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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Minneapolis, USA

By Noosh

It's easy to forget about Minneapolis. After all, it's just there 'in the middle' of the US along with all those other flyover towns. It's the sort of place that culturally-minded people move away from, right? Wrong. Minneapolis (and, to a lesser extent, the other of the Twin Cities, St Paul) looks like a fairly dull mid-sized city if the train from the airport drops you off in the middle of downtown, but if you take the time to step outside of the chain-store lined main street, Minneapolis has a lot to offer. Music, theatre, art, it's all there for the taking. And if you get sick of that, there are the natural selling points: numerous lakes and parks, the wildlife, the Mississippi river,
and, of course, the ridiculously friendly local folk.


Too Much Love

First Avenue, 701 First Street North, Saturdays
An indie-ish night that is fairly broad in scope but geared more towards a hip electro crowd. Still, it's where everyone who has nothing better to do, or who still wants to party after a gig turns up and dances the night away, so you never know who you'll meet..



331 13th Ave NE
This is quickly becoming the musical hotbed of Northeast Minneapolis. Small, quaint and very social. No cover charge, and lots of drink specials. The newly renovated Ritz Theater is just two doors down.

400 Bar
400 Cedar Ave S (corner Riverside)
Located near the University of Minnesota, this place keeps the college music spirit alive by booking a constant stream of interesting local, national and international bands.

Triple Rock Social Club
629 Cedar Avenue
The Triple Rock tends to get the bigger indie bands, and tends to focus on the more punk and rock side of things.

First Avenue and 7th St Entry
701 First Street North
Right near the centre of town, this is a bigger venue than the other two, but as it has three different areas of different sizes, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Browsing the venue's website I found that on an upcoming Wednesday night they're offering the Cribs in one room, Viva Voce in another, and a hip hop festival in the main room. Take your pick.

Turf Club
1601 University Avenue
Across the river in St Paul, the Turf Club prides itself on its old-school feel. The atmosphere is good, the drinks are cheap, and the venue encourages local music by keeping the cover charges low (usually $5 or less).

Lee's Liquor Lounge
101 N Glenwood
An old working class bar that features lots of taxidermy and sports trophies. Specializes in alt-country, country and the occasional rock band.


Bryant-Lake Bowl

810 W Lake St
Bowling, bar, cafe, theatre, what more could you want? The bar/cafe part is cosy, there's outdoor seating if the weather is cooperating and there are about 20 beers on tap. Chalkboards display the shows that are going on in the attached theatre, and you can have food and drink served to you right in your seat. Don't miss Monday's Cheap Date Night where you get a bottle of wine, two main courses and bowling for two all for $28. Even if you don't have a date, it's a great place to just sit at the bar, listen to music (local independent radio stations playing a good mix of indie pop and rock tunes) and chat to the bar staff, who are more than willing to help out with recommendations of other places to go in town.

Birchwood Cafe
3311 East 25th street
Tucked into the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, this place is a real find for the weary traveler. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert never disappoint. Vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.

Record Shops

Electric Fetus
corner E Franklin ave and S 4th St
Honestly, I would live in this store if they would let me. Obviously a store run by music fans for music fans, this place is like your favourite little indie record store but it's BIG. It has an enormous pop/rock section with both used and new CDs and vinyl, though still retains the warm and welcoming personality of a smaller store. While back-catalogue albums aren't as well-represented as they could be in the "new" section (try the extensive "used" section or ask someone to order it in for you), the new releases rack had everything I could possibly want, and some things I didn't even know I wanted. There are also extensive blues, jazz and electronica sections and a gift shop section selling books, clothing, sweets, and all sorts of other goodies. The walls are lined with posters for gigs I really wish I'd been at. One warning, though: you can't just pop into this store for a few minutes. Even if you do manage to avoid the temptation of the $1.99 bargain bin (it's worth getting down on your hands and knees for, trust me) and browsing racks, the staff will almost certainly get you involved in a discussion about your purchases, offering you recommendations, asking you for recommendations, or both.

1300 W. Lake St
Larger than Electric Fetus but more impersonal, Cheapo's has racks of CDs stretching as far as the eye can see, and the selection is excellent. An extensive "local" section greets you at the front door, and the walls are dotted with listening posts (with moderately helpful blurbs about the selected albums) to break up the racks offering recommendations within specific genres. In the middle you are left with row after row of CDs. The new and used are mixed in together, so you can decide how much you want to pay for any given title. It took a bit of walking (and the racks could definitely be better organised) but I found everything I was looking for. There is an entire basement full of vinyl, but the CD selection exhausted me too much to allow a more thorough investigation.

2557 Lyndale Ave S
After spending hours in the bigger places like Electric Fetus and Cheapo's, sometimes you want to return to your little indie record store of old, the sort of place where someone you've never heard of is doing an in-store performance in the corner and you have to distract the staff from their arguments about obscure post-punk bands to get served. Treehouse has a smaller, but more consistently high-quality selection of both CDs and vinyl than the larger stores, and are always receiving more in. They also have a good zine rack. Nothing sort of physically grabbing a staff member by the hair will disrupt the post-punk arguments, though.

Local Bands


Walker Kong

Nearly everyone who knows about Walker Kong can't understand why they aren't more popular, myself included. They make indie pop that immediately feels like you've known it and loved it all your life, with jangly guitars are reminiscent of the Go-Betweens, or even Beulah. They don't play live all that often, but when they do they up the rock quotient far more than the albums, which are better suited to an afternoon of bedroom-dancing.

The Hopefuls
Called the Olympic Hopefuls until the US Olympic Committee got involved, the Hopefuls are a staple of the Minneapolis music scene. Their publicity material would have you believe that they are the result of throwing Weezer (before they went wrong), The Cars and The Apples In Stereo in a blender. They play catchy power-pop songs full of hooks that battle for your attention against handclaps, sing-along choruses and punchy guitars. Plus the occasional glockenspiel for good measure.


Eat Street
If you follow Nicollett mall south out of the downtown area, it becomes Eat Street (between 14th and 30th), lined on both sides by cafes and restaurants covering all sorts of cuisine. All-you-can-eat indian, custom-made tacos, pizza by the slice, cosy coffee houses, asian grocery stores, you can be sure to find something that suits all tastes.

Uptown and the lakes
Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and the best place to see the proof of this is the uptown area. South-west of the city, centering around Lake and Lyndale, uptown is a hip area full of cafes, bars, vintage clothing stores and other goodies. Catch a movie at one of the independent theatres, people-watch from a sidewalk cafe, or if the weather is decent, stop in at one of the food co-op supermarkets in the area that focus on organic and fresh food and stock up before heading down to the shores of lake Calhoun for a picnic. You can hire canoes, paddle boats or bicycles, and find a secluded spot, or grab an icecream right next to the main road like everyone else does.

Walker Art Centre and Sculpture Garden
The Walker Art Centre is a mainly modern art museum, and while the permanent collection is great, it's in the special events that the Walker really shines. Every week there are at least two or three films showing, and exhibitions focusing on specific artists or movements occur often and are excellent. Check out the brochures or ask staff about free tours given most days, or there's a special number you can call from your mobile phone to get audio commentary on certain pieces in the permanent collection. Across the road from the Walker Art Centre is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Although there are sculptures all over Minneapolis, in parks and on the streets (check out the Mary Tyler Moore sculpture on Nicollett Mall), the sculpture garden takes this to another level, cramming around 35 scultptures into an otherwise pleasant but bland garden setting. Wander around the different areas separated by hedges, and take your photo in front of the giant cherry and spoon (everyone else does). However, it is probably better to go there in the evening or on a weekend as the place won't be over-run by school kids on field trips.

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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