2017 was an interesting year for me. I became a dad, saw a lot of music, and two friends and I decided we didn’t want to wait any longer for music in Rochester.
After years of sitting on the sideline and waiting for someone to bring some new music to Rochester, in July of 2017 we finally started taking action with a little experiment called My Town My Music. Right out of the gate we planned three shows in three months and wanted to answer the question: do people in Rochester really want to see live music, or did we just plan three of the saddest dance parties for ourselves? After four total shows in 2017, I’m convinced others have been waiting for this just as long as we have.
With 2017 in the books, we want to humbly submit our vision for the Rochester music scene in 2018.
But first, let’s take a look back at 2017.
A Look Back
Looking back, our inaugural year brought a lot of new experiences while also a chance to reconnect with some old favorites. Here’s how it all went down.
Mike Munson Kicks off the Launch Party Concert
Mike Munson, the area’s premier blues man, helped kick off the launch of My Town My Music with his unique style of slide guitar. I’m always mesmerized by his fast-paced picking and lyrics that can seem sad at times, but complement the upbeat tempo. If you missed the show, Munson often makes his way back to Rochester as both a solo artist and as part of the duo with Jake Ilika, Land at Last.
Tat Thompson opened the show with a little help from his friend Peter Laack on the keys and accordion. This was the first I’d seen Tat play, but I was happily surprised. His folk-acoustic style, storytelling skill, and ability to mix in bits of humor and optimism made him a great start before getting a case of the blues.
The show was hosted at The Jive Mill, a venue and group specialized in intimate, house-style concerts that provide an in-person experience. The Jive Mill recently announced that they’re looking for a new, permanent, music-first venue after their experiment with a temporary space. They’re booking more concerts at various locations and I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of them in 2018. Check out the recap video above done by our friends at Wondercloud Media.
A Solid Gold Evening
After an intimate, acoustic show, we needed to get people up and dancing. How about a night of electro rock on the Kathy’s Pub second floor stage? Rochester based “business rock” band, Rat City Enterprises kicked off the night. This trio donned their suits and brought the biz with their electro/synth rock vibe, and they busted out the otamatone to show that even buttoned-up office dudes know how to let loose.
After years of being away from Rochester, electric rock group Apollo Cobra definitely got people moving. We’ve got a video of our buddy Ethan below to prove it. (Sorry, Ethan…or you’re welcome, Ethan?) I’ve seen Apollo Cobra a handful of times over the years, and I’m more impressed with each show.
Headlining the night was Minneapolis-based electro-glam rock band, SOLID GOLD, playing for the first time in Rochester. They brought it down with a mellow, spacey mood that still somehow rocked your face off. When he hits that note for the climax of Elephants…gives ya shivers.
I think my favorite part of this show was it being a summer night at Kathy’s. Everyone who wanted to visit the rooftop bar had to pass through the second floor. As they heard the music and saw the light show cutting through fog, so many of their faces said what I heard one guy voice out loud: “Holy sh*t, they do shows like this at Kathy’s?” Shout out to our friends at Northern Sun Productions for blowing us all away.
Photos by Bekkie Hart and Will Forsman
Rochester’s Local Music Showdown
Bringing music to Rochester is a big goal of ours, but we also want to highlight the vast and diverse talent that’s already here. What better way to do that than throwing a battle of the bands style concert? But we didn’t want it to be limited to genre or size, so we decided to call it “Rochester’s Local Music Showdown” and open it up to all types of styles. Fourteen bands/artists entered. To get local music fans and members more involved in the process, we asked them to decide who would be the five to compete for the prize at the show. Having never tried this before, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but we ended up getting over 200 votes.
The show landed on a perfect end-of-summer night, making it totally worthwhile to have outside at Graham Park. (It’s part of the Fair Grounds. Apparently nobody knows it exists. I know I didn’t before this.)
The final lineup of Zoot Boys, The Bando Bunch, Second Story, Under The Pavilion, and Embrace The Ending ended up being a great showing of the different styles home to Rochester: hip-hop, grunge, rock, metal. At the end of the night Rochester music fans voted one last time for who they thought should get the top prize. Embrace The Ending reigned supreme and were named winners of the inaugural Rochester’s Local Music Showdown.
Author Comes Home
It was not something we had expected to be a part of, but we were happy to be able to help. Although Author is Minneapolis-based, their roots are in Rochester. When they decided to go on tour to support their new album and wanted to play a show in Rochester, we knew we had to help. They were recently rejoined by Rochester musician and owner of Carpet Booth Studios, Zach Zurn. With just two weeks until the start of the tour, Zach reached out to us and laid out the scene: Author wants to play a homecoming show in Rochester…but the only day that works is a Monday night. We thought it sounded awesome, so we helped lock down Kathy’s 2nd floor and spread the word that Author was going to make this hometown show happen.
We had the band. We had the venue. We just had to wait to see if people would make it out for a Monday night.
For this show, the crowd was able to see the talent of two local openers who each brought their own unique style to the show. Wyatt Moran kicked things off with his solo indie rock style and weaved the perfect mixture of songs with sad stories and solo electric guitar. Local Sports pumped up the energy, filling the room with emo/pop punk tunes. After releasing their first EP last fall, they’re gaining some serious attention in the area.
At last, Author took over, and with a giant, illuminated “A” taking center stage with the band, you knew this was going to be a great show. Author did not disappoint, and you could tell that it was special for them to play in Rochester.
And, yes, the crowd did their part by coming out on a school night! I remember talking with some people at Cafe Steam the morning of the show, honestly not knowing how many people would turn up. One person just said, “There’s enough people who want to support the music scene and see it grow. You shouldn’t have a problem filling the room.” It was true. I’m convinced.
Photos by Will Forsman
Rochester Music Scene Gets Statewide Spotlight
One other really cool aspect of 2017 is that the Rochester music scene finally got a bit of spotlight for its efforts to grow. Seeing that something was different and changing in the area, Minnesota Public Radio ran a story about the efforts, the momentum, and the struggles of Rochester music. This was a huge step in spreading the word in and outside of Rochester that music can happen here.
And this is just the beginning.
A Vision of the Rochester music in 2018
2018 is our year. 2018 is the year that we’ll look back and say, this is where it all came together for Rochester music. I think we all know where we want to go, but don’t necessarily know how to get there.
Well, here is our plan to get us there.
Phase 1: Put out the bat signal
Booking managers are looking for cities that have an audience for their artist. If they can see the likelihood of a sold-out show that won’t compete with the remainder of the circuit, there’s a good chance your city will make it on the tour schedule.
Rochester isn’t known for music, at least in recent history. We don’t have a well-known, mid-sized venue in which larger names can perform. Big-named artists aren’t playing shows here often. Hell, Minnesota Public Radio actually did two stories in the last year about Rochester music, because they felt it was newsworthy that Rochester finally started getting things moving.
To get things jump started, we need to prove to booking agents that we can do it. Show that when we have shows in Rochester, the crowds are going to be there.
When agents and artists start seeing a crowd of people coming out to support live music, Rochester becomes harder to ignore for that tour schedule.
Phase 2: Build on the base
What does the music scene really need in 2018 and beyond?
If you look back through the years, we’ve had big name acts here, we’ve had festivals, we’ve had local acts go on to regional and even national recognition, we’ve had…music venues.
What haven’t we had? Consistent, sustainable success. And that’s hurting us. But we can change that.
When music fans, venues, promoters, artists, and anyone else who wants more music in Rochester is working in the same direction, that’s when the magic happens. It’s absolutely a community effort.
There was a lot of cool music in 2017. Who knows. Maybe the momentum has already started.
4 My Town My Music Concerts in 2018 (At Least)
You may be pointing at your screen and saying, “This is all well and good, but what are you doing about it, My Town My Music?”
We want music to happen just as bad as you, so we’re just going to do it! For 2018, our goal is to put on (at least) 4 My Town My Music concerts with each one bringing a new experience or a new artist.
You can even be a part of the process. Want to help us decide what bands and artists get booked? Sign up as a free or premium My Town My Music member and let us know.
A hub for those who want more music in Rochester
Some of the reasons I personally wanted to start MTMM were a bit selfish. I wanted to know who the local acts were in Rochester, and I wanted a single place to find music that was coming up. There wasn’t a place doing that, so we decided to take it upon ourselves and create our Local Artist Directory, which features profiles of local music talent; an events calendar, which shows you there is stuff to do in Rochester; and extras, such as including event updates on social media. We envision this to be the spot where people go to find ways to sate their musical cravings.
New membership perks
My Town My Music members make music happen in Rochester. It’s that simple.
From the beginning, we always wanted a way to get local music fans involved and have a direct impact on the music scene. Members not only guide us in the musical tastes and artists that should be booked, but premium members help fund more concerts, bigger concerts, and better concerts.
For 2018 we have revamped our membership packages to reward and incentivize you for getting out to concerts and supporting live music. As a member you can get discounted tickets, ticket giveaways, presale access, MTMM gear, the ability to vote for music acts, and more that I’m probably forgetting.
When you support Rochester music, you deserve to be rewarded.
If you want to see live music in Rochester, become a member and get rewarded while rocking out.
Let’s Do This
I’ve generally found that people who tell you it can’t be done simply can’t see the path forward (or don’t want to do the work to get there).
We don’t have time for that nonsense, you and I. We’ve got a plan.
I don’t know exactly where we’ll end up when 2018 is through, but I know exactly what direction we’re going.
If you’re aching for live music in Rochester, let’s work together. Let’s make music happen.