It’s looking distinctly possible that the hometown team might find its way into U.S. Bank Stadium when Super Bowl LII takes over Minneapolis on Feb. 4. Trust us, though, the hometown music scene knows how to deliver a good kick when you need it and is a way more reliable bet.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis certainly seemed aware of this when — after being confirmed as the producers of the free Super Bowl Live series on Nicollet Mall — announced their intentions of making the 10-night marathon of free outdoor concerts (Jan. 26 to Feb. 4) a mostly Minnesotan affair.
“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase and be proud of the great music from our hometown,” Lewis said.
All due respect to the Grammy-winning producers and songwriters — who’ve lived in Los Angeles since 2005 — we figure they could use some pointers on what’s current and noteworthy in Minnesota music. Which is to say nothing of the many other party planners and promoters without any local ties who are also putting together music lineups for giant soirees or high-buck bashes around the big game.
Here are our recommendations on who to fish out of the local talent pool.
If you’re looking for local legends
You can forget the firmly retired Replacements. Probably Bob Dylan, too, unless Victoria’s Secret is putting up the money.
1. Soul Asylum. Frontman Dave Pirner of “Runaway Train”-hitmaking fame and his remade band touch down between the pylons of alternative and classic rock.
2. The Revolution. Prince’s “Purple Rain” bandmates reunited to honor him last year and still know how to make a crowd go crazy.
3. Atmosphere. This veteran hip-hop group has also been tapped for recent jock gigs with ESPN’s X Games and the MLB All-Star Game.
If you’re looking for current buzz makers
1. Lizzo. The provocative, high-energy hip-hop/R&B powerhouse doesn’t currently have Minnesota residency, but she earned her It Status here.
2. Hippo Campus. These college-age lads play jangly, catchy yet sophisticated pop/rock that proved admirably accessible for big crowds at this year’s Minnesota State Fair.
3. ZuluZuluu. Their hints of Afrofuturism might not jibe with NFL standards, but this five-man team of producers, singers and rappers have scored big locally with their cosmic funk and neo-soulful R&B.
If you’re looking for (talented) local characters
1. Har Mar Superstar. The average-Joe-looking ex-punk-rocker with the above-average soul-singer voice is a local fixture who’s been in big Hollywood movies but hangs in small Nordeast bars.
2. Cornbread Harris. Jimmy Jam’s father has been plunking piano and singing classic R&B and blues songs in Twin Cities bars since the ’50s and is still rolling strong.
3. World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. The house band from Nye’s Bar is still standing even though (most) of the legendary supper club was demolished last year.
If you’re looking for real country (not Florida Georgia Line)
1. The Cactus Blossoms. These two brothers recently made it to “Twin Peaks” with their cool vintage country sound and rich, Everlys-like sibling harmonies.
2. Trailer Trash. The most tried and true honky-tonk band in town can play you all the classic Hank, Willie and Johnny covers your Super Bowl cash can buy.
3. Erik Koskinen. He’s a tall cool one who happens to be a bit of a maestro on twang-guitar as well as a gifted songwriter.
If you’re looking to dance
1. The Suburbs. One of the most locally beloved bands of the rich ’80s scene even had the punks grooving back in the day. Now they fit right in amid modern dance-rock flavor.
2. Davina & the Vagabonds. Frontwoman Davina Sowers wows listeners with her booming voice while her band’s rollicking, Southern boogie-woogie woos them onto the dance floor.
3. Name-brand DJs. Shannon Blowtorch, Keezy, Jake Rudh, Sophia Eris, the Get Cryphy crew, Mike Gervais and Christian James are among the many spinners with followings around town.
If you’re looking for something classy
1. The Steeles. The gospel-rooted family act, long favored by Prince and Garrison Keillor alike, can deliver mountain-high classic R&B and soul hits.
2. The Valdons. This classic four-man ’60s R&B harmony act has earned renewed attention in recent years as the Minnesota group that should’ve been the next Temptations.
3. The New Standards. Two rockers of Suburbs and Semisonic notoriety paired up with a vibraphonist and a cool song list to become a popular lounge act that even the Minnesota Orchestra has imbibed.
If you’re looking for something completely different
1. Gramma’s Boyfriend. Singer Haley Bonar is a much-loved indie tunesmith who shows off her wild side in this freakish, colorful, Devo- and Blondie-channeling glam-punk band.
2. Metallagher. It’s a sure bet that next year’s Super Bowl host city, Atlanta, doesn’t have a watermelon-smashing, bad-joke-telling band that plays a mean “Master of Puppets.”
3. Prairie Fire Lady Choir. The 50-member women’s a cappella group that coolly reinvents pop and rock staples (also including Metallica!) might offset all the testosterone flowing through town that week.