Live Music

The Experience

Nothing compares to a live concert, seeing a band play music you love. I have listed a brief summary of of some the best live concerts I have seen, although this is far from complete – I have seen hundreds of bands play original music live, famous and not so famous. They all have one thing in common – they are attempting to connect in an almost primal sense.

To connect with an audience and share their creation is a true art form, and the best seem to do it effortlessly. I have seen many of these shows in  some of the best live rock venues, and I have listed a few of my favorite places to watch a concert.

WaterboysFirst AvenueMinneapolis, MNTremendous live band coming off their best "rock" album, was blown away.
Minneapolis AuditoriumMinneapolis, MNMy first ever "big" arena show - back when U2 was cool (sort of).
The ReplacementsFirst AvenueMinneapolis, MNCan't remember the year, but one of their "good" shows - not falling down drunk.
Bruce SpringsteenCivic CenterSt. Paul, MNOne of the usual suspects - only time I saw his show. Marathon energy.
Pink FloydCyclone StadiumAmes, IASometimes bigger is better. Incredible stage show, lasers galore.
Social DistortionFirst AvenueMinneapolis, MNLoud, nasal, fast, tight, punk rock blues at its best.
DadaFine Line Music Cafe Minneapolis, MNBefore I really knew who they were, great show in a small venue.
Stevie Ray VaughanAlpine Valley Music TheaterEast Troy, WIAmazing guitarists - Clapton, Jeff Healey, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy. But tragic aftermath.
IndigenousCaboozeMinneapolis, MNMato Nanji is a great blues guitarist, this was a great show with Cowboy Mouth also.
Trip ShakespeareFirst AvenueMinneapolisFun weird poppy precursor to Dan Wilson forming Semisonic - always fun shows.

The Venues

A huge part of the live music experience is the “where” – the venue can add to the experience or make it less memorable, through the facility or sound quality. Whether it is a small sweaty club or an enormous outdoor stadium, it still comes down to the artist being able to share the music with fidelity and clarity.These is an incomplete list of the best non-arena music venues in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul – these are places I have personally experienced many times but there are still many to check out. I hope over time to expand this listing outside of the metro area.

I recommend to get out there and enjoy.


First Avenue and 7th Street logoNo surprise here – if Prince hadn’t made it famous it still would have been a legend. Hundreds of spilled beers, terrible bathrooms and amazing shows. Open to a wide variety of musical tastes, the only drawbacks are the drink prices and the previously mentioned bathrooms. This is still one of the best live rock venues to be found anywhere.


Bunker's Music BarOne of my all time favorites – small venue, big bar, biker dive bar vibe. Smaller shows, but have seen many great bands play there and always had a good time.


Cabooze logoCan get a bad rap for the somewhat unusual (inconvenient) layout to see music, but has featured a lot of great bands over the years, and remains a staple of the heavier rock crowd. Conveniently located near a light rail stop, so drink up and enjoy.


Fine Line Music Cafe logoAnother venue that might not get an A for acoustics or sight-lines, but remains a destination site to see smaller national acts that come through Minneapolis. The drink prices have gotten a little out of wack.


Varsity Theater logoGreat old building that is the classy choice to see a concert – no subpar bathrooms here. More upscale, often voted best concert venue by City Pages.


Turf Club logoI have only been here once long ago, but it is a St. Paul staple and is managed by the same group as First Avenue.


Additional links are below for more detailed reviews and information on most of the great places to see music in the Twin Cities.

Make sure to check out our favorite classic and new vinyl releases – it’s the next best thing to being there. Nothing conveys the natural sound of an artist better than an analog recording.

Concert of the Month

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