If someone were to ask about a great place to hear live outdoor music on a Thursday night, most people wouldn't suggest a museum. But for the past five summers, Mill City Museum in Minneapolis and the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) in St. Paul have attracted hundreds of people to events featuring loud, raucous music.
The concert series have much in common. Each happens outside, a stone's throw from the Mississippi River. Each features Twin Cities bands. Each is on Thursday. And each is totally awesome.
This head-to-head comparison gives you the scoop on the venues. But you don't necessarily have to choose between the two museums. At Mill City, bands play from 6 to 8 p.m., while the MMAA goes live from 7 to 10 p.m., making it possible to hit both in one night. In this cage match, everybody wins!
Mill City: Breathtaking. Concerts take place in the museum's Ruins Courtyard, the site of an old flour mill nearly destroyed by a 1991 fire. The preserved site is a large, roofless stone shell. Grab a seat at the white-tablecloth tables or just plop down on the mill's exposed rock and iron foundation.
MMAA: While the building isn't anything special -- the museum is within the Ramsey County Government Center -- the view is something spectacular. The concerts take place on a rooftop patio high above the Mississippi, giving you a great view of the river valley.
Mill City: A diverse mix of local talent. Ghanaian rapper M.anifest performed last week. Acoustic folk duo Roma di Luna is up July 24, followed by salsa band Salsabrosa (Aug. 7) and alt-rockers Kid Dakota (Sept. 4).
MMAA: Two bands (sometimes three) make up the three-hour show each week. It's a bevy of local indie stars, including Gospel Gossip (Thu.), Mark Mallman (July 17), Kid Dakota (July 24) and Vampire Hands (Aug. 14).
Mill City: Free. How awesome is that?
MMAA: It's $7 ($5 for students), but hey, you're getting three hours of music.
Mill City: Full bar with a good selection of bottled beers and mixed drinks. Appetizers by D'Amico. Yummy, if you can swallow a $5 spring roll.
MMAA: Full bar manned by the folks at St. Paul brewpub Great Waters Brewing Co. Sandwiches, chips and homemade salsa.
Mill City: Everybody and their mother. While each band will attract its usual fan base, the busy riverfront setting brings in all ages, including families and young people on dates. The crowds have grown each year, too, with about 800 people moving in and out during the evening.
MMAA: The crowd varies depending on the band. But it also runs the gamut, from young indie-rock hipsters to old folks who are fans of the museum. The numbers are smaller than Mill City -- around 200 a show -- but the intimate setting gives it a 7th Street Entry vibe.
Mill City: If it rains, the show moves in to the museum's old railroad corridor, which has also been preserved.
MMAA: The bands move inside to the Government Center's cafeteria. Let's just hope it doesn't rain.