In recent years, more and more local bands are starting to emerge onto the music scene with great force. And, a few are even playing alongside some of the country’s biggest acts on rock star tours. But, it’s never hard to forget where all the success came from. Everyone always remembers his or her roots. And, it’s right here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area where those big time local bands got their start, or at least a friendly boost. This list offers the best venues to see a great local band perform in the Twin Cities.
The Fine Line Music Cafe
Smack dab in the heart of the Warehouse district, The Fine Line Music Café brings downtown Minneapolis a taste of what true musicianship really is. Located in the main level of the Consortium building, which is in fact a historic sight; The Fine Line Music Café has been showcasing local talent since 1987. First envisioned as a first class nightclub, The Fine Line has grown into a popular and well-known hot spot for musicians and music lovers in the area. Throughout the years, the venue has seen its fair share of aesthetic changes to include a concrete bar, acoustic ceiling tiles for optimum music enjoyment and an entirely new color scheme to bring out the venue’s strong points. Throughout its time in downtown, the club has hosted thousands of regionally and nationally recognized artists. The club does have a gigantic chalk board calendar that shows patrons who is playing that month and offers ticket and show information on their website. It is a great place to see local and national acts in an intimate setting.
First Avenue and 7th Street Entry
As one of the Twin Cities’ most iconic venues, First Avenue and 7th Street Entry isn’t hard to miss from the road. Painted pitch black and branded with white stars flaunting the names of music’s biggest recording artists, the venue isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. The multi-level, multi-room club has been entertaining the masses since the 70s. The distinctly curved building was originally a bus depot for the Northland-Greyhound and immediately became a staple attraction in Minneapolis. The Mainroom of the club offers a floor for more than a thousand concertgoers to enjoy their favorite gig up on the elevated stage. The two-level room offers three distinct bar areas and some seating for those in attendance. But, let’s be real. When the likes of Atmosphere, The Pixies and local hero Prince are on stage, it’s better be on the floor. 7th Street Entry is a smaller venue just off to the side within the large facility that caters to the more intimate concert experience. Once used as the bus station’s restaurant, 7th Street Entry offers a different but just as exciting atmosphere. It is rare to not see something going on at this venue and there are always great local acts on stage.
On the corner of 4th and Sibley, directly across from Ramsey County Union Depot, Station 4 supports all types of music genres seven nights a week. Another intimate venue, Station 4 provides an expanded floor for patrons to view the band. On the upper level, where the bar is located, a panoramic opening in the wall provides a space for those uninterested in being in the chaos below a perfect sight line of the band on stage. The venue has a great Mug Club promotion for frequent visitors. By finishing the entire selection of beers on tap, the club offers you a personalized 22 oz. mug. It’s free to join and you even get to drink for free! One of the few local clubs to offer quite a few all ages shows, Station 4 makes an effort to get every age and every type of music lover to its events.
The Varsity Theater
Known for being one of the Twin Cities’ most uniquely accommodating venues, The Varsity Theater does more than just music. Booked for corporate events, weddings, parties and more, The Varsity Theater caters to all kinds of entertainment. But, when music is on the menu, it delivers much more. With a state-of-the-art lightening and sound system, a main floor capable of holding more than a thousand people and an atmosphere that rivals most, The Varsity is really becoming known in the area as one of the best venues around. Touted as a chic “super secret speakeasy from the days of yore,” by Pete Yorn, the club offers a great selection of local and domestic taps and the experience of a lifetime. This old style theater get up on the outside only draws people in and the super classy, ultra modern look on the inside keeps them there.
Cause Spirits and Soundbar
What goes together better than spectacular music and equally great food? If you’re asking Cause Spirits and Soundbar, nothing. Formerly Sauce, Cause Spirits and Soundbar gives guests the chance to be up close and personal with the band in one room and then, if needed, take a break in their other room with an ice cold pint and a wide array of palette appealing dishes. Located in the Lyn-Lake Neighborhood of Uptown, Cause has a full bar in both areas and an almost floor level stage with great sightlines throughout the venue. Equipped with a professional sound system, the club is a great showcase venue for local acts seeking a different crowd every night.
Part of The After Midnight Group, the Cabooze is one of seven venues within a local chain of restaurants and clubs throughout the Twin Cities. Located on the West Bank of the University, Cabooze has been shelling out great spirits and great local and national bands for nearly 40 years. This is another large facility that opens up into a massive floor with a wide stage for bands that like to put on a show. Providing patrons with a variety of music entertainment from rap and hip-hop to grunge and metal to rock and roll, the Cabooze is a hard-hitting, pure music establishment. Taking the shape of a no-nonsense biker club on the outside, Cabooze offers something for every musical taste, creating their own one-of-a-kind party atmosphere.
A music venue first and foremost, 400 Bar sticks with the traditional and keeps the music coming. Located on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Riverside, 400 Bar is a small, yet great starter venue for local musicians to play to a crowd that comes for the music. As an establishment, this club is one of the longest standing music clubs in the Minneapolis West Bank area. There has been some pretty big name bands to come through these doors and it is typical to find a rockin’ underground band playing on stage. The club always offers specials on PBR Tallboys and Old Style and most often has a cheap cover charge.