MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The 25th anniversary of the Cities 97.1 Basilica Block Party kicks off Friday afternoon. The concert draws some of the biggest names in music to the steps of the Minneapolis church.

The grounds surrounding the Basilica of St. Mary transform each July for what organizers call an unconventional block party.

“It’s not your usual parish picnic. It’s much more important than that,” said Johan Van Parys, Basilica’s director of Liturgy.

Twenty-five years of music have allowed the Basilica to pay for maintenance and ongoing restoration – filling narrow grooves on the dome, replacing the roof, restoring stained-glass windows and making the building more accessible.

“When it was started, it was purely for a financial reason but it became so much more than just raising money,” Van Parys said.

Van Parys said the block party has broken down barriers and allowed the congregation to stray from the norm and become younger.

“It’s a wonderful side effect that we had not intended originally but we now embrace wholeheartedly,” Van Parys said.

It’s also given bands a new platform. Semisonic has played the Basilica several times since the 90s. Ahead of them tonight, Yam Haus takes the stage for the first time.

“It’s pretty surreal to be a part of it and it feels almost like a dream,” Lars Pruitt said.

The Minneapolis-based band knows this is a significant time in their journey.

“Since we’ve said yes to Basilica, even the people that have known us our whole lives – it kind of changed their perspective of what we’re doing as a band,” Jake Felstow said.

So expect a high-energy show that will keep you dancing.

“Just do what we’ve been doing for the last year or so, bring our A game and have a great time,” Pruitt said.

Yam Haus takes the Preferred One stage at 5:45 p.m. They’re debuting a new song, “The Thrill,” off their second album.

In addition to the Basilica’s restoration, 10% of the proceeds go to outreach.

Jennifer Mayerle

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