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Music Interview: Craig Grossman + Minneapolis-St. Paul

You can’t talk about the city of Minneapolis without talking about its conjoined twin, St. Paul, Minnesota’s state capital. The two cities together form the 16th largest metropolitan area in the US and is known by the name Minneapolis-St. Paul. In 2006, the cities were ranked second in Kiplinger’s poll of Smart Places to Live in the U.S. and no great city is without a great music scene. Helping us navigated the waterways of the Twin Cities is music agent Craig Grossman, owner of Green Room Music Source. Craig books shows all around the US including showcases four years running at the huge SXSW Music Festival in Austin and the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC for bands such as, Robbers On High Street, The Figgs, Tracy Bonham, The Bloodsugars, Grant Hart (Husker Du), Dressy Bessy, Kaiser Cartel, Mark Mallman and Sissy Wish. This year at CMJ, Green Room Music Source will be hosting an all Minneapolis Artist showcase at Fontana’s in Manhattan on October 20th.
What should we know before we go to the Minneapolis-St. Paul?
How to dress warmly…no, you’re from NYC, so that won’t be an issue.

TheReplacementsWho are your local musical heroes?
Well, there’s some rather obvious ones that I’m required by Minnesota law to enjoy (being from here) like The Replacements and Husker Du and some less obvious like The Suburbs, Matt Wilson (Trip Shakespeare) and of course the most obvious, Prince. I don’t care if he no longer believes in the internet, he’s still a creative genius.
What local bands or musicians should we be listening out for?
Ah so so many. Anything Rhymesayers, i.e. Atmosphere, P.O.S. and Brother Ali, Dessa from Doomtree (now also beginning to work with Rhymesayers), anything Mark Mallman does (solo, Ruby Isle, now another new side project called Waxx Maxx)- there’s a whole other scene brewing (again!) in Duluth, home of Low, Trampled By Turtles, Haley Bonar and Charlie Parr….I could go on for many web pages here.
What are your favorite music venues and where should we eat and drink around there?
My favorite is The Turf Club in St. Paul – and on the right night (most of them), you’re likely to have an option to get an authentic Mexican (who knew?) entre from a food cart outside the venue- I hear they have the best homemade tamales out there but I’ve always been too busy running shows when I’m there (boo hoo). The Triple Rock Social Club is quite amazing with an established restaurant separate form the venue serving Minnesota’s finest comfort food (I have tried the tator-tots and they’re just like mom’s). This venue was started and is owned by some of the members of Dillinger 4, our finest punk band in these parts.
Finally, Cause Spirits and Sound Bar (formerly Sauce) is our new gem with absolutely mind-blowing pizza (that’s where the former name of Sauce came from but there were some trademark issues) and other good eats. It’s a great small room right in the heart of Uptown which is our equivalent to Park Slope [Brooklyn]…maybe even downtown, NY.

Minneapolis Farmers Market on Nicollet Avenue

Minneapolis Farmers Market on Nicollet Avenue

Any local music festivals or events we should put on our calendar?
I wish there were more. I keep asking others in the industry around here if we should/could/dare start a bigger fest for our fine part of the world but no one’s been brave enough so far to do much beyond dreaming. We do have some nice mainly local fests, typically a one-day affair. In downtown St. Paul, there’s a great area known as Lowertown and they had a fest last weekend- I believe it was all in one day. They had Cloud Cult and Mason Jennings gracing the stage. Not bad.
Is there a ” Minneapolis-St. Paul sound”? Or is there a community/scene vibe in the city?
Definitely both. Well, as for the “sound”, I believe there are a few- certainly the R&B, Soul vibe from the Prince and The Times stage is still out there – all of those musicians (and there were quite a few) that worked with Prince back in the day are still here- virtually all of them and they’re doing very similar things musically and doing them well (of course). There’s certainly an ‘indy’ scene here – hey, weren’t we one of the first to really break out some ‘alternative’ artists like Soul Asylum, The Replacements (sort of)? I have to say I am not one of those Minnesotans that believes The Hold Steady are from the Twin Cities (since none of them live here) but there is a bit of a sound there- they end up singing about us about 3/4 of the time anyway.
I just have to say here as well that I find myself more and more talking about how amazing the scene here is because I believe there isn’t a musical genre here that’s not only represented, but represented well. i.e. Hip-Hip, ‘Indy’, R&B, even Polka (no kidding- ask my dad).
Inside the Gurthrie Theater

Inside the Gurthrie Theater

What’s your perfect night out in Minneapolis-St. Paul?
Ah where to begin? I suppose just seeing a lot of great friends I’ve made in the scene here and of course getting to see at least one or two great shows – which I don’t want to ever take for granted here because it’s actually pretty tough not to see great local music in the Twin Cities.
Any other things that are a must see and do in Minneapolis-St. Paul?
All the beautiful people! Certainly the Walker Art Center with the now semi-famous cherry in the spoon, Loring Park, The Guthrie Theater…I’m sure there’s plenty more I will soon be kicking myself for not mentioning immediately upon hitting send on this here email.
Stone Arch Bridge, straddling the Mississippi River

Stone Arch Bridge, straddling the Mississippi River

What is your favorite city/venue to play on the road and what place has the craziest fans?
I’m really loving Denver right now both as a city and as a place to put our artists. I just got back from a fest they do in the summer called Underground Music Showcase and it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. The fans aren’t necessarily crazy but they have fans…and that’s saying something for sure these days.
What’s the best roadside food you’ve found?
Here? I suppose Mickey’s Diner which has two locations- but hit the one right in downtown St. Paul (kitty corner from The Current, our fine local radio station). It’s greasy, open 24 hours and just dang good.
Turf Club
1601 University Avenue West, St Paul, MN‎ – (651) 647-0486‎

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The Triple Rock Social Club
629 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis, MN‎ – (612) 333-7399‎

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Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN‎ – (612) 375-7600

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The Guthrie Theater
818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN‎ – (612) 377-2224‎

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All photos courtesy of Meet Minneapolis.

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