If you’re a music fan who wants to spend as much money as possible to stand in a room with as many people as possible, Super Bowl weekend is a dream come true.
From the newly refurbished Armory in downtown Minneapolis, where Jennifer Lopez will perform and Diddy will convene his all-star “Player’s Ball,” to Mystic Lake Casino out in Prior Lake, which offers Gwen Stefani and the Chainsmokers, it’s gonna be a weekend of big crowds and bigger ticket prices. And who are we to judge? If you’re itching to drop $2K for a VIP pass to see Future and Cardi B at Myth, that’s between you and whoever signs off on your corporate expense account.
But if you’re in town for the extended weekend and you’d like to slip away from the hubbub for a bit, nurse a reasonably priced beer, and experience Minneapolis the way locals do—or if you’re a local yourself looking for a sociable place to hide out till the madness subsides—we’ve got a few excellent options for you. After all, the glitz and excitement of downtown Minneapolis will be right there waiting, whenever you want to dive back in.
Just south of Lake Street, this intimate venue is spotlighting Minnesota talent all weekend long. On Thursday night, you can catch local rock institutions Tina and the B-Sides, who’ve been at it for nearly two decades now. Friday is the Minnesota Homegrown Showcase, headlined by breakout band the Bad Man, known for their wild saxophone accompaniment and even wilder frontman. And Saturday the stage belongs to the Black-Eyed Snakes, a bluesy, rowdy garage band fronted by Alan Sparhawk of Low. 3010 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis; 612-345-7166.
Near downtown in the south Minneapolis restaurant district some of us old-timers still refuse to call “Eat Street,” this stylish club typically showcases the more improvisational side of a variety of genres: hip-hop, electronic music, jazz, and rock. If you want to know where Minnesota hip-hop and soul is headed in 2018, your attendance is required on Thursday night, when Greg Grease, Muja Messiah, and Lady Midnight perform. You can catch guitarist Zacc Harris, City Pages’ 2017 Best Jazz Artist, for free on Friday and Saturday in the early evening. And on Sunday itself, the Twin Cities’ premiere Tom Petty tribute band, All Tomorrow’s Petty, will ensure that you don’t have to watch the Super Bowl like a refugee. 2528 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612-276-6523.
What could be more Midwestern than holing up in a revamped VFW and downing some Grain Belts over Super Bowl weekend? The Uptown VFW, as it’s more informally known, hosts two dance nights this weekend. On Friday, Bass Camp will offer a wide range of rap and dance music, and Deuces Up! on Saturday is a monthly gig featuring a newly assembled crew of prominent local DJs: Sarah White, DJ Keezy, and Shannon Blowtorch. And if you show up to town a little early, you can catch local rockers the 4onthefloor on Thursday, or, on Wednesday, a bona fide Minneapolis legend, Spider John Koerner. 2916 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-823-6233.
Though the city will be clogged with swanky dance and DJ events this weekend, the bass and beats won’t always come cheap. But venture out to Dinkytown, over by the University of Minnesota campus, and for $5 you can experience one of the best dance nights in town. Local promoters Dark Energy have a monthly residency at this lush yet homey, velvet-swaddled club, and this month’s guests, Chicago duo Wingtips, will mesh perfectly with the night’s goth-industrial vibe. 315 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612-331-9800.
This is just a guess, but there might be a lot of alcohol consumed in Minneapolis this weekend, especially with many bars open till 4 a.m. But sober visitors who need a little extra reinforcement against the prevailing debauchery can find refuge at this Super Bowl watch party. There’s a great local music lineup—Johnny & Molly Solomon, Mark Mallman, Katy Vernon, and Kurt Jorgenson Band—appearances by sober former pro football players Carl Eller and Ryan Leaf, and, of course, a recovery meeting. 107 Third Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-345-8344.
The thing about the Super Bowl is, it’s not in St. Paul. But the Turf Club is. So journey across the river (it’s not that far, no matter what Minneapolis residents might tell you, and light rail will get you there) so you can visit two completely different cities in the same weekend. On Thursday night, you can catch local new wave legends the Suburbs, whose career kicked back into gear with Hey Muse! last year. Friday it’s a deep lineup of local talent, with Americana headliners Jackson and the Roosters joined by Eleganza!, Sam Cassidy, and Al Church. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651-647-0486.
If you’re looking for pretty much the exact opposite of the big-money hip-hop events at downtown clubs like Privé and Aqua this weekend, an all ages indie-rock show on the University of Minnesota campus is a pretty decent candidate. On Saturday, Diet Cig, the excellent lo-fi duo of singer/guitarist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman, will be at the college club, along with fellow indie faves Great Grandpa and Scotland’s the Spook School, who just released the terrific Could It Be Different? Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612-625-5000.