Top 89 of 2015: Twin Cities Concerts


We asked, you voted! All December long, you — the local music lover — voted for your favorite Twin Cities concerts of 2015, and the results are in!

Be sure to tune in to The Current's listener-curated Top 89 countdown on Dec. 31, 2015 starting at 5 p.m. CT with a rebroadcast on New Year's Day starting at 10 a.m. CT.

5. Festival Palomino

Sept. 19, Canterbury Park

In its second year, Festival Palomino proved that Minnesota musicians are some of the finest folks to host, plan and execute their own music festivals. Curated by Trampled By Turtles, the two-stage, one-day Festival Palomino featured performances by Laura Marling, Dr. Dog, Father John Misty, Shakey Graves and more. Local Current college contributor Hannah Hron reviews the second annual event:

With no new music under their belt since last year's release of Wild Animals, concerns that Trampled by Turtles' live act would seem at all stale or old were quickly dismissed as Duluth's finest started strumming their banjos. Absolutely furious fiddling caused joyous jigs, standing or otherwise, from the front of the stage to the many spectators relaxed on blankets. Standard banjo music mixed with some fantastic harmonica helped remind the sizeable crowd of an important reason the festival exists: the celebration of fantastic local music.

Festival Palomino continued to stay true to its focus by showcasing the variety of forms of American locally and nationally, from Lydia Loveless's outlaw punk to Father John Misty's biting commentary to Benjamin Booker's furious shredding. Trampled by Turtles will always serve as the star of their festival, still able to get Minnesotans dancing and moving like almost no other band out there, but using their influence to shine a light on their peers shows that the band truly enjoy nothing more than providing the eager masses with a wonderful day full of camaraderie.

4. Hippo Campus with Bad Bad Hats

Nov. 28, First Avenue

After putting out two EPs and touring the planet in 2015, Hippo Campus have braced themselves for worldwide domination (and Bad Bad Hats don't fall far behind with the success of Psychic Reader). Local Current college contributor Austin Gerth points out that Hippo Campus' first headlining show at First Avenue was their version of a victory lap:

Saturday's show was Hippo Campus's first time headlining in First Avenue's mainroom. It sold out well in advance, which gave the whole thing the feel of a victory lap for the band, who've spent much of the past year working hard: touring, wowing SXSW crowds, and getting a surprising (but unsurprisingly successful) performance on Conan under their belts.

Guitarist Nathan Stocker appeared genuinely touched by the crowd's warm response, lingering on the stage at the end of the set to stare out in Taylor Swiftian awe at the legion of happy fans. His elation was understandable: so far his band's career has been one continuous upward trajectory, one which hopefully will carry through to their next step: a full-length debut album. More than anything, Saturday's show felt like the end of Hippo Campus's first chapter, and the beginning of the next one.

3. Eaux Claires

July 17 and 18, Eau Claire, WI

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Bryce Dessner of the National did a pretty darn good job of putting together their first music festival. So good that they are doing it again in 2016. Eaux Claires brought all the feelings, as Andrea Swensson notes in her reflection of the inaugural event:

There comes a point at every festival, regardless of location and size, where we turn inward, soles aching and back muscles screaming, and ask ourselves: Is this all worth it? And at a lot of festivals, it can feel like you're barely breaking even. But at the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival this weekend, I couldn't believe just how many times I found myself shaking my head in disbelief, goosebumps rising on my sweat-soaked arms and mouth literally hanging open in awe as one soul-shaking moment after another unfolded on the ground's multiple stages.

It's these moments that we live for: the moments when the pain melts away; when you forget about how many times you've had to sprint up that psychedelic hill in the woods to get to the Dells stage because what you're hearing now, what's coming together on stage and washing over the crowd is lifting you up, lifting you all up, and reminding you that there is nothing else like the joy of connecting with this many other humans through music.

2. Alabama Shakes with Father John Misty

May 30, Hall's Island

On the heels of their highly anticipated and critically acclaimed sophomore albums, Alabama Shakes and Father John Misty's sets were a one-two punch at Hall's Island, a one-off venue in Northeast Minneapolis. Andrea Swensson recounts Alabama Shakes' electrifying performance:

Watching the show on Saturday night, I realized that it's impossible to consider Alabama Shakes' music without examining its context in the history of black music – and celebrating just how effectively and seamlessly it sews this history together into an invigorating, new-old sound. From James Brown to Tina Turner, Big Mama Thornton to D'Angelo, listening to the new Alabama Shakes album and watching their live show is like taking a guided tour through the past 60 years of African-American music. A trio of back-up singers upped the Motown vibe on songs like "Dunes," and even the more southern and classic rock influences that propel the band's sound forward on "Shoegaze" and "Don't Want to Fight No More" are ultimately rooted in the blues, making it all the more satisfying that Howard is reclaiming these sounds and weaving them into her band's aesthetic.

1. Rock the Garden

June 20 and 21, Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden

Ah, you shouldn't have! Hosted by The Current and Walker Art Center, the two-day festival featured performances by Courtney Barnett, Modest Mouse, Belle and Sebastian, Lucius and more. Andrea Swensson on Seun Kuti and Egypt 80's enchanting set:

When Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 wrapped up their 65-minute set on Sunday night, I got the very strong sense that they could have easily played for another three hours. With songs that often stretched past the 10-minute mark and over a dozen musicians eager to step up and take a solo, the band had no problem keeping the energy hot and the beat pressing forward the entire time they were on stage.

Perhaps the biggest evidence of Kuti's magnetic talent was the fact that the entire backstage and side stage area was flooded with musicians from the other bands performing at Rock the Garden on Saturday, including Sean Lennon, who knelt down and observed in awe. Watching all of the musicians come together to create such intricate, enticing polyrhythms was simply mesmerizing.

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