What was the No. 1 sign that the Minnesota music scene was alive and well in 2016?
Here is a sampling of responses from the critics who participated in the Star Tribune's annual Twin Cities Critics Tally (TCCT):
Jim Walsh (author and columnist, MinnPost and Southwest Journal): The inspirational outpouring of grief, love, music, creativity and community that exploded and continues to explode around the death of the one and only Prince Rogers Nelson.
Andrea Swensson (89.3 the Current writer and “Local Show” host): This is a tough question to answer in the year we lost Prince. But I do believe our Beautiful One would have appreciated how much music was created in direct response to the trying political and social struggles of 2016; from ZuluZuluu to Sarah White, Toussaint Morrison to Poliça, I can’t recall another year when artists spoke so specifically and poetically to the issues of our time.
Chris Riemenschneider (Star Tribune critic): The Prince tribute at Xcel Energy Center that took six months to plan — and who knows how many phone calls to no-shows John Mayer and Christina Aguilera — was an organizational mess from start to finish. The all-local Prince tribute the night of his death only had a few hours of planning, and it turned into one of the biggest and proudest cultural moments in Minneapolis history. Staffers from First Avenue, 89.3 the Current and the city made it happen. Performers including PaviElle French, Sarah White, Cameron Kinghorn, Shannon Blowtorch and Lizzo — all winging it — made it magical.
Jerard Fagerberg (City Pages contributor): Finally getting some national shine! Especially with Finding Novyon and Lizzo, the rest of the United States (which, you know, also matters) is homing in on the locally grown talents we’ve been touting so much. Getting outside the echo chamber is a big advance.
Grace Birnstengel (City Pages and Stereogum contributor): The creation of “A Statement of Solidarity From the Minnesota Arts and Music Community” by Natalie Grace Krueger of Naive Sense following the election, to encourage and inspire local musicians to “combine [their] platforms and resources to organize in an effort to benefit those who have been marginalized within our current system.” The statement was signed by many, many musicians, from Justin Pierre to Southside Desire, pledging to donate their “time, resources, and finances to benefit those who have been further disenfranchised by this election.” Well done.
Pamela Espeland (MinnPost arts columnist): Eight new jazz albums came out on the Twin Cities-based collective jazz label Shifting Paradigm Records, the most ever since it was founded in 2014 to boost area jazz artists’ visibility locally and nationally. The website already lists three more due in 2017.
Pat O’Brien (City Pages contributor): We had a rough year here — from April on, especially — and many people didn’t move past Prince’s passing very easily. For the rest of the year however, I watched as a lot of people from here migrated to Eaux Claires; band after band, both new and established, sold out their album releases and Lizzo effectively closed out the year by selling out First Avenue two nights in a row like a boss. 2016 was brutal, but we’re going to make it.
Other TCCT 2016 voters: Jon Bream (Star Tribune critic); Jay Boller (City Pages music editor); Tim Campbell (Star Tribune senior arts editor); Cyn Collins (freelancer and author); Reed Fischer (GoMN editorial director); Jay Gabler (89.3 the Current digital producer); Cecilia Johnson (89.3 the Current and City Pages contributor); Mike Madden (City Pages); Kyle Matteson (Growler Magazine); Ross Raihala (Pioneer Press critic); Michael Rietmulder (City Pages); Erica Rivera (City Pages and Star Tribune freelancer): Danny Sigelman (freelancer and author); Jack Spencer (City Pages and GoMN contributor); Erik Thompson (City Pages clubs editor); Youa Vang (City Pages); Toki Wright (Insight News).