Thursday, October 25, 2012

Live Music Venues in Minnesota

This is a list of sorts of my own personal rankings of venues in the Minneapolis and St.Paul area. This list and the hyperbolic opinions of course are my own, and are not meant to over inflate nor disparage these venues from doing business, as without them, there would be no live music in Minnesota. But I am not pulling many punches here, as I think it's good to get out an honest take on a lot of these places.

Not to forget, the mainstream music media doesn't necessarily include some of these spots, or opinions about them. To throw out a different feeling might actually get them to re-examine their own sense about the live music scene in my hometown.

Also the fact I'm sure plenty of those types don't know, or maybe stumbled upon this blog once or twice. The networking within their circles doesn't seem to know this blog as a MINNESOTA/MINNESOTA MUSIC BLOG. But the fact is, it is, along with a blog for tons of music not from Minnesota. They seem to be captured in their own little bubble, but perhaps by giving an extensive look at live music here from someone not inside said bubble, they will realize not everyone reads Citypages, listens to 89.3 and shops at The Electric Fetus exclusively like they like to give the impression they should.

Edits, Images and other things may be added in due time, but given some factors, I'm going to have to go with this the way it is for now.

I would rank the live music venues in the Twin Cities as follows:

1. Whole Music Club Why is this #1. The only show I saw there, Menomena with The Cloak Ox and 1 other band, I thought was terrific. They have couches, it's isolated downstairs at the Coffman Student Union at the U. The Sound is nice. I had no issues bringing my laptop or getting Wifi. Chatting with the bands afterwards was totally cool.

I really want to see more shows there, but I'm not sure how likely that'll be given the costs, but if an artist wishes to play for other means.

Edit: Ted Mann Concert Hall/The Weismann Art Musuem/Coffman Student Union
I need to bundle in these other 3 venues at the U of M as they are all nice places to see music at. Like The Whole, I only have been able to attend a few select shows at each of them. But I like the fact they are student promoted, and thus the hipster media doesn't seem to force their way into pimping them. I recall

2. The Artist Quarter This place is what The Dakota Jazz club used to be in St.Paul, sans for the food (fries). But the atmosphere, convenience, sound, setting, times of shows, cost of shows, and artists that play there are all very much in my preference. It is for Jazz, but Jazz is best experienced live anyway. There's not a more intimate, relaxing venue in Minnesota.

3. Celtic Junction The 2 Dean Magraw all-day benefits that were there, along with Lehto & Wright's Children's Songs CD Release show are the only shows I've seen there, but I can't really say much if anything bad about this place. It very much has the environment and blue collar/community approach that The Cedar Cultural Center used to have when Bill Kubeczko ran it. The only things I wish were different about it, are the lack of non-Irish (or Celtic) acts performing there. And how few concerts have been held there; but it was not even primarily set up for live music, but things like dance lessons and classes, etc.

4. Triple Rock Social Club This has become the best rock venue in the Twin Cities, in some ways by default. They have Air Conditioning, a number of places to sit, they allow you to bring in your computer, and normally you're able to meet the bands afterwards. Along with seeing a number of really memorable concerts there over the last few years (The Besnard Lakes, The Dear Hunter, The Receiving End of Sirens, Brooke Waggoner, Deerfhoof). The only things about it I'm not as crazy about is it being in the Cedar/Riverside area, and the fact a lot of concerts go late there. But the staff don't even get on you to leave like some venues (including their neighbors at The Cabooze). I honestly would rather see a band here over almost every other venue in town, and they do get a lot of touring acts I like thankfully. I think other venues should model themselves after this place.

5. Varsity Theater For a number of years, this was the premiere live venue in Minnesota for clubs at least. Good sound, charming decor, parking was convenient, and getting to meet the bands was almost a sure thing every time. But, the reason they have dropped down to 5th (and even below Triple Rock), is what seems like the First Ave/Hipster have poked their head into their business process, and they seem to be catering more towards the hipster than I would prefer. When they 1st started having live music there in 2005, 2006, 2007, that didn't seem to be the case. They were sort of a rival to First Ave. Now they seem to be acting like First Ave's little brother. I can't even seem to bring in my computer in anymore and blog, at least depending on some shows.

I will say, I still prefer this place over most, and do like some of the changes they've made, like the upstairs area. But I suppose it's maybe a push, because the old Risers and Couches seem to be gone, or random at best to find there. You don't know what the seating situation is before every concert, which, I wish I did. Mesa Pizza and Five Guys in the area are nice traditional food spots, but the lack of a Wells Fargo ATM down the street now kind of sucks.

6. The Baroque Room Personal bias aside (my cousin and his wife run this place in downtown St.Paul), this about as nice of a venue to hear acoustic music. At least intimate, and for Classical music, specifically Baroque and Chamber. I have only seen my cousin and his wife with some others perform there a couple of times, but I can't think of another spot better, for what it's used for. They even offer wine, cheese, crackers, fruit, veggies, etc. The biggest downside to it I suppose is in order for artists to perform there at this point, they don't really get paid (but have to pay?..I recall asking my cousin and thought he said). So, in a way, it's sort of a music space purely for performance. Tips, cd sales, etc I'm sure can help, but it does hurt the idea of recommending some artists I know to desire to play there. But it's not impacting their success from what I can tell as they have performances very regularly.

7. Black Dog Cafe I've seen Dean Magraw at this place like 8 times in 2012. It's a perfect situation, where the 1st Tuesday of every month Dean goes on with some other musicians, usually Davu Seru on drums and at times some others. He plays from 7-9PM. There is no cost, just suggested tipping. Dean will do his thing, usually Jazz interpretations. It's about the most relaxing, enjoyable live setting I could ever ask for. And it's only once a month.

Plus the Cuban sandwich is maybe the best entree of any kind I've fallen for over the last year. There's a reason why it won an award in 2009 in Citypages. Plus they have a great Carmel Apple Cider in the Fall/Winter time.

I love the fact Dean is doing well, and playing these gigs every month there (although he won't be there this next month of November, but Davu and Marcus Anderson? I think will be at least).

I can't say enough good things about Black Dog at this point, I only worry about when the Light Rail is connected in 2014, the traffic levels for Dean's shows and Black Dog in general may change, for better or worse. I just hate to see little secrets spots become not so secretive (I know, why am I talking about it then? :p).

8. McGuire Theater at The Walker Art Center I saw St.Vincent do 2 shows there last year, and I must say, the theater's acoustics, design, and even the convenience/affordability of the parking really impressed me, so much I really want to go back. The show itself was mixed, and it does give off a little bit of a hipster vibe, but I could look past that stuff if I may end up there more. I guess on paper, this is a very desirable venue with the jury out about it's potential flaws. It's not even quite in downtown Mpls too which is preferable.

9. The Ritz Theater A very nice theater in Northeast Minneapolis. I have seen 2 shows there, Jenny Dalton (with Murzik) and The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra (with Trent Romens). Both of those shows were very enjoyable. The sound, size, area, parking, etc were all quite welcoming. I guess the only issue with this place is cost and booking artists/events. Very much reminds me of The Woman's Club Theater's issues as well.

10. Cedar Cultural Center I used to love this place. It truly was the anti-First Ave. They booked almost exclusively ethnic, acoustic and musician-based acts. But when Bill Kubeczko left, the people who took over clearly joined up with 89.3, First Ave and the Hipster monopoly to an extent. And what ended up happening is a lot more artists who were championed by those crowds ended up there. Now, they have still brought in a lot of the kinds of acts they used to, although not all of them, per Bireli Lagrene for example.

Dean Magraw does still play there, but not as much as he used to I don't get the sense. Nor is their Tabla Nights, Solstice Events, nor The Minnesota Guitar Trios. And not to forget Nordic Roots Festival and the Hawaiian Slack-Key guitar festivals that don't happen there anymore either.

So what you have is, another venue, that had to cater to the populous to stay afloat, but in the process, is not quite what it once was. Mind you, I still enjoy going there, and seeing acts perform. But it is without question more hipster than it used to be.

11. Turf Club This place is a safe haven in a lot of ways. So anti-Minneapolis. The parking is convenient and free in the area, since it's in St.Paul. There's plenty of seating. They don't care about you bringing in a laptop to use. Meeting the bands is almost always possible. The sound for the most part is decent. And at this point, it's not hipster enough to bug me. Now, like many others in St.Paul, once the Light Rail is running in 2014, it may change, but for now I am totally happy seeing shows here. I suppose the only issue I have had with it is the shows almost always tend to go late. But given its in St.Paul, it's easier for me to work around that.

12. Woman's Club Theater I saw Greg Howard and then stayed for Tim Reynolds at this nice Loring Park area theater in 2001. That was 1 of the most memorable concerts I've ever seen. They have not booked another concert or event I have wanted to go to since. That saddens me, but I've come to forget about expecting it to happen. I'd put this closely on par with The Ritz Theater, but the Loring Park area is less desirable than The Ritz's area. But I'd rather see a show here over any of the Hennepin Theatre district spots.

13. Dreamland Arts I saw Greg Herriges there, just once, but it was a great show. Very intimate little place in the Hamline University area. Among the smallest little venues, this is definitely one I would want to frequent more.

14. Fitzgerald Theater This is definitely the best larger theatre in the Twin Cities. A classic old theater, with great acoustics. For a little while I was seeing shows there regularly (Jean Luc-Ponty, Ian Anderson), and was able to meet them after shows in fact. But in the last 6 or 7 years, they haven't been getting the acts I enjoy. Prices are usually more spendy too (Pat Metheny, $75 I recall back in 2002). And of course the most noteworthy thing personally was in 2004 when the somewhat renowned Genesis concert recreation act The Musical Box were confirmed to play there, and I busted my ass to try and promote it, but ultimately, Sue McLean had to pull the plug due to the band needing to sell like 2/3 or more of the seats to break even for the travel costs (they traveled with Genesis original SLIDES and SETS among other things).
Would have The Musical Box show gone through at another venue? unlikely, but I never knew all the logistics.

Had Minnesota Wild Goalie and hardcore Genesis fan Dwayne Rolloson been able to help, or by some freak circumstance, getting ahold of all the people who went to Peter Gabriel in 2002 at Target Center, might  have allowed enough ticket sales for Sue not to pull the plug, but that's again pure speculation and far in the past sadly. It probably would have been the most memorable show at The Fitz for me, but so be it.

15. Orchestra Hall I like this place, and often find ways to see shows for affordable rates.Being downtown Minneapolis and the way they kind of push their events at you are the main negatives about it. For a large classical or string/chamber based concert, I'm not sure there is a better spot. The Ordway maybe, but this place always seems more grand and epic. The Pat Metheny show I saw in 2005 and Cloud Cult in 2011 are among the best things I've seen there.

16. Orpheum Among the 3 theatres in the Hennepin trio, this is the best. The sound is best, the security often seems less forward (save for Jethro Tull in 2011). I guess it still has some issues that all 3 of them do, like jacked up ticket prices and merch, but I have always felt it less so here compared to the State Theatre.

17. First Ave As much as the hipsters run this place, I have grown to accept the Main Room for the most part. But, it would probably be higher if the negatives didn't stick out so much. The lack of soundproofing walls/booking music-based events simultaneously that create distractions from other rooms. I.e. The Record Room, and both Main Room-to-Entry and Entry-to-Main Room. The location being so close to Twins games(for parking, downtown crowd size), and late shows. At the Bloc Party show in 2009, they had a DJ spin music for 2 hours after opening the doors (instead of a later door time, or an opening act instead). It was A HUGE waste of time.

That all being said, the fact is, they do get acts I enjoy, and want to support/see live. And the Sight Lines and sound are preferable to many. If they relocated, changed management, stopped booking/promoting genres based on what Pitchfork spits out to them, I would actually be proud of this place. But that unlikely will never happen. In the mid 2000's I recall them being out of commission, and I was honestly happy to see that. Now, I'm sort of on the fence, but to say I'd rather see bands play other venues is accurate. Although if they actually booked some bands (to headline) like The Dear Hunter, Fair to Midland, Porcupine Tree, dredg or Marillion, my feelings about it might change.

18. Kitty Kat Club I like the location for the most part, and the intimacy. Is it a hipster spot? maybe a little bit, but the U of M crowd is less 89.3/Pfork and more just funny/peculiar people-watching college crowd. This is almost Dinkytown's answer to the Turf Club in a way. It's a good place to unwind and escape. And the live music and staff are usually very low key. I honestly wish I could see more local artists play there. They even have a Soul Night with a DJ that plays some really cool, obscure songs I should really research and seek out.

19. Ordway I've only seen a few shows there, most notably Yo Yo Ma a number of years back, and it was great. I guess the biggest issue it has is, it's not maybe primarily used to for music (more plays?), and the cost of tickets. But I plan to see Poncho Sanchez there this Friday evening, so my feelings about it may change.

20. Northrup Auditorium I like how large this place is, but the area at the U of M makes it a journey to walk to at times. They also are spotty in the shows they book. But when some  tours are looking to come to Minnesota, I'd rather they get the show, compared to some of the other theaters here.. I saw The Moody Blues and Steely Dan there within the last 8 years, 2 decent shows, although that's kind of all they were, decent. But given the choice between this and say a smaller arena like Roy Wilkins, I'd go with Northrup. Even just based on weather and drive, I'd take this spot over the Minnesota Zoo.

21. Music Box Theatre/Loring Theater I only caught 1 show at this place back in 2009 on Halloween I recall, We Valedictorians (Jordan Gatesmith of Howler/Total Babe's 1st band), and it was really nice. It is a theater, so it wasn't a typical rock music venue. But the size was nice, not small but not too big. I guess given it is not up and running currently, it was almost a "what could have been." The Ritz and Woman's Club theaters are similar (along with many locations at college auditoriums like at Hamline University, and others such as Ted Mann concert hall).

I suppose given it's location and lack of affiliation with a school. it had more opportunity to gain a following/momentum, but it didn't seem to be in the cards. It might have been cost, with liquor licenses and such. Star Central I think found itself in a similar financial bind after less than a year of booking national touring acts. Although perhaps this place would only have held locals anyway, but who knows if that made any difference.The Heliotrope festival was even held there its last year.

The building may be in limbo right now, but if it ever comes back, I would still regard it as one of the better venues in Minnesota.

22. Club Underground I only caught 1 concert at this place a few years ago. It's a club in Northeast Minneapolis, that I figured would suck, but in fact it was really pretty nice. Bands play downstairs, they have tables and chairs. It's pretty laid back. Parking isn't an issue. And the sound is okay. I suppose like Kitty Kat, I just wish more bands would play there, so I could go back. But beyond The Ritz, it's the 2nd best venue in Northeast for music.

23. Patrick's Cabaret This space in the East Lake St area is actually really nice. I only went there once, in 2011. It almost reminds me of a Cedar Cultural Center or Celtic Junction with bleachers? Sound wise it's good, parking is not great, but I suppose acceptable. The area is maybe the biggest issue I have with it as I don't love that area too much. That and the fact they don't typically book artists I know. I wonder if Dean Magraw has ever played there. Perhaps, and I didn't know about it.

24. Pantages Theater Given the issues I have with the State Theatre, this by default I enjoy more. I only caught 1 show there I recall, Polyphonic Spree in 2007, but it was rather memorable. Size-wise, it's smaller than the other 2 Hennepin Theatres, which in some ways is a good thing. I just wonder if the cost to book acts there is a lot higher than comprable size venues like First Ave, Varsity, etc. I guess depending on the kind of music, I'm not sure why an artist would go here instead. But I suppose if they want a smaller theatre show, this is the one. But being in downtown Mpls, ticket prices, and the alternatives, it is a 2nd or 3rd choice. But that being said, I would go for seeing more shows there. I wonder if Hennepin Theatres end up sticking many of their non-music stuff like plays, stand up comedy there instead just based on demand/draw.

25. The Guthrie Theater A nice place, despite the new location. But it's isolated, and thus many people don't hear about shows there. The Jon Anderson concert in 2009? that happened there didn't sell incredibly well. But the show itself was good enough. The sound, seating, etc, were nothing to have issue with. I guess booking more concerts, prices, and not comparing as well with some others are the reasons this place is lower. Also the fact like Ordway and some others, I don't get the sense it's primary events are music, but plays and other things instead.

26. Highland Library I've seen Greg Herriges and his ensemble here a couple of times, and always enjoyed it. The acoustics are nice for Greg's style of ethnic/folky prog. I like the fact it's in Highland Park, the shows don't go late, it usually is free, and it's quite welcoming. Parking is easy as well, plus it's right down the street from Half Price Books and not far from where my girlfriend is attending grad school at St. Kate's. The only issue I suppose with it is how infrequent I have gone there, but in some ways it's nice given how intermittent that makes shows.

27. The Beat Coffee House I have been to this place maybe 3 or 4 times, and really can't say I've ever had any bad experiences there. It is 1 of those cafe's I suppose, like a Dunn Brothers or Gingko's, but I guess I have enjoyed shows there a little more. Maybe due to the seating. It's intimate, but not exactly a shack. I'd say it's as if not more comfortable than most other venues of its type. And props for booking Timbre earlier this year at the 11th hour. Location wise, it is in the Uptown area, not far from Cheapo, but at least when I have gone there, the shows have been over relatively early. Maybe in some ways, it's Minneapolis version of Sin-E?

28. Fine Line This used to be somewhat of a staple venue, especially back when I loathed going to 1st Ave, it was the best alternative. Granted, I've never been crazy about it's location in the Warehouse District, but I suppose back about 10 years ago, the WH district was a bit less shady than it has become. And I had a better system to park (along Marquette Ave near the Library was my goal). I suppose had I made a list like this 10 years ago or less, this place would have made the top 10 for sure. But the issues it has now, maybe 1st and foremost due to not booking shows I want to see anymore, have caused it to drop.

I did see some of my favorite shows there, from Porcupine Tree/Opeth to Mutemath to Ours twice, including joining them onstage to play drums once (maybe the greatest moment of my concert going life). And the staff usually is pretty cool, including a few times I came in late within a gig, and I ended up getting in free. They also do have seating upstairs at least, although those often disappear fast.

I guess given its present state, and the fact it is downtown Mpls and where it is down there, not far from the shady crowd near Tropix and Sexworld, it is this low. But historically, this place definitely is a spot I have a lot of fond memories of. But then again, the same can be said about places like The Entry or the 400 Bar; i.e. not necessarily at the top of my venue choices still.But not at the bottom either.

29. XCel Energy Center Without question the best Arena venue in Minnesota. The gap between it and Target Center is like Night and Day still. The acoustics, visuals, and even the fact it's in St.Paul scores in its favor. But, of late it seems more shows are ending up at Target Center instead. Likely due to the promoters are forking over more dough. And the fact is, like most Arena and Theater shows., the prices are through the roof. Now, I'll fully admit to having some luck finding people with extra tickets on the street down there. But at the same time, I've enjoyed hearing shows in the background in the corridors while killing time.

So, with those factors, this place is desirable for it's size (and also light years better than the Roy Wilkins auditorium within the same building), but within the budgetary concerns, and lack of reliable bookings, I can't say I wish to have bands play there every time out. But more or less on every level, it's an upgrade from it's Minneapolis counterpart in Target Center. Even just with parking, given in St.Paul, meters aren't enforced after 4:30 (on most streets, as of 2012 at least). I do wonder like most St.Paul venues, what impact the Light Rail coming in 2014 will have. Hopefully nothing major.

30. Hosmer Library This is a bit like The Highland Library in that I've seen Greg Herriges there a few times, and it works pretty well. It's not as large a room where they perform as Highland, but for that reason, it's a little more intimate (if that's possible). I guess other IMSOM (Indian Music Society of Minnesota) shows end up there at times? So perhaps at least in terms of frequency, they have more concert events than Highland. But on the flip size, being in South Minneapolis, while not undesirable, is not as desirable an area compared to Highland. But at the same time, I prefer it's area over other parts of town  (North Minneapolis for example, or even East Lake St near Patrick's Cabaret). Given it is a library, I'm not putting it higher, but for what it is for live music, it is 1 of the better options in Minnesota.

31. The Minnesota Zoo When the weather is nice, and they book shows I want to see, this is an enjoyable location. However, I don't live in Eagan anymore, thus it's a little more of a commute than I'd prefer. The tickets are often rather high as well. It is seasonal of course which limits it's quantity and time-of-year, for shows every year. And the fact it is outside, at least for the shows I saw, the smokers presence was at times unavoidable to notice. Also the fact the seating is sardine-can-like makes some of the concerts less comfortable than I would prefer.

As far as outdoor venues, there aren't many better, it's just the different issues that factor in to shows there force it to be a bit lower comparably. But I'd be lying if I didn't include the fact I wish more acts would get booked there. Porcupine Tree of course for there name would be nice. But the fact the shows don't go too late and it's not in either downtown is in its favor. Back in my Eagan days, it was about as perfect a location, but I'm not residing there anymore. Myth I suppose is the current equivalent, although the negative factors at Myth outweigh the Zoo's by a little.

32. Barfly I've ended up seeing a few concerts at this place as a last-minute substitute venue, and the experiences have been mixed. Mute Math, Under the Influence of Giants and Ozric Tentatcles. I all saw there. It's less of a concert hall, but more of a dance club. And the way the security works, it makes me wonder sometimes. The people who run it are rather nonchalant about acoustics, entrance, and other factors. The shows though often go on very late, and it's right off Hennepin Ave in Downtown Minneapolis.

I guess it's not the worst place to see a show, but also a bit unsettling knowing a band I want to see may play there.

33. Bryant Lake Bowl This is in some ways, a hipster venue, for the sake of being hipster. Although, I at times get past that, and have enjoyed seeing shows in their little intimate theater right next to the bowling alleys. The food for the most part is good there, and the shows they have wait staff that'll allow you to buy dinner. In a way, it's almost like a blue collar version of The Dakota in that sense.

The negatives I suppose are its crowd and the area. It frequently gets crowded,so much so, getting a table to eat or bowl can take awhile. And shows usually go late. I have found it to be a spot to go to when time is not a factor and/or I don't necessarily have to wake up for work the next day.

The bowling itself I enjoy more than at a place like Memory Lanes for example. Also the fact retro video game spot "Rusty Quarters" opened up nearby is a plus, save for the fact like Bryant, that place seems to get crowded pretty easily during the evening.

I have seen The Bewitched there and Jenny Dalton from memory, and I think for performances, it works well, even when it's crowded. The walls are more soundproofed than 1st Ave/The Entry from memory. And to see Cabaret or performance art there seems fitting. But I suppose given some of the other factors and how infrequently I've gone there, it ends up more middle of the road. Although there are events there often, I just don't find myself demanding to go to them. If I had more evenings available, I probably would consider going there more. If I lived closer as well, as I once dated someone who was and it seemed rather convenient (almost like it could become addictive).

34. Tarnish & Gold Cool little art gallery in Northeast Minneapolis. A bit like The Baroque Room, but primarily used for showing art. I guess if they had more concerts, or I found reason to go there more often, I'd endorse this place more. I think what they're doing is cool. The sound wasn't amazing though, at least for Metal, the 1 show I saw there.

35. State Theatre Very annoying security, the mix of the sound for nearly every Dream Theater concert I've seen there has been frankly, awful. Heavy Rock and Metal doesn't work at this place, but people probably will never follow that. I suppose I'd rather go there instead of Station 4, but that's not saying a lot. The Merch is usually spendy. Most of show, you get ushers having to walk people down to their seats in the dark.

And even Rock Bottom Brewery has become a huge ripoff ($35 for 2 appetizers and 2 drinks, lol).

The suppose best thing I can say about it is, they do often book good bands including some prog who are big enough. I have met many bands afterwards near where there bus is. And I have found a spot to be able to hear some of the shows outside, which is not a terrible last resort if I don't manage to get a ticket.

36. Memory Lanes I've seen a few shows at this place, along with some Burlesque performances, and have definitely enjoyed those overall. But, they were not without issues at the same time. For one, people end up bowling on the sides while the performance in the middle lanes are taking place. I guess if this place likes to allow people to do that fine, but it ends up distracting those who are interested in the music or performer only. Also the fact the bowling is a bit pricey from what I recall, compared to other bowling alleys. And the seating, while not terrible, seems to be a little bit a race to get spots in the middle. If you don't get there and sit down early enough, you may end up way down the sides. The food is hit and miss, although at least there almost is never a cover charge. But my girlfriend seems to enjoy the food a little more than myself. The shows do happen to go late, which in some ways can get depressing, but I've come to assume that is the case. Things happen late in the Seward area anyway, but also a reason why I try and avoid events down there if possible.

37. Dunn Bros (St.Paul) Probably the best Dunn Brothers, and maybe the 1st? I don't see shows at cafe's too often, but once in a blue moon, they are nice enough. And I've ended up at this location a few times more than some others in recent times. At least it's not typically too crowded and allows for a stop at Cheapo if time works out, namely on a weekend evening.

38. Minnesota State Fair Including the free stages and the Grandstand, the outdoor shows they have are not bad. Although the Grandstand shows have been spendy, Micky Dolenz/Happy Together tour was affordable thankfully. The crowds are a bit repulsive, often chatting during shows, smoking and not typically my demographic.

The Fair itself is at best a-work-in-progress for my girlfriend and I, but live music has helped motivate me to go back there. I just find going to the fair and seeing a concert is a bit draining.

Not to forget tickets for concerts there, do not include tickets to actually get in to the Fair.

Not the worse location to see live music, namely outdoors, but The Minnesota Zoo is definitely better for multiple reasons. Maybe 1st and foremost, the lack of a mob that happens at the fair.

38. Gingkos I was ending up at this place a fair amount like 10 years ago. Within the last few years, not so much. There's something rather retro about it, almost like a Cafe version of a Thrift Store (the old board games on the shelves?), although I suppose I could go to a place like the Chatterbox (or Hard Times Cafe, or Bad Waitress) instead. The Black Sea is just down the block, which I could go to for dinner once a week or more. But given how infrequently I've gone to this place in recent years, it doesn't find its way higher on this list. I heard Dean Magraw did a show a few months ago where they charged pretty high rates for tickets. I'm not sure if that would have happened 10 years ago.

Not a terrible spot for a coffee house show, but not the most desirable in general.

39. Minnesota Music Cafe I only have been to this place once, and it was rather loud. Kind of a blues-bar venue. I get the sense they only book certain local acts that have a draw, and get regulars every week. Almost like The Cabooze of St.Paul. If it wasn't for the fact the area is kind of shady, it might not be at The Cabooze's level. But I just haven't ended up there. Dean's name/guitar isn't even on the wall there. The 1 show I saw was okay, so for that reason, the jury is a little bit out. But it's kind of an afterthought for me still.

40. Roy Wilkins Auditorium I saw The Mars Volta there and the acoustics were plain awful. It is like a Gym. Actually, I'm not sure why this is as high as it is actually. This is 1 of the worst venues to see music, at least when I last went back in 2005?. It's almost the polar opposite of the X.

41. Myth Corporate. The fact they are in Maplewood and book some classic rock bands is about the only good thing about this place. They had Between the Buried and Me selling short sleave t-shirts for $50, lol. 50 fucking dollars. Also the last time I was there, the security made me check my sharpies (and some other things in my pockets).

The Marilyn Manson show with Ours wasn't incredibly memorable. Progressive Nation in 2008 wasn't bad, but that may be 1 of the only shows I saw there I really loved. They don't have much if any seating. Only on the sides. If you lean against the rails, the security may tell you, you can't.

42. 400 Bar This place gets bands I like, and tickets are usually not spendy. However, they have serious issues with heat or lack of Air Conditioning, that they have to rank this low. I guess other than that big factor, I haven't had many, if any, negative experiences there. I just can't say I would prefer going there compared to a number of other clubs of its kind. Although I'd probably still take it over The Entry for what that's worth.

Sauna's lose for me. But if they, like Station 4, could ever get their AC working/have AC, my feelings about it probably would go up. The people who work there seem cool for the most part. The recent redesign with the wall from the stage area, I'm not sure how much  has actually helped. The sound is hit and miss. The last Ours show was there; I wasn't thrilled with the sound, but I've seen many other shows where the sound seemed pretty good.

I guess it is a place with some history, and such as a place like The Uptown Bar, it would be sad to see it go, but at the same time, the West Bank, especially on weekend evenings, is an area I try and avoid.So, its location is another reason  why I'm not as high on it. But beggars can't be choosers, and if bands like Judgement Day, Annuals and Ours end up there, I'm not going to skip it unless there's a better alternative despite its issues.

43. 7th Street Entry The shows frequently have to have 4 or 5 bands, and go late. It's hot at times in there.It feels like a shack. I will not deny though, School of Seven Bells in 2009 was an amazing show, and I have seen some others like Ramona Falls, St. Vincent, Black Mountain, 3,  Unexpect (even as awkward as a Metal show is at any First Ave venue).

But the lack of sound proofed walls., limited seating, has made this place almost boycott-able for me. I mean yeah, I did see some great shows there, but the cons outweigh the pros so much and in a handful of ways, I just loathe going down there at times. Like the Main Room, if it were moved to different area and some other things changed i.e. it were more like The Turf Club, I'd have much more positive feelings about this place.

That being said, if a band I totally love like Ours, Foals or Oceansize, etc were there, I'd go of course. But if there's a conflict or I'm on the fence about the act in some way, the fact it's there certainly factors in to my decision (Biffy Clyro a few years ago is 1 example).

44. The Rock Night Club This is included only by default as they are now officially not a national touring act venue. In fact the name is different now I think. Which overall I'm not happy about given they did book some bands I liked such as Fair to Midland, Karniivool and King's X. And they were an alternative to Station 4, for Metal. And the fact it is located in Maplewood I can't deny helps.

But on the flip-side, shows would always go late there, the Maplewood cops have quotas to fill, and that area seems to be filled with them. The sound is/was spotty at best. The patio area was always filled with smokers, which isn't unusual, but I often went out there to chat with friends, even bands, and that at times made me want to go back in.

I dunno, this place for what it is was, the issues weren't so bad, but I guess I never loved this place for live music.But given Station 4 being the only place for Metal now, I do kind of miss it and wish it was still around.

45. Target Center Blech. I've seen Rush a few times there (4 I recall), Kansas, Sting, Queensryche, Yes/Dream Theater. It is the typical Arena venue, with some seating not lending to be all that great for music, and acoustics that are extremely hollow. The most recent Rush show I reviewed last month re-emphasized its issues, now with whoever was mixing that show having the bass vastly higher than everything else. Thus, the string section was not audible.

Tickets are of course corporate level, and merch as well.

I honestly can't say much else good about it, other than I have had luck finding my way into shows at affordable rates thankfully. And I suppose seeing a show there is better than at some of the other places below it on this list, but I'm not sure what that's worth or if it makes sense.

If dredg (or even like Local Natives) ever got Arena-worthy (which I'd be shocked if they did), I sincerely hope they never end up playing here. The X is so much better in every way. Why Muse doesn't end up there instead is baffling.

46. The Hexagon Bar/The Blue Nile Both of these venues I only went to once I recall, and found them pretty forgettable. The Seward area is a pretty forgettable area overall for live music. I guess some bands I like have played Hexagon like Brice Plays Drums and Brute Heart, but until I end up there to see them, my feelings are going to remain nondescript. The Blue Nile has some ethnic music I guess, but my feeling is to try and see those kinds of shows at The Cedar or 1 of the libraries if possible instead. At least those performances won't go on until the middle of the night. 

47. Epic (formerly The Quest/Glam Slam) Absolutely awful SITE LINES for live music. The Security there are obsessive as they forced me to check my laptop bag. The Sound wasn't great, but admittedly, when I saw Gotye (pronounced GORE-TI-YEAH by the way) and Kimbra, given the demand for tickets, they did the best they could. But I don't think I desire to ever see a show there anytime soon. It's a DANCE CLUB, even more now more than before the fire. The Ascot Room was the real music venue there, but as far as I know, that place is RIP now.

48. The Dakota 10 years ago when it was in St.Paul, this would have been maybe #2 or #3. The move to downtown Minneapolis has totally ruined this place. When they were in St.Paul at Bandana Square it was intimate, sometimes you could come in just for dinner and the show was free. The French Fries were maybe the best in the state. And the ticket prices were for the most part reasonable. Now? the site lines aren't perfect, the fries to me taste like they were store-bought and thawed-out from being frozen. When you sit down, the wait staff almost presume you're not only there to see live music, but also at least to drink, if not dinner as well, which with entrees, tax & tip, can run easily $50 or more. The ticket prices are definitely higher (honestly A LOT higher. How much was Pat Metheny back in September, $150? lol).

They even seem to have some of their employees suspicious of you not having tickets, as in at the Jon Anderson show a few months ago, I didn't have a ticket but hung around outside as I have done before. A friend of mine had an extra more than half way through the show, and was nice enough to allow me to use it. Within 15 minutes of sitting down, I was approached by 1 of their employees if I had a ticket. I told them I was with the party I was sitting with, as my friend vouched for me. Almost like they were profiling me as someone else.

To add to that, the guy who was so cool in running the Bandana square location, I guess is barely involved (if at all), in many of the operations. And it's pretty obvious when they start booking acts like Keri Noble and non-Jazz artists, it is not exactly the "Jazz Club" it seemed to be. A bit like The Cedar (or movie theaters like Lagoon I suppose in a way), they seem to be doing things different, almost purely to keep their business afloat. Which I suppose I understand in some ways, but ultimately, it still saddens me and gives me a "how the mighty have fallen" impression.

But at least there still is The Artist Quarter among other spots for Jazz in town.

49. Station 4 The 1 Metal venue in Minnesota. Originally it was called The "4th Street Station." And then "The Lab." But the name is secondary to why it places this low.

Air Conditioning, Air Conditioning, Air Conditioning. They don't have any, and who knows if/when they ever will get some. That and the sound at times is not very good as the vocals can get drowned out easily. It's a bit of a shack at times, both in the bar area and of course the main performance area. The poles, while I understand why they are there, are a little distracting. The stage is compressed.

I suppose I would not be giving them some credit for things like booking a lot of bands I like, which the list is long. dredg, Fates Warning, 3, Behemoth (1 of the best Metal performances I've ever seen), bands like Cavil at Rest, Kaddisfly, The Dear Hunter, and Fair to Midland of course. And it is at least in St.Paul which is preferred.

But I've kind of been Station 4-ed out, so much so, if I'm on the fence about a show, their venue may factor in. If they redesigned the place, like putting the stage somewhere else where the poles didn't factor in in the sight lines, and of course they added AC, I might come back to accepting if not looking forward to going there. But for now, they are not going up too high on my desirable venue list, despite the fact they have become maybe the best, if not only venue, for a lot of my taste. Metal likes prog, of course. If the bands I love are heavy and/or obscure, the odds are they'll end up there, for better or for worse.

But then again, bands like Porcupine Tree and Agalloch also don't end up playing Minnesota anymore. Whether the promoters here suggest Station 4 or not, I find it a little interesting and fortunate in a way they don't. But I wish these bands would come, despite how I feel about our only Metal venue.

Maybe Ground Zero could become the Minneapolis alternative again? I saw King's X there in the late 90's and in some ways, Station 4 carries a similar element.

50. The Cabooze Bluesy Bar Rock venue, where the security kick you out right after a band is done.It's in the Seward area, near the West Bank. There is seating, but it often seems like a fight to acquire. The crowd often ends up with drunk idiots who find reason to bogart more space than they deserve. And the blues rock regulars (both bands, and customers) really don't go all that far for me.

They even loaded a drink far too high of a percentage of vodka for my girlfriend once, so much so, she was in peril if not for the Pizza Luce we got into her system soon after.

The sound isn't incredible either, at times the vocals get drowned out. The sight lines are limited, which may be partially by design as it's a bar and a nightclub.
The parking is often impossible to find, for any popular artist, I always end up near Augsburg or recently , in the lot I go to along Riverside. Which makes for a little bit of a trek.

And the crowd also is a bit like some of First Ave hipsters, in that they won't shut the fuck up be it talking to someone they are with, or on the phone (or texting?).

I guess the positives remain, they do get some bands I like (House of Fools for example and Brice Plays Drums recently), and you can find seating if you're early enough. Plus they're fine with laptops and using their Wifi.

Overall, I don't loathe this place maybe as much as it seems, but I've had a few too many negative experiences there to desire to go back on a regular basis. Kind of the opposite of its sister venue in The Triple Rock.

51. Big V's I only saw 1 show there, Deretla, a few years back, and didn't think much of it. It's kind of a shack, in that there's a little stage within a bar area with pool tables and some other things. In fairness, 1 show is hardly enough to fully compare, but I recall just thinking of not desiring to go back there if possible. Although I don't mind that area overall, given I like The Turf Club as much as I do. I just wonder what the point is to trying to see a show there in such a confined space.

haven't been to (among others):
Amsterdam Bar
hell's Kitchen
The Ice House
Mill City Nights (formerly The Brick)
Nomad World Pub
Target Field
TCF Bank Stadium
331 Club
Whiskey Junction
Acadia Cafe (Cedar/Riverside)

Missing, mostly venues of the past:
The Dreamcoat Cafe (RIP)
Star Central
Ground Zero
Medina Ballroom
The Mirage
The Uptown Bar
The 318 (formerly the Bean and Wine Cafe)
J & S Bean Factory aka The Beanery
Coffee Grounds
Dunn Brothers (Apple Valley)
Anodyne Cafe
Famous Dave's (Uptown)
Art and All That Jazz Festival  in Burnsville
Roseville Parks
Washington Square Bar & Grill (White Bear Lake)
Lexington Parks in St.Paul near Como golf course
Santorini's Tavern (Eden Prairie)
McKrackens (Burnsville)
Cafe Maude
Rossi's (RIP)
Aster Cafe
The Red Sea
Riverview Cafe
Arcadia Cafe (Nicollet Ave) Mystic Lake Casino
The Lowry Theater (I saw Exit Stage Right, the Rush tribute band there. Really nice place actually