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Minnesota Music Month 2024
Minnesota Music Month 2024MPR

Radio Heartland Presents: Minnesota Music Month featuring Alan Sparhawk Solo Band, Maygen & The Birdwatcher, Joe Rainey, and Kelley Smith

Friday, April 5
6:30 pm

Turf Club

1601 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

Radio Heartland Presents: Minnesota Music Month featuring Alan Sparhawk Solo Band, Maygen & The Birdwatcher, Joe Rainey, and Kelley Smith

Doors 6:30 p.m. | Performance 7 p.m. | 21+

The Current’s Minnesota Music Month Artists Showcase will be documented with photography and audio and audio-visual recordings. By attending this event, you consent to having your image and voice photographed and recorded, as applicable, and to the use by MPR of any such photographs and/or recordings in any and all media.

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Alan Sparhawk

black and white photo of a man facing the camera
Alan Sparhawk
Third Party

Thirty years into a career of music making, 2024 finds Alan Sparhawk entering uncharted territory. Sparhawk co-founded the band Low alongside vocalist and drummer Mimi Parker, who passed away in late 2022. Their music derived elemental power from its fearless exploration of quiet, gentle places. Low released thirteen albums and influenced a movement of spacious, graceful, intimate, and ever-evolving music.

Over time, Low’s anthemic songs heightened in urgency and tone, unearthing new layers of musical exploration and lyrical questioning. Their final album, Grammy nominated “Hey What,”was released in 2021 to universal acclaim and marked a high point in their musical evolution and trajectory.

Sparhawk has recently been playing with various collaborators and projects with friends and family members, including guest appearances with Yo La Tengo, Trampled by Turtles, Peder Mannerfelt, Charlie Parr, and funk band Derecho Rhythm Section. He performed solo shows in NY in February 2024 and is going on a Spring tour with music to be released later in the year.

Kelley Smith

woman playing guitar at a show
Kelley Smith
Third party

American singer-songwriter Kelley Smith is a hopeless romantic who fancies old poetry and grandpa sweaters. All at once whimsical and haunting, Smith delivers deeply affecting lyrics with wry charm and a time traveler's voice. Prone to melancholy and daydreaming, Kelley spent her childhood roaming the woods of Minnesota and singing to forest animals. To this day, her longing for that landscape runs deep and seems to find its way into her songs in one way or another. 
Raised by musicians, Smith always had music in her bones, but it wasn't until she was 40 and a mother of four that her first record, Moon Child (2022), came to be. As an insomniac, she wrote this first batch of songs by moonlight. They evoke a sense of belonging, juxtaposed with escapism, as she croons about long-term love, grief, and her draw to the night sky. ”Her authentic, rootsy sound, falling somewhere between country, folk, bluegrass and old-time music, is a pitch-perfect vehicle for the themes she explores...” - Adventures in Americana  
Since 2022, Kelley has been lucky to share stages with the likes of Charlie Parr, Dave Simonett, Wild Horses, Drew Peterson, Erik Koskinen, Storyhill, Good Morning Bedlam, Tina Schlieske, Molly Maher, Sarah Morris, and more. Often performing solo or as a duo, Smith interprets old-time folk songs on guitar and banjo, in addition to her original music.  

Joe Rainey

black and white photo with a man facing camera
Joe Rainey
Third party

Descending from Indigenous singing that’s been heard across the waters of what is now called Minnesota for centuries.

Depending on the song, his voice can celebrate or console, welcome or intimidate, wake you up or lull your babies to sleep. Each note conveys a clear message, no matter the inflection: We’re still here. We were here before you were, and we never left.

Rainey grew up a Red Lake Ojibwe in Minneapolis, a city with one of the largest, proudest Native populations in the country. He was raised on the South side near Franklin Avenue, the post-Reorganization Act urban nexus of local Native American life. Rainey came of age in the heart of this community (also the birthplace of AIM), but always felt like he was

living in a liminal space with the Reservation five hours North. At an early age Rainey started recording groups and practiced dancing and singing. As a teenager he started his first drum group, and soon his voice grew strong enough to sing in Midnite Express, a new drum group featuring members of the legendary group The Boyz. They were professionals, city Indians travelling all over, repping their reservations and their neighborhoods—competing for cash and cred, always striving to capture that “Pow Wow feeling” of togetherness. Rainey was just as much of a fan as he was a participant, recording others then studying the tapes, cataloging the different styles.

On Niineta, Rainey finds himself in between cultures again, collaborating with producer Andrew Broder, who brought his turntablist sensibility to the project. The two of them met backstage at Justin Vernon’s hometown Eaux Claires music festival before crossing paths more through the 37d03d collective, and both contributed to the last Bon Iver album before partnering up. “At first I didn’t know what I could add,” Broder says. “I came to understand everything is rooted in the drum—even the songs on our record that have no drum.” Each song started with Broder’s beats, the two of them experimenting with various sounds and tempos before orchestrating and recontextualizing the ancient sounds in strange, new in-between places, also pulling from Rainey’s vast sample folder of pow wow recordings, layering in slices of his life.

Niineta is a short version of the Ojibwe term meaning, “just me,” and Rainey is using the term only in the sense that he’s taking sole responsibility for the music. He is protective of Pow Wow culture—once outlawed by the US government and maintained in secret—while trying to figure out where he fits and how he can be creative with it. “These are my creations, but they're pow wow songs, and our language is sacred,” he says. Rainey suggests conceptualizing the album as him working the door at a Pow Wow afterparty. “If I'm answering that door, I want to say, yeah, come on in. But there's fucking tons of us in here. It ain't just me

Third Maygen and The Birdwatcher

group of people outside facing the camera
Third Maygen and The Birdwatcher
Third party

It’s been quite a stir for the Minnesota progressive folk-rock-country sextet Maygen & The Birdwatcher. In late 2021 they released their debut full-length album, Moonshine – (which Americana UK wrote is “stunning”) – earning them Midwest Country Music Awards for Album of the Year and Americana Artist of the Year) and landed opportunities to join festival stages with bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, Paul Cauthen, Grace Potter, and even support a childhood favorite, Travis Tritt. 

They continued the momentum in late 2022, releasing Moonshine’s companion EP, with the “lively and charming” (Adventures in Americana) Bootleggin’ At The Flower Shoppe which took home a 2nd round of wins for Album of the Year and Americana Artist of the Year at the Midwest Country Music Organization’s annual awards show. 

The mood-boosting Americana band adventurously blurs the sounds of country, bluegrass, folk, and blues. Lead singers Maygen Lacey, and Noah Neumann intentionally work to draw on their vastly different musical influences and vocal styles to bring a fresh and unexpected mix of songs to light. From beauty to grit, sadness to silliness, the common thread is that this crew loves music, and playing it together, and it shows.  

This past October, Maygen & The Birdwatcher hosted and curated the inaugural Amerigrass Fest at The Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge in Minneapolis. Maygen Lacey cherishes the special community of musical artists in the Midwest, and looks forward to celebrating what each genre, and fusion of genres can bring about at the new event Amerigrass Fest – “We are big fans of collaboration and love to play with the bands we share the stage with. Music is our love language and we’re very excited to play Amerigrass with the talented array of artists.” 

In late 2023, Maygen & The Birdwatcher teamed up with the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition, a non-profit organization to help save North America’s most threatened ecosystem: its native grasslands. Together, they released an original song and music video, titled “Where Good Things Grow,” which they hope will raise public awareness regarding the importance of grassland ecosystems and generate support for programs and activities to encourage farmers, ranchers and state officials to develop programs and policies that preserve and restore the health of North America’s grasslands. Maygen & The Birdwatcher are currently working on their next studio project with acclaimed producer, artist and guitarist-extraordinaire, Erik Koskinen, due out Spring 2024.