Minnesota's Musical Muscle

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Like many Americans who didn’t actually live there, I always thought of Minneapolis and St. Paul as the land of Mary Tyler Moore, snow, and the Vikings (whose games always seemed to be played in the snow – which was football the way God intended it to be. Moving that team indoors to a domed stadium was a crime against humanity and nature). But in the 80s, the Twin Cities showed their seamy underbelly to the world. First came Prince, who in his earliest years scandalized listeners with his overt and possibly omnivorous sexuality, but who calmed down enough to become a major pop star. Fortunately, the slack was picked up by some of America’s greatest punk and post-punk bands, like Hüsker Du and The Replacements.

But the Twin Cities seem to stand apart from the flavor-of-the-month nature of America’s rock scene – Athens, GA in the 80s, Seattle in the 90s, Austin in the 00s – because they never really had a single musical moment, opting instead to slowly but steadily produce terrific musicians of almost every stripe. Let’s not forget the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra was an early and important supporter of Bobby McFerrin when he took up the conducting baton. The Minneapolis Orchestra has a long history and has had a few internationally-acclaimed conductors. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m betting you can find some of the best Scandinavian folk fiddling in America there too. And now we’re seeing a lively hip-hop scene developing in the Twin Cities.

So what’s going on there? Does having to spend 6 months of the year huddled indoors fire your creativity? And if YOU were going to the Republican National Convention there this week, and could see any Minneapolis/St. Paul musician(s) you wanted, who would it be?