What’s wrong with the Minnesota music scene?

Twin Cities music fans are howling over comments made overseas by one of their own.

19 year old Jordan Gatesmith of the Minneapolis band “Howler” was interviewed by the The Guardian, and thanks to the internet, within a day or two his complaints about the Minnesota music scene made their way home.


Howler band members, from left, Brent Mayes, Jordan Gatesmith, France Camp, Ian Nygaard and Max Petrek

Photo courtesy Chris Heidman

So what was Gatesmith’s big complaint? Mainly, that Twin Cities “tastemakers” are picking the wrong talent to support (in some cases, over and over again), while more compelling acts are left to fend for themselves. Here’s a quote:

Ok, this is so hard, someone is going to hear this I know, but I’m just going to say it. There’s this band called the 4onthefloor, for example, and the gimmick is that they play, you know, they have four kick drums, and they all play the kick drum on the floor, and they’re like Mumford & Sons crap. I’m sorry. But that will get huge. They’ll do like crazy big venues, then everyone will be like, ‘Yeah! 4onthefloor is the band to watch! Everyone get ready!’ And then, of course, nothing will happen outside of Minneapolis for them. And I think a lot of bands that kind of do the punk rock thing, or kind of the underground thing are the really good acts that will just never see the light of day. So I have a hard time with Minneapolis.

Does Gatesmith have a point?

Well, “Howler” certainly not the only band that’s found fame elsewhere first; the band Tapes ‘n’ Tapes was popular outside of the state for several years before Minnesotans embraced it as a local success story.

On my colleague Andrea Swensson’s Local Current Blog, Gatesmith’s comments have sparked a conversation about the state of music in the Twin Cities, with some commenters stepping up to support Gatesmith’s claims.

Still others took issue with the fact that the 19 year old musician actually cited 4onthefloor, rather than keeping his criticism more general.

While Gatesmith’s comments were to a UK reporter, he’s made similar remarks here at home. Just a few weeks ago, my colleague Chris Roberts profiled Howler. During the interview Gatesmith joked about Minneapolis being “the city where dreams go to die.”

  • El Jefe 612

    Not that I am a Howler fan by any means, but he does have a point. There are several more deserving bands that should get attention, but they don’t fall into The Current mold of what’s popular right now.

    And one nit-picky correction; Tapes ‘N Tapes were not popular “for several years” outside of MN before gaining attention here… MAYBE several months.

  • Fabuladico

    Actually, I think the thing wrong with the music in Minnesota is the same thing wrong with music in general. It barely exists anymore. One cannot say that four guys that do nothing but beat on kick drums for an act is actually music. We once had a real sound in Minnesota, and I’m not referring to Prince, whatever happened to it? Whatever happened to music that actually sounded, well, musical?

  • Troutbum

    The scene in MN is sad. The first problem is the venue’s and downtown setup. The venue’s are spread out limiting bar hopping, no one wants a d.w.i, alot in the burbs, who goes there? Another is the layout of downtown is so sad that live music is played sporadically spread out in a bar here and another down the way.

    The second is the musicians themselves. Take for instance the “blues, jazz, and rock” scene. It is populated by many groups with animal names, who 90% have successful careers this is a weekend warrior deal, yet they get booked over anyone good, cheaper who knows the difference? And the few pros dont mentor new guys they just hate on them block them, and rotate in between the handfull of lawyers and businessmen playing fun’s groups.

    Dont people know a rising tide lifts all ship’s? Without Stevie Ray , Albert King would not have risen again, the same for the rest and Clapton and Jimi. You must support and mentor and bring up new blood, or watch yours run dry.

    The rock/punk scene just needs better venues, better acts, and real managment and promotion.