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Minnesota does not sound like a big name in music, especially with large music communities like Detroit and Chicago nearby. However, a surprising number of big-name acts have come from Minnesota. With surprising authenticity and ingenuity, music communities have popped up across the state, promising listeners a good time. Keep reading to learn more about the successful artists, iconic pop culture moments, and ambitious small-scale venues that make Minnesota’s music scene something to talk about.

Minnesota brought the world some of the greatest musicians across genres.

Singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and filmmaker Prince is a Minnesota native. Although his flamboyant performances, extravagant style, and eclectic contributions to music may not seem very Midwestern, Prince grew up in Minneapolis, where he started his first band and played at local venues.

Singer, songwriter, author, and artist Bob Dylan is another Minnesota native. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, he grew up Dululth before moving to Hibbing. When attending the University of Minnesota, he devoted himself to folk music, performing mostly in the Dinkytown area. Later, he traveled across the United States, building his music career and protest presence with songs like “Masters of War,” “The Times They Are A Changing,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Chimes for Freedom,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” “Blowin’ In the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”

Earlier in the 1900s, singer, actress, dancer, and vaudevillian Judy Garland was born in Minnesota. She started working in show business at the tender age of two. The Garlands later moved to California to pursue the entertainment industry with gusto, which led to Judy’s deal with MGM at age thirteen and her subsequent role in the American classic, The Wizard of Oz. Still, Grand Rapids, Minnesota was her first home.

The Replacements, Brother Ali, Atmosphere, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, The Jets, Kat Bjelland, Babes in Toyland, Husker Du, Lizzo, Dessa, The Jayhawks, and Motion City Soundtrack are some other Minnesota-born musicians. All of this talent and influences goes to show that you never know what characters you will find on stage on Minnesota’s local venues. Give local artists a listen to hear the next greatest thing.

Minnesota’s music scene has ample charm with its quirky pop culture history.

Minnesota might not be a big name in the music industry, but a lot of quirky, fun, cool, and random things have happened in its music scene. Did you know that Courtney Love was once a member of the iconic all-girl rock band Babes in Toyland? She was eliminated from the group son after joining. Did you know that the classic World War II song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” was recorded and performed by Minnesotan sisters? The Andrews’ jovial, harmonic rendition is an American classic. Did you know the Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There for You”? One half of the duo who wrote and sang it, Phil Solem, was born in Minnesota and performs solo in the Minneapolis area today. Did you know that Minnesota’s trio Husker Du was the first known hardcore band to snag a record deal from a major, mainstream label? This is just a handful of the many bizarre and unusual facets of music’s on goings in Minnesota. Concert-goers today can be sure that something unorthodox and amusing is unfolding in this state’s live music scene.

Minnesota has small-scale venues scattered across the state that keep music communities of all sizes buzzing with interest.

Minnesota has tons of little towns and small cities within it. Although many low-population areas in the country are known for a lackluster entertainment industry, small, niche, personal venues keep the music alive in Minnesota. In Mankato, The Gold Mine is run by proprietors Colin Scharf and Laura Schultz. A bit of an underground venue, the venue is actually their living room. Seeing that there is no central venue to support local artistry, the couple opened up its home to local artists and traveling bands. Think of it as a listening room.

Likewise, in Zumbrota, Marie Marvin bought a dated Carnegie Library, transforming it into a center for the arts. With the help of a sound engineer, the Carnegie Library now has the capacity for concerts. Two are held every weekend, putting local and touring musicians on stage. The theater next door—the State Theatre—collaborates with Crossings to book larger bands.

These are just two of many small towns that have invented venues to support Minnesotan music. For listeners in small towns, this makes the concert experience more accessible than ever before in Minnesota.

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