Tag: Taste of Minnesota
Under new management, this year’s Taste of MN has attempted to “reboot” its offerings from an impressive four-day musical line-up down to its most distinguishable staple – the food – and they appear to have nailed it. After spending the better half of the day at Taste with family and friends yesterday – gorging ourselves on the fest’s delicacies (for ‘research’, of course!) – I’ve compiled a mini-guide on the fare of the feté. Whether you’re carnivorous or vegetarian, calorie-counting or a slave to your sweet tooth, there’s a little something for everyone. Here’s a run-down of some of this year’s not-to-be-missed edibles:
There’s nothing more daunting than entering a food-focused festival famished. But unlike the granddaddy of all MN fests – the State Fair – Taste actually has several options that even your mother would consider “real food.” My advice: go local. Not only is the cuisine from vendors representing local restaurants more appealing by sight and scent, but a seemingly better value for your precious food tickets. Take Crave’s sushi rolls featuring small portions of raw fish favorites – complete with wasabi, soy and ginger accoutrements – and filling Asian noodle salads (ranging from 3 to 16 tickets), or Seven’s menu of edamame, carved beef sandwiches or chicken wings – two local restaurants that bring upscale dining to traditional carny grub.
Bacon enthusiasts and burger aficionados can unite over the Pig-Pen from South Minneapolis’ 5-8 Grill. Like its sister burger – the crowd-pleasing Juicy Lucy – the Pig-Pen is a hefty chuck stuffed with melted goodness – bacon cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles to be exact. As excited as you may be to bite into the hot-off-the-grill delight, I would suggest waiting for it to cool to cut down on messy cheese squirting and mouth burning – you’re gonna need those taste buds for later!
Another local vendor well-worth the stop is MPLS/St. Paul’s famed tequila bar & restaurant, Barrio. At just 8 tickets, Barrio’s traveling Taco Truck serves up the perfect light ‘n’ summery snack: pint-sized tacos. Chose from pork carnitas with Serrano chile salsa, chicken al pastor with avocado and habenero-pickled onions or fried mahi-mahi tacos with citrus-cucumber pico de gallo. Vegetarians must try the Mexican-style grilled corn with chipotle aioli – in lieu of the Fair standard corn-on-the-cob – or their delicious chips, salsa and homemade guac – a steal at just 4 tickets.
Greek fare from Holy Land and Falafel King represent more options for the vegetarian fest-goer, offering up treats like falafel on a stick and grape leaves on a stick (6 tickets), to the larger-portioned falafel sandwiches (16 tickets).
Holding off on beer as long as possible to avoid the sleepy mid-day buzz, isn’t hard with thirst-quenching alternatives such as the perfect blend of sour/sweet freshly squeezed lemonade (8 tickets, or 13 for a Jumbo) and yummy pearl-infused bubble tea from the dessert drink gurus at the Tea Garden (8 tickets).
While pastry sweets like the “cream cheese comets – wonton-like fried puffs filled with either strawberry or brown sugar-cinnamon cream cheese (12 tickets for two) – and Retch’s deep-fried cookie dough (12 tickets) caught my attention – especially with their “you can’t say no to cookie dough” slogan – I thwarted temptation. That is, until I broke down and got a batch of mini donuts from MN’s own Tom Thumb - best washed down with another local fave, an ice cream/soda confection from 1919 Root Beer Float. For a healthier dessert choice, head back to Crave for a refreshing slice of fresh watermelon.
Top it all off – if you can – with a fittingly American dessert, warm apple pie (8 tickets) served a la mode (+3) with cinnamon ice cream from the Rogers-based, Minneapple Pie.
With so much local flavor at your fingertips, save the funnel cakes and corn dogs for the State Fair and delight your taste buds with the ultimate Minnesota “taste.”
It’s not too late to get a Taste of the Taste. The Fourth of July festival continues until 10:30 p.m. tonight with food, music and entertainment. Bring plenty of cash and dig in!
Taste of Minnesota, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m., $20 in advance or before 4 p.m. or $30 after, $75-100 VIP, Free for ages 12 and under or 65+, eight food tickets for $5, Harriet Island, St. Paul, www.tasteofmn.com
The big deal in St. Paul is, of course, the Taste of Minnesota fireworks display. In years past, the Taste has popped off fireworks on each night of the festival, but this year they are only doing one display on the actual 4th, so it ought
to be a doozy. I for one, am not a big fan of standing in a massive crowd on a hot summer night, so I’ve whipped up a quick guide on the best “secret” places to watch fireworks in St. Paul — without having to brave the crowds.
1. Highland Reservoir: The man-made hills that lie beneath the big blue water towers near Snelling & Ford Parkway double as additional water storage, but neighborhood peeps know that sneaking up onto the top of the reservoir on the 4th of July is pretty awesome. A perfect view from the highest point of Highland Park, seeing the Taste of Minnesota fireworks is easy, breezy and unobstructed. You’ll surely run into more people from the neighborhood up there, but it’s a large, flat surface with plenty of spreading-out space.
3. Smith Avenue High Bridge: Avoid the fray of the Taste while still reveling in the camaraderie of your fellow
Americans on the High Bridge this 4th of July. One of the couple bridges that connects West St. Paul to Downtown, the High Bridge is a perfect place to leisurely watch the ‘works. Plenty of other neighborhood folks come out to watch from this classic landmark located on Smith Ave & River Road, so you’ll still get in your people watchin’ minus the claustrophobia.
2. The tops of parking ramps: This may require a little recon to find the best spot, as ramps change their policies frequently. You need to find a ramp with an open air roof. Most ramps are designed this way unless they are built into a building or underground. You’ll just need to check the ramp’s hours and make sure you can see the river from your vantage point. There are many ramps that dot the landscape of Downtown St. Paul along Kellogg. Once you get closer to the edge of Lowertown they become pretty cheap too. Surface lots further down along the river are probably a good bet too. $5 for a stampede-free fireworks experience? We can deal. (costs may vary the closer you are to the Taste).
This year the Taste of Minnesota has upped the music ante – and they’re charging for it. The usually-free festival is now $20 to 30 per night for entry, and that’s not including the tasty-but-pricey food and drink options. (For more the651.com coverage of Taste, look to Juleana Enright’s “Foodie” blog on Monday for reviews of the food offerings, and Kate Iverson’s blog on Taste’s arts and entertainment offerings.)
But the festival, under new ownership this year, is trying to give music-goers some bang for their buck – and not just in the form of one of the biggest fireworks displays in the state each night of the festival.bLet’s take a closer look at the must-see festival acts.
Friday, July 2:
The Current-sponsored stage on Friday is the real hot ticket of the Taste this year. It’s headlined by national acts regularly appearing on the Current’s playlist, such as The Walkmen, Minus the Bear, as well as local hip-hop heavy-hitters Atmosphere and P.O.S. The Walkmen (6:05 p.m.) were a late addition replacing canceled act Janelle Monae, but their raucous, electrifying live show is definitely worth the price of a ticket. Formed out of the remains of beloved underground bands Jonathan Fire*Eater and The Recoys, The Walkmen have five albums to their name, as well as its forthcoming release, Lisbon, of which they’re expected to preview during the show.
Seattle-based pop quintet Minus the Bear (5 p.m.) currently have its infectious new single “My Time” on regular rotation on the Current. Though the band comes across as relatively light-weight on recordings, their hard-rocking live show is where they really come into their own. Although the electronic poppiness is still there, it’s much more palatable injected with live energy. The band can really perform, there’s no question.
Headlining the night are local hip-hop heavyweights Atmosphere (8:45 p.m.) and P.O.S. (7:25 p.m.), and for good reason – they’re sure to bring in the biggest crowd of the festival. Both acts are fresh off electrifying Soundset sets and sure to bring it to the Taste stage. Considered by many to be the forefathers of the independent hip-hop scene, Slug and Ant’s Atmosphere has been a little quiet since its 2008 release and subsequent tour for When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That S**t Gold, while rock-infused MC P.O.S. is hot off his recent tour for his latest, Never Better, and his live show will likely be rounded out by members of his hardcore outfit, Building Better Bombs.
Local favorites, including Alan Sparhawk’s hard-rocking Retribution Gospel Choir (2:45 p.m.), heavy-buzzing indie rockers Communist Daughter (3:30 p.m.) and folkie Haley Bonar (1:30 p.m.), as well as L.A. country-rock band Dawes (4:30 p.m.), help round out the smaller stages. Dawes rocked the stage at Triple Rock this winter and at SXSW earlier this year with their soulful harmonies and sophisticated twangy-hippie arrangements, getting play on the Current and Cities 97 in the process.
Saturday, July 3:
Saturday’s headlining acts feature more typical fare for the fest, such as classic rockers Sammy Hagar (8:30 p.m.) of Van Halen fame and Lou Gramm (7 p.m.), known for easy-listening hits like “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Cold as Ice.” But the day’s local music offerings are scoff-free, thanks to sets from Brit-copping rockers The Alarmists (4:30 p.m.), venerable blues guitarist Charlie Parr (11 a.m.) and endearingly old-timey trio The Brass Kings (2 p.m.)
Sunday, July 4:
Sunday’s headliners feature some crowd-pleasing alternative-rock acts that were big in the ’90s, the Counting Crows (8:30 p.m.) and Gin Blossoms (6 p.m.). Local acts worth catching include folkie ensemble Molly Maher & Her Disbelievers (4 p.m.), which command the stage with rootsy charm and haunting ballads; and jazz-fusion trio The New Standards (4 p.m.), boasting members of local legends Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare and The Suburbs.
Monday, July 5:
The Taste ends with another couple of acts that that will make anyone who was an angsty teenager in the mid-’90s nostalgic: The Offspring (6:35 p.m.) and 311 (8:30 p.m.). Orange County punk band The Offspring gained fame for their hit album Smash, featuring memorable singles such as “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem.” They’re since lost original member Ron Welty, released a greatest hits compilation, and are touring with 311 in the midst of recording a new album. Meanwhile, Omaha rap-rockers 311 are best known for their massive 1996 hit “Down.” The band continued to tour and record ever since, releasing their ninth studio album Uplifter in 2009.
Local acts worth catching: the best live hip-hop band in the Midwest, Heiruspecs (3:45 p.m), antic-fueled piano rocker Mark Mallman (2 p.m.); R&B singer Chastity Brown (11 a.m.) and quietly-intense folk band The Pines (4 p.m.)
The complete schedule:
July 2: City Pages Big Music Tent: Jeff Ray & the Stakes, 11:30 a.m.; Justin Townes Earle, 1 p.m.; Retribution Gospel Choir, 2:45 p.m.; Dawes, 4:30 p.m.; James Hunter, 6:15 p.m. BT’s Party in the Park: Allison Scott, 11:30 a.m.; Haley Bonar, 1:30 p.m.; Communist Daughter, 3:30 p.m. Red House Records & KFAI Stage: Nirmala Rajasekar, 11 a.m.; Dave Moore, noon; Joe & Vickie Price, 1:15 p.m.; Guy Davis, 2:15 p.m.; Willie Murphy Band, 3:45 p.m. Main Stage: Minus the Bear, 5 p.m.; the Walkmen, 6:05 p.m.; P.O.S., 7:25 p.m.; Atmosphere, 8:45 p.m.
July 3: City Pages’ Big Music Tent: Wayward Boyz Klub, 1 p.m.; Free Fallin’, 2:45 p.m.; Ipso Facto, 4:30 p.m.; Otis Clay, 6:15 p.m. BT’s Party in the Park: Dave Thune and the Backseat Boogie Band, 12:30 p.m.; Dustin Lee, 2:30 p.m.; the Alarmists, 4:30 p.m. Red House Records and KFAI Stage: Charlie Parr, 11 a.m.; Doug & Telisha Williams, noon; Roe Family Singers, 1 p.m.; the Brass Kings, 2 p.m.; Scottie Miller, 3 p.m.; Cool Disposition, 4 p.m. Main Stage: John Waite, 6 p.m.; Lou Gramm, 7 p.m.; Sammy Hagar, 8:30 p.m.
July 4: City Pages Big Music Tent: Wilebski’s Blues Revue, 11 a.m.; Americana, 12:45 p.m.; Sensacion Latina, 2:45 p.m.; Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 4:15 p.m.; Marica Ball, 6 p.m. BT’s Party in the Park: Catchpenny, 2 p.m.; the New Standards, 4 p.m. Red House Records and KFAI Stage: Eliza Blue, 11 a.m.; the High 48′s, noon; Switched at Birth, 1 p.m.; big George Jackson, 2 p.m.; Mother Banjo Band, 3 p.m.; Molly Maher & Her Disbelievers, 4 p.m. Main Stage: Gin Blossoms, 6 p.m.; Needtobreathe, 7:10 p.m.; Counting Crows, 8:30 p.m.
July 5: City Pages Big Music Tent: Lynhurst, 11:15 a.m.; Attention, 12:45 p.m.; New Primitives, 2 p.m.; Heiruspecs, 3:45 p.m.; Hairball, 5:30 p.m. BT’s Party in the Park: Jeff Arundel, noon; Mark Mallman, 2 p.m.; the Spectaculars, 4 p.m. Red House Records and KFAI Stage: Chastity Brown, 11 a.m.; Claudia Schmidt & Prudence Johnson, noon; Davina & the Vagabonds, 1 p.m.; Cafe Accordion Orchestra, 2 p.m.; Ray Bonneville, 3 p.m.; the Pines, 4 p.m. Main Stage: Pepper, 5:45 p.m.; the Offspring, 6:35 p.m.; 311, 8:10 p.m.
Taste of Minnesota, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, $20 in advance or before 4 p.m. or $30 after, Harriet Island, St. Paul, www.tasteofmn.com.
This weekend Saint Paul hosts its biggest outdoor festival: The Taste of Minnesota. Aptly held on capital city grounds; Harriet Island to be specific. The huge 4th of July weekend bash is not for the faint of heart, however. Those wary of large crowds better take their Xanax, because the Taste is one huge throng of p-a-r-t-y. From live music on multiple stages to delicious food of State Fair-level awesomeness to fun family activities and more, the Taste is one of those quintessential Minnesota experiences you ought to try at least once. This week, our writers will be tackling specific aspects of the festival, so check back. In this post, we’ll be fill you in on what’s happening in the Entertainment Village — a family-friendly area where you needn’t worry about being trampled by beer swilling hooligans in a Sammy Hagar-induced frenzy.
The Entertainment Village will feature a number of interactive activities that are fun for everyone, including kids art projects designed by Creative Kidstuff, hoop shooting with NBA stars at NBA Nation and numerous performers that won’t blow out your ear drums (not that we’re against having our ear drums blown out, because trust us, we’re cool with that in the right situation).
Among other things, you’ll meet the dancers of Ballet Minnesota, who will also be performing excerpts from their piece “River Songs” set to the music of Charlie Maguire. Listen in as Brian Poulton a.k.a. “The Storyman from England” weaves tales the signs autographs for fans. Join in the fray with drummer Mick Labriola, who will perform a drum routine and instruct 25-30 people on how to keep the beat. Irish dancers, Rince Na Chroi will do some traditional jigs accompanied by a live band, and will provide instruction for the entire fam. Circus Juventas will also be on hand to show off their magical carnival techniques — which are performed exclusively by kids! On top of all this, you’ll also be privy to live music from rockers Half Demon Doll, The Okee Dokee Brothers, School of Rock, and Adam Levy’s “Bunny Clogs” solo project — a catchy, family-friendly series of tunes everyone can enjoy.
Check back later this week for more Taste rundowns including entertainment on the main stages, the food and more. The Taste of Minnesota runs Friday, July 2nd through Monday, July 5th at Harriet Island. For schedules and more info visit www.tasteofmn.com.
Every year, when summer finally arrives, Minnesotan’s like to embrace the warmth as much as possible — we have to get it while we can!
Looking back, there are always pictures you cherish and one’s you may want to forget.
This week, instead of a photo guessing contest, we want YOU to sent us your favorite Saint Paul summer photo!
Please send your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and location where the photo took place.
Each photo will be entered into a drawing to win two one-day passes to the Taste of MN, July 2-5. Drawing will be held next Thursday, July 1st!
Notice: by submitting a photo to us, you are agreeing to allow us to use the photo for purposes pertaining to the651.com, such as posting on our blog or Facebook page. Only your first name in last initial will be posted, (i.e. Stacy D.).
Congrats to Shailen – our Taste of MN winner! Thanks for the adorable photos.
This weekend, St. Paul is packed with everything from circuit bending experimentation (TART and FoodTeam), a return from local punk rock heroes (Arcwelder), a new Leonard Cohen collaboration (Kid Dakota and the Fantastic Merlins), Turf Club’s annual blowout with three Turf favorites (Birthday Suits, Vampire Hands and The Blind Shake), and a local hip-hop illustrator’s first solo show (Chuck U).
THURSDAY: TART + FoodTeam at Big V’s
Call it what you like (math electro? Post-math?), but the music of local one-man projects TART (Phil Khalar) and FoodTeam (Ryan Olcott of the beloved 12 Rods) are equal parts cerebral and enjoyable. Khalar and Olcott both seem to approach sounds as bits and pieces of a whole, which are then constructed into cohesive, sonic compositions. TART is said to be based on the concept of blending beauty with noise, the electronic with the organic, and the sweet with bitter, while Olcott’s project involves what he calls “circuit bending,” or the de-programming of yesteryear’s forgotten consumer keyboards. Community!Fire!Exchange! opens. 9 p.m. $5. 21-plus. Big V’s, 1567 University Ave. W., St. Paul. 651-645-8472.)
FRIDAY: Arcwelder at Turf Club
Punk-rock trio Arcwelder are one of those local acts that seemed on the verge to be the next big thing internationally, but they have always been beloved in their hometown. They even have a star on the hallowed walls of First Avenue. After forming in 1988, the band toiled on the road and in dank punk rock clubs until 1991, when none other than New Order named their song “Favor” as their pick for “Punk Rock Single of the Week” in NME. Before long, they were signed to hip indie label Touch and Go Records (also home to Shellac and the Jesus Lizard) in 1992, and enjoyed popularity culminating in an international tour with Jawbox in 1996. The punk rock heroes haven’t toured since, but have played the occasional local show. With haze-rock duo Gay Witch Abortion, Double Bird, and DJ Freddy Votel (former Cows drummer). (9 p.m. $6. 21-plus. 1601 W. University Ave., St. Paul. 651-647-0486.)
FRIDAY: Fantastic Friday Music Series at Black Dog Cafe
Innovative jazz-chamber band The Fantastic Merlins recently joined together with haunting indie-rock trio Kid Dakota to collaborate on a yet-to-be-released album of Leonard Cohen covers, How the Light Gets In. At this intimate, stripped-down show at Lowertown cafe Black Dog, the ensemble will preview the release before heading off to perform together in Paris. On the impending European tour, Kid Dakota says on its myspace page, “We will be returning to some of the places we played last spring and also finally making it back to countries that we haven’t visited since our 2004 tour with LOW (Yes, Im talking to you England and Ireland!). We will be touring with two fabulous bands from Berlin, Ter Haar and It’s a Musical.” Ingo Bethke opens; see below for more on happy hour specials. (8 p.m. Free. All ages. 308 Prince St., St. Paul. 651-228-9274.)
FRIDAY: Lowertown First Fridays happy hours
Every first Friday of the month, Lowertown First Fridays open studio and gallery crawl takes over the district. (CLICK HERE for the651.com Arts writer Kate Iverson’s interview with Lowertown artist Rhea Pappus.) To keep art lovers well-fed (and well-lubricated), bars and eateries in Lowertown’s bustling entertainment district offers up a slew of happy hour specials. Black Dog Cafe has its daily happy hour from 4-7 p.m., which includes $3 Summit pints, $2.50 Grainbelt Premium bottles, and $4.75 house wine. (308 Prince St., St. Paul. 651-228-9274.) Mexican fusion bar and eatery Barrio is offering $5 small plates, two tacos for $5, $5 margaritas, $18 margarita pitches, and $3 taps from 2-6 p.m. & 10 p.m.-midnight. (235 6th St. E., St. Paul. 651-222-3250.) Gastro-pub The Bulldog has its happy hour from 3-6 p.m., including $1 off pints, wells and domestic bottles and half-priced appetizers. (237 E. 6th St., St. Paul. 651-221-0750.)
SATURDAY: Robozoology at Nickademus Art & Framing
Local illustrator Chuck U is presenting his first solo show, and his collection of graphic, color-drenched paintings and prints. Chuck U (né Ungemach) has long been well-known in the local hip hop community for his posters and cover art, and their organic, hand-drawn feel depicts fiendish monkeys, monsters in top hats, and spewing furry snakes. True to Chuck U’s music roots, the opening reception will also include a live set from local Brit-popsters The Idle Hands. (Opening reception 6 p.m.-midnight. Sat. Ongoing through Feb. 9. Free. All ages. Nickademus Art and Framing, 225 N. Snelling Av., St. Paul.)
SATURDAY: Turf Club Blowout
Japanese metal two-piece Birthday Suits team up with psychedelic prog indie-rockers The Blind Shake and spaced-out noise rockers Vampire Hands for a solid night of noisy sounds to bring in the New Year. The annual blowout also serves as a sort-of Vampire Hands reunion as original member Colin Johnson returns for a one-off show – it just may be the last time you’ll see them all together again. (9 p.m. $6. 21-plus. 1601 W. University Ave., St. Paul. 651-647-0486.)
Star Tribune‘s Chris Riemenschneider lauds St. Paul
St.Paul’s Lowertown entertainment district and music fests such Taste of Minnesota and Concrete & Grass get props in Chris Riemenschneider’s “Finding nine reasons to cheer Twin cities culture in ’09″ from the Star Tribune.
Lowertown’s rebirth of cool
I already fawned over downtown St. Paul’s hot “new” nightlife district in a column in September, but three months later and 70 degrees colder, I’d like to more strongly state my fondness for eating Barrio tacos and drinking Bulldog beer under a starry night, listening to Romantica in Mears Park during the Concrete & Grass Festival.
(Too bad the new Twins park didn’t get built down there.)
Outdoor music cranked to 11
There were more block parties, themed fests, music-in-the-park series, and zoo and museum gigs of note this year, and best of all they lasted well into the fall thanks to the aforementioned Concrete & Grass and Vita.mn’s cool Movies & Music Series at the picturesque Lake Harriet Bandshell.
(All this, despite what the Aqua-tennial and Taste of Minnesota have done to music fests’ image in this town.)
Besides all the great music happening at Taste of Minnesota (check out my preview of the event here), St. Paul’s got a ton of other great shows lined up this weekend. Here’s a sampling of the best:
THURSDAY, JULY 2
Detroit Don King Band at Como Lakeside Pavilion
As part of St. Paul’s Music in the Parks series at the gorgeous Como Lakeside Pavilion, local bluesman (via Detroit, of course) Detroit Don King and his Blues Band play all the blues and R&B standards – think BB King, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. (7 p.m. Free. 1360 N. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul.)
FRIDAY, JULY 3
Toots at the Maytals at Minnesota Zoo
Reggae legend Toots Hibbert and his band The Maytals have been around since the ‘60s, and not only did they count Bob Marley as a contemporary, they’re credited for naming the genre of reggae. Nearly 50 years later, they’re still kicking out the grooves with their trademark mix of reggae, soul and gospel and recent collaborations with The Roots, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton have kept their sound fresh. Wain McFarlane opens. (7:30 p.m. $43. 13000 Zoo Blvd. 952-431-9200.)
Also Friday: A local underground punk/indie showcase featuring Private Dancer, The Blind Shake and Birthday Suits at the Turf Club; Washington, D.C. reggae act Lucky Dub at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium; and ‘80s New Wave band The Romantics (famous for “What I Like About You” and “Talking in Your Sleep”) at Taste of Minnesota.
SATURDAY, JULY 4
Kate Voegele at Taste of Minnesota
Everyone knows Elvis Costello is the really hot ticket at the Taste, but Cleveland folk singer Kate Voegele is all-but-guaranteed to be the sleeper hit of the night. The 22-year-old just released her sophomore album A Fine Mess (which already hit the Top 10 on Billboard) and was featured on CW show “One Tree Hill” playing her single “99 Times.” (6:30 p.m. $10. Harriet Island, St. Paul. tasteofmn.com)
Also Saturday: Legendary rocker Elvis Costello at Taste of Minnesota; local acoustic/blues act Tap City at Station 4; and oldies act The Vogues (best-known for performing the “The Drew Carey Show” theme song “Five O’Clock World”) at Taste of Minnesota.
SUNDAY, JULY 5
No Doubt at Xcel Energy Center
After Gwen Stefani’s solo career took off – including not only a music career but a clothing, fragrance, and shoe line – most assumed No Doubt were kaput. But they’re back with a new album that harkens back to the ska sound they made popular in the late-‘90s. Whether you’re a fan of Gwen solo or the band, she’s always the entertainer, and is sure to have some killer outfits. Paramore and Bedouin Soundclash open. (7:30 p.m. $39.50-80. 199 W. Kellogg Blvd. 651-265-4800.)
Also Sunday: Hitchville, a country/rock fusion band featuring Minnesota Music Award-winner Heidi Owens, at Taste of Minnesota; and Duluth country-blues musician Charlie Parr at Turf Club.
MONDAY, JULY 6
Pterodactyl at Turf Club
Pterodactyl’s blistering beats, falsetto voices, and chiming guitars made them one to watch after their debut album “Bluebird” was released. Hot off a strong sophomore release “Worldwild” in June, the band’s sound goes everywhere from noisy punk to reserved psychedelic mood music. Also playing: Local band Gay Beast and Chicago’s Mayor Daley. (9 p.m. $6. 1601 University Av. W., St. Paul. 651-647-0486.)
Also Monday: Soap Boxing Poetry Slam: IWPS Showdown Slam at Artists’ Quarter.
TUESDAY, JULY 7
9 Nights of Music: Café Accordion Orchestra at Minnesota History Center
Get out your beret and pack a beatnik picnic for this week’s edition of the Minnesota History Center’s summer music series 9 Nights of Music. Local band Café Accordion Orchestra perform a mix of French Musette, vintage swing, Latin and European folk music. Fun fact: It’s fronted by frequent Prairie Home Companion accordionist Dan Newton. (6:30 p.m. Free. 345 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul. 651-259-3000.)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 8
VNV Nation at Station 4
London-based electronic music band VNV Nation have quite the cult following – they’ve been around since the mid-‘90s and helped establish the emerging electronic-goth genre. Their sound combines elements of industrial music, trance, synthpop and electronic body music; fans of modern-day electronic-infused acts like Interpol and Ladytron better get schooled and check them out. War Tapes and Ayria open. (6 p.m. $20-23. 201 E. 4th St., St. Paul. 651-298-0173.)
With the additions of more locally-made food and homegrown music than ever, this year’s Taste of Minnesota is tastin’ a bit more Minnesotan. The annual outdoor concert, food festival and fireworks destination held on Harriet Island has new owners this year (as well as a newly instated entry fee of $10, but I’ll get to that shortly), and a greater focus on all things local.
For one, there’s locally-brewed beer from Grain Belt and August Schell, which totally beats previous year’s offerings (Budweiser, anyone?). There’s also some welcome local additions to the food offerings: Popular Middle Eastern deli Holy Land, St. Paul sandwich shop Blink Bonnie, mobile food shack Walleye Wagon, family-owned Steffens Brothers Meat Market, and Minneapolis-based chain Buffalo Wild Wings (though non-local Funnel Cake Factory, Donut Man Joe’s and Dog House will return to serve up their fair-style foods).
Also stronger than ever are the music offerings. 2009’s lineup just might boast the biggest-name acts to ever perform at the Taste, including headliners Elvis Costello (Saturday), Bret Michaels (Sunday), Judas Priest and Whitesnake (Friday). Of course, you can’t beat a free* outdoor show by living legend Elvis Costello – but I have to admit to having a morbid curiosity to see what kind of spectacle Bret Michaels (of Poison and “Rock of Love” fame) will put on.
For the truly curious, you can win a chance to meet the man himself via an online contest.
But the local acts are just as worth checking out. Though there are the usual State Fair/Taste of Minnesota suspects (The Big Wu, Martin Zellar, Uncle Chunk), be sure to check out local rock ‘n roll supergroup The 757s (Friday, 12:30 p.m., Main Stage), country-rock band Hitchville (Sunday, 2 p.m., August Schell Stage), soul and blues acts Jason Shannon (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Main Stage), rockin’ reggae band Ipso Facto (Saturday, 2 p.m., August Schell Stage), which has toured with the likes of UB40 and Tracy Chapman, and sweet three-piece sibling act Lynhurst (Friday, 12 p.m., August Schell Stage). Check out the Full Schedule for more.
A lot of people are grumpy about the fact that the Taste isn’t “free” this year, but there is an upside: The ticket price gets you a $10 coupon for food and drink. Aside from the fact that you’re checking out some bands that usually charge top dollar for their shows and catching some of the best 4th of July fireworks in the state (closing out the night each evening at 10 p.m.), I’d call that a pretty good deal.
(Noon-10:40 p.m. Thu.-Sun. Harriet Island, tasteofmn.com)