Although Jeff Tweedy is the singer/songwriter of the band, there really is no leader. Wilco is a band, the very definition of it. Each member is a master of their instrument and while a good portion of the crowd seemed unfamiliar with their work, Wilco proceeded along with their eternal professionalism and had the crowd rocking. Most of the material was from their 2009 album, Wilco (the album), but they balanced their set wonderfully with songs from the past. This show was fantastic, and added a wonderful mix to a wonderful festival.
- Umphrey’s McGee at First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN 1.31.09 – Night two of Umphrey’s McGee’s three-night run at First Avenue rocked!! Just over a week after the release of their brilliant prog-rocking album, Mantis, the band introduced the new tunes with force while mixing in plenty of older favorites. Friday night was for the rookies, but this night was for the pros. First Avenue was filled with the hardcores, making it an amazing experience. The night opened with the heavy head-bobbing “Push the Pig”, and ended with an awesome “Syncopated Strangers > Cemetery Walk II > Syncopated Strangers” mash. This was an amazing night that shook the cold winter blues. I’m grateful for the new friends I made this weekend.
- The Swell Season at The State Theatre – Minneapolis, MN 12.5.09 – This was a beautiful show. The Swell Season are made up of The Frames’, Glen Hansard, and Czech pianist, Marketa Irglova. Together they won a an Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture for the ballad “Falling Slowly” from the low budget Irish film, Once (a must see if you haven’t already). On this tour they were supported by Hansard’s band, The Frames. The night was mixed with songs by the duo, Glen Hansard playing solo, and together with the addition of The Frames. They even included a nice cover of “Two-Step” by the Minnesota band, Low. The State Theatre was the absolute perfect venue for this wonderfully moving show.
- The Jayhawks at Basilica Block Party – Minneapolis, MN 7.10.09 – Seeing the Basilica of St. Mary gospel choir back up The Jayhawks on “Blue” while rain fell steadily is one of my biggest musical highlights of 2009. There was a lot of anticipation for this show since the only other date the band reunited for in 2009 was for a festival in Barcelona, Spain. It was unfortunate that it rained through most of the concert, but the packed crowd welcomed the music with little regard. All night the fans could be heard singing along to the songs of these Minneapolis alt-rocking legends. And Gary Louris’ guitar work impressed me more than I ever could have imagined. I am very grateful to have been a part of this show.
- Trampled by Turtles at First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN 11.6.09 – There is no questioning that this band is for real. Trampled by Turtles is a quintet from Duluth, MN who play their own brand of bluegrass. On this night they were on, and the sold-out crowd that packed First Avenue to witness it were blessed with an amazing performance. I’ve seen Trampled by Turtles a lot of times, but this night was special. A Radiohead cover started things off, and from their they hammered through songs from their four albums and also tunes from their currently untitled fifth album which is due next April. It was a great night to celebrate Minnesota, a great night to celebrate Trampled by Turtles. This band deserves the success they are starting to see.
- Dan Auerbach at First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN 3.7.09 – I am probably one of the only ones around who think that Dan Auerbach is better with his solo band than he is with drummer, Patrick Carney, as the duo, The Black Keys. This show at First Avenue made me realize how great of a songwriter Auerbach really is. He plays guitar like an old bluesman sitting on a front porch, yet with catchy bounce that is hard to resist. His solo album, Keep It Hid, that he was touring behind is fantastic. The band, Hacienda, acted as his band on the record and tour and they were very impressive. The addition of My Morning Jacket’s, Patrick Hallahan, on percussion certainly didn’t hurt matters either. This was a great show. Dan Auerbach is a legend in the making.