January is the time of year when many Minnesotans don’t even like to leave the house. It also happens to be when many of Minnesota’s hardest-touring musicians stay home.
Those seemingly opposing circumstances add up to a growing tradition in the Twin Cities music scene: January residency gigs.
This month, four popular Twin Cities acts — at least two of whom are big enough to fill First Avenue — are setting up shop in smallish venues for weekly gigs. Some will be showing off their varied musical sides with each weekly installment. Some will be trying out new material. All are inviting friends out to play with them.
Of course, they’re also all hoping fans will come see them each week.
Just the idea of leaving the house in January was a hard sell for one of this month’s residency stars, musical innovator Andrew Broder, when he kicked off his first weekly series this time last year at the Turf Club.
“Truthfully, the idea of a bunch of freezing cold Monday night shows in the dead zone of winter didn’t appeal much to me,” said the experimental bandleader of Fog and Cloak Ox notoriety, who also noted the “paralyzing dread” he felt around this time last year due to political changeover in Washington, D.C.
That dread, however, became something of a catalyst for Broder’s shows, as he turned each week into a charitable fundraiser and emphasized “solidarity and love to our friends and ourselves” — a tradition he hopes to continue as he takes over the Turf Club on Thursdays in January.
Mondays at the Turf Club, meanwhile, are going to the Cactus Blossoms this month, a night the classic country harmonizers used to hold down every week before they turned into road warriors.
“January is a good month to be off the road, and we’ve been missing playing in town after all the touring we’ve been doing,” explained singer/guitarist Jack Torrey.
Minnesota musicians like Torrey’s group aren’t alone in choosing to stay home this month. It’s a quiet time for touring shows in general, leaving the calendars at local venues more open to these weekly all-local affairs.
Here’s a preview of each of these January residencies, also including Duluth acoustic bard Charlie Parr’s return to a Sunday night residency at the Turf Club and a Wednesday series by Jeremy Messersmith at Icehouse in Minneapolis.
Why he’s doing it: “To try and lift the spirits again, celebrate creating, creators and what decency and beauty humans have to offer, and fight off the hopelessness and fatigue,” Broder said. Each week will be a fundraiser for a different cause, including the ACLU, Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief and American Refugee Committee.
Week-to-week plan: The opening acts and musical styles will also change every week in the spirit of Broder’s split music-making personalities. The lineup this Thursday includes Baltimore’s wily electro-rapper Spank Rock, locals Psymun and DUA, and “surprise guests.” Next week (Jan. 11) features Dem Atlas, Strange Relations, Nick Jordan and more. On Jan. 18 he’ll welcome Izell Pyramid, 26 Bats!, Mina Moore, Condominium and Jeremy Ylvisaker. The Jan. 26 grand finale moves to the First Avenue mainroom, featuring the first local Low gig in over a year, plus Broder’s Fog and Marijuana Deathsquads.
Tickets: $10-$15, eTix.com or First Ave outlets.
When and where: Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., Jan. 3 through Jan. 24, Icehouse (2528 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.).
Why he’s doing it: Messersmith had a relatively quiet year in 2017, figuratively and literally, as he put out and toured with his “11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele” solo collection on a whim while his bigger and rockier album, “Late Stage Capitalism,” got pushed off to spring 2018. This series is his kickoff to a busier year.
Week-to-week plan: Wednesday’s opening gig will be a solo/acoustic affair featuring Duluth’s Rachael Kilgour and an unannounced guest. Next week’s show has been dubbed “All Strung Out” and will feature Messersmith with the Laurel String Quartet as well as opening sets by violin-bowing singer/songwriters Gaelyn Lea and Jillian Rae. The Jan. 17 “Looper’s Delight” installment will show off Messersmith’s ambient record “Paper Moon” and sets by Dosh and LOTT. Then Messersmith will crank it up with his regular band on Jan. 24 alongside openers Sarah White and 4th Curtis.
Tickets: $16 advance tickets left for Jan. 17 and 24 only via brownpapertickets.com. Limited $20 tickets at the door each night.
When and where: Sundays, 8 p.m., Jan. 7 through Jan. 28, Turf Club.
Why he’s doing it: “I really enjoy taking this time off the road to do something regular,” said the acoustic blues/folk nomad, who first made his mark in the Twin Cities with a standing gig at the Viking Bar and has maintained them at the Turf Club and Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth. “It’s something I look forward to, and it gives me a chance to be at home.”
Week-to-week plan: One week he will perform all solo/acoustic, another with an acoustic trio, another with an electric trio and a fourth possibly with an unnamed guest. Which week will be which, however, is still to be announced (and to be determined in some cases). Most Parr fans are willing to roll the dice for any of these options, anyway. He does have the openers set for each week: Superior Siren this week, then Feeding Leroy on Jan. 14, Chicago Farmer on Jan. 21 and Joseph Huber on Jan. 28.
Tickets: $10 via eTix.com, $12 at door.
The Cactus Blossoms
When and where: Mondays through Jan. 28, 8 p.m., Turf Club.
Why they’re doing it: Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey famously held down Monday nights at the Turf Club in the early-’10s, but they’ve been touring incessantly in recent years — especially since their 2016 album for Red House Records, “You’re Dreaming,” brought them national acclaim and opening gigs with the likes of Kacey Musgraves and JD McPherson. Returning to the Turf is their way of catching their breath, as well as a vehicle to test tunes for a new album currently in the works.
Week-to-week plans: Look for plenty of alternating songs every week from the Cactus Blossoms as well as some surprise guests. The openers have been left unnamed, too, but Torrey promised “great bands, and lots of old friends. It’s going to be a good time.”
Tickets: $15 via eTix.com.