Summer Guide 2019: Music & Festivals



Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish
Courtesy Interscope Records


Billie Eilish

The first artist born in the 21st century to top the Billboard 200 albums chart, Billie Eilish has turned camp horror into its own pop genre. Her excellent debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, abounds with musical scare tactics: electronic shrieks, breaking glass, bass so buzzy it sounds like your speaker’s blown. And that’s not to mention Eilish’s pained, whispered voice, the spookiest sound of all. (In the video for “You Should See Me in a Crown,” a tarantula crawls out of her mouth, while several more crawl around on her tiara.) What makes this music pop are the giant emotions she stuffs into her songs, the fears and yearnings and delights her goth humor mocks and amplifies. She’s also become a favorite of ASMR fans thanks to her hushed, intimate yet also creepy vibe, an effect that could sound fascinating in a big venue. With Denzel Curry. 7:30 p.m. $270 and up. 500 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; 612-315-3965. June 8 —Lucas Fagen

Ariana Grande
Xcel Energy Center

Ariana Grande’s fourth album, Sweetener, had a summery lightness about it: Pharrell’s sunny, electrobouncy production glides beautifully, as Grande swoons her way through a set of happy new-relationship songs that capture first love’s glow. Six months later, she released the tighter, moodier thank u, next, on which she ditches both the guy and the previous album’s sound, instead singing about independence and the joys of being alone over sharp, grimy trap beats. She’s currently touring behind both albums, which when considered together explain the Ariana Grande Philosophy of Dating: Relationships should be explicitly temporary, packed with delirious highs and lows, and teach you a lesson about yourself when it’s all over. In February, “7 Rings,” “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” and “Thank U, Next” were the top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first artist to achieve such a hat trick since the Beatles. But she’s also Instagram’s Most Followed Woman—a title none of the Beatles could ever lay claim to. 8 p.m. $140 and up. 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-265-4800. July 8 —Lucas Fagen

Xcel Energy Center

Since his debut, American Teen, Khalid has quietly, unassumingly, persistently infiltrated the world of pop. By collaborating with a wide range of artists on hit after crossmarketed hit, the R&B singer made his warm, shaky, slightly slurred baritone an instantly recognizable radio ingredient across genres: musical associates include Logic on the anti-suicide anthem “1-800-273-8255,” Normani on the longing, hesitant duet “Love Lies,” and Shawn Mendes on “Youth,” which they performed at the Billboard Music Awards with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School choir to protest gun violence. After the release of his second album, the restrained, radiant Free Spirit, he became Spotify’s biggest global artist, with over 50 million monthly listeners. A shy, dreamy singer, Khalid’s sad songs are anxious yet resilient, and his love songs blush deeply. With Clairo. 7:30 p.m. $46.95 and up. 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-265-4800. July 23 —Lucas Fagen

Cardi B
Target Center

Is there a current pop genre Cardi B can’t play? Since her breakthrough, “Bodak Yellow,” the Bronx rap queen’s every hit has mastered a new style: the skittering trap banger (“Bartier Cardi”), the pouty R&B ballad (“Be Careful”), the salsa-boogaloo dance monster (“I Like It”), the buzzy ringtone jam (“Ring”), the squeaky club siren (“Taki Taki”), the comic funk piano (“Money”), and the corny retro-soul sex innuendo (“Please Me”). Some of these gems are from her fierce debut, Invasion of Privacy, while others are standalone singles, but they all show off her versatility, enthusiasm, and good humor. Having won a Grammy, seven Billboard Awards, and nine BET Hip-Hop Awards, being due to act in several movies and shows out later this year (including the just-trademarked Bocktails With Cardi B), she’s well on her way to becoming a ubiquitous cultural presence. To quote Cardi herself, “My little 15 minutes lasted long as hell!” With Kevin Gates and Saweetie. 7 p.m. $49.50-$125. 600 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-673-0900. July 27 —Lucas Fagen

Flying Lotus in 3D
First Avenue

On record, Steven Ellison crafts sweeping funk-fusion soundscapes: fidgety, solemnly goofy exercises in cosmic jazz beatplay. Live, the experimental electronic producer is louder, harsher, glitchier, and more immersive, famous for bright and engaging light shows during concerts so you don’t have to stare at him pushing buttons on his computer all night. He’s collaborated with the visual technology company 3D Live to create virtual holograms around him on stage and will supply concertgoers with 3D glasses. Flamagra, released at the end of May, is his first album since his most acclaimed work came out five years ago, the sly, mournful electronic requiem You’re Dead! The new one’s a rambling, wacky excursion into psychedelia, featuring a spoken-word piece by David Lynch (“Fire Is Coming”) and an even-scarier experimental funk ballad with Anderson .Paak (“More”). 7:30 p.m. $30. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-338-8388. August 30 —Lucas Fagen



Northern Spark 2019
Various locations

With festival founder Steve Dietz resigning from his role as the lead force behind Northern Spark, this year’s event could be seen as the end of an era. Dietz envisioned Northern Spark as an inspiring demonstration of how art can transform public spaces, utilizing multimedia installations, interactive workshops, and experimental performances to bring together communities. In the divisive atmosphere of our current era, such unifying propositions are more important than ever, as reflected in the 2019 theme, “We Are Here: Resilience, Renewal, and Regeneration.” This subject will be reinforced by works to be found amid the festival grounds: the Commons and the American Indian Cultural Corridor in Minneapolis, and the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. Even as he steps away, Dietz should be pleased to know that his progressive night vision will continue to evolve through a welcome range of creativity. Find locations and more info at 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Free. June 14-15 —Brad Richason

Stone Arch Bridge Festival
Stone Arch Bridge

Each Fathers’ Day weekend the Stone Arch Bridge hosts a huge three-day festival featuring a variety of fun. Things kick off on Friday at Father Hennepin Park with a concert in the evening. Then Saturday and Sunday are packed with food vendors, artist booths, and a car show highlighting a variety of sparkly rides. A beer tent will offer a sampling of local brews for those who are 21 and over, the ugly tie 5k may entice early risers, and a series of makers’ workshops provides opportunities to create essential-oil mixes, decorate coffee cups, and work with metal stamps. A vintage and vinyl market rounds out the event. For more info, visit 6 to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. 212 Second Ave. SE, Minneapolis. June 14-16 —Jessica Armbruster

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Various locations

“We rely on catching the attention of people in parks who maybe weren’t planning on coming to see a show,” says Joseph Papke, artistic director of Classical Actors Ensemble. “They see a crowd, they wander over, and end up spending the next hour with us.” That generally means choosing a comedy for the company’s annual foray into local parks, and this year it’s going to be The Merry Wives of Windsor. Falstaff’s failed wooing, says Papke, holds up as humor. “It’s 400 years later, and it’s still funny on the page.” The company is setting the courtship-centered romp in the mid-1960s. “Just before Summer of Love, so there’s a lot of fun color in that period, a lot of fun fashion,” says Papke. Falstaff as a swinger? “It makes me think of a Peter Lawford type.” Last year’s Romeo and Juliet set audience records for the company, proving the Bard is still a draw—especially if you can BYO picnic spread. Find times and locations at June 21-July 21 —Jay Gabler

Flow Northside Arts Crawl

Flow Northside Arts Crawl
courtesy of event organizers

Twin Cities Pride
Loring Park

Each year, Twin Cities Pride takes over Loring Park for a party offering a variety of fun. There will be live music and performances, family events and hands-on activities for little ones, organizations tabling their services and resources, a beer garden for friends looking to hang, and sporting events to watch and partake in. Sunday’s parade offers spectacle, as drag queens, politicians, bands, burlesque queens, and others lend a little color to downtown Minneapolis. This year’s route is moving due to construction on Hennepin, instead traveling Second Avenue South starting at Third Street and eventually turning on 12th Street. Festivities aren’t limited to the park, as many bars and clubs will host after parties, and official field trips include family-friendly picnics and outings to sporting events. For a full schedule of happenings, visit 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free. 1382 Willow St., Minneapolis. June 22-23 —Jessica Armbruster

Great River Shakespeare Festival
Winona State University

Every summer, the Great River Shakespeare Festival turns Winona’s bluff country into the setting for a selection of Shakespeare plays and contemporary selections curated around a common theme. This year’s topics, says artistic director Doug Scholz-Carlson, include forgiveness and reconciliation. The plays include Macbeth (“I guess our catchphrase is ‘bloody good fun’”), Cymbeline, a new adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, Nilaja Sun’s No Child…, and a highly unusual show by a playwright who for years wasn’t allowed to leave Iran because he refused to do his obligatory military service. Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit is performed each time by a single actor who’s never read the script; the performer opens a sealed envelope, and everyone in the theater keeps the play’s contents a secret. “We have themes that connect the shows together,” says Scholz-Carlson, “but we’re really talking about what it is to be a human being.” Find tickets and more details at $10-$49. 121 E. Third St., Winona; 507-474-7900. June 25-August 4 —Jay Gabler

Hyatt Regency Hotel

Now that the niche realms of science-fiction and fantasy have been embraced by mainstream audiences, fan conventions have followed suit, offering enthusiasts the chance to cosplay their favorite characters, seek out vintage collectibles, and gather autographs from celebrity guests. While these elements remain an integral part of CONvergence, the longstanding local convention has retained geek credibility by championing the more cerebral and eclectic aspects of their genres of choice. For example, the CONvergence guest roster is as likely to include groundbreaking scientists as it is Hugo Award-winning authors. Even so, CONvergence goers aren’t averse to cutting loose, as evidenced by the gaming rooms, movie screenings, costume contests, spoken word sessions, live music performances, and late-night raves. Throughout it all, CONvergence emphatically rejects any trace of toxic fandom, promoting an atmosphere of intergalactic inclusivity. Check for tickets and a complete schedule. $25-$85. 1300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. July 4-7 —Brad Richason

Minneapolis Aquatennial
Various locations

While some summer festivals have a strong theme or central event, the Minneapolis Aquatennial is more of a collection of fun things to do. That includes the Torchlight Parade through downtown, family fun in Loring Park, lawn games at the Government Center, yoga in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, wild stunts at the Twin Cities River Rats Ski Show, and fireworks at Target Field. Other major events are also under the Aquatennial umbrella, such as the Loring Park Art Festival, the Nicollet Farmers’ Market, and Carifest, which celebrates Caribbean arts, music, and food. For a complete schedule, check out July 24-27 —Jessica Armbruster

Tony Nelson

Tony Nelson

FLOW Northside Arts Crawl
North Minneapolis

Since 2006, FLOW arts crawl has been showcasing the artists, organizations, and businesses creating and thriving on the North Side. At this non-juried, self-guided tour you’ll find special gallery receptions, hands-on fun for kids, parking-lot parties, music, and more. Past years have featured community dinners, pop-up shops, mural painting open to all, and a beer garden. Find more info at 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free. West Broadway, from the Mississippi River to Penn Avenue, Minneapolis. July 27 —Jessica Armbruster

Greenway Glow
Midtown Greenway

Nighttime bike rides are summertime magic. The Greenway Glow, however, makes night riding even more special, as artists and performers light the path with a variety of luminescent art installations and performances. The self-guided rides are free, while VIP rides raise funds for the Greenway. Choose between a family-friendly ride or a more challenging sunset ride. VIP passes also score you two free beers, tacos, ice cream, and glow necklaces. Find registration details and more info at 6 p.m. to midnight. Free; $29-$49 VIP. 2834 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis. July 27 —Jessica Armbruster

Fringe Festival
Various locations

The Fringe’s umbrella is steadily expanding to cover programming throughout the year and related projects like the Family Fringe, a curated showcase that’s returning this year. The core Fringe experience is the same, though: an 11-day dive into a deep pool of hour-long shows randomly selected from a weird and wild array of submissions, including clowning, dance, pop-culture parodies, and avant-garde experiments. One thing that’s changing this year: The day-pass wristbands, a controversial innovation in recent years, are being dumped in favor of a return to a version of the former system in which audience members buy single tickets or multi-show passes, which are now also good for Family Fringe presentations. Independent producers are also being welcomed, encouraging Fringe-goers to venture beyond the two core venue hubs in northeast Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside. Grease up your bike chain and get ready to make some tough choices! Plan your Fringe by checking out the schedule at August 1-11 —Jay Gabler

Cat Video Festival
CHS Field

There’s no denying that dogs rule the warm season. They have dog parks, dog-friendly patios, and even the “dog days of summer.” But while every dog may have his day, cats own the night in St. Paul. Or, at least, one night. Now in its eighth year, the Cat Video Festival is a celebration of all things feline. Thousands of cat enthusiasts will pack CHS Field for an evening full of cat-themed games, cat-inspired artists, food (the human kind), beer, fireworks, and, of course, hilarious cat vids. Funny cats, scared cats, warrior cats, and everyone’s favorite, cats stuck in containers, will all be included in the reel shown on the outfield jumbotron. This year will be the festival’s first since the untimely passing of Grumpy Cat, but her spirit will live on through the meows of grown adults wearing cat ears and puff-paint T-shirts inside a minor-league baseball stadium. Find tickets at 6 to 10 p.m. $10; $75 VIP. 360 N. Broadway St., St. Paul. August 8 —Patrick Strait

The Clemency of Tito’s Tennis Club: A Picnic Operetta
Various locations

Mixed Precipitation returns to community gardens in the Twin Cities and beyond for its 11th Picnic Operetta. The series balances classical music with an appreciation for healthy, deliciously prepared, sustainable food, all without ever taking itself too seriously. This year, they are adapting Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito and setting it in the tennis world. There will be sex, scandal, revenge, and redemption as Mixed Precipitation mashes up Mozart’s music with new wave and synth-pop tunes by Devo, Berlin, Yaz, and Pat Benatar. The Clemency of Tito’s Tennis Clubwill bring Scotty Reynolds and Jacob Miller together to co-direct, along with Gary Ruschman as musical director. At the show, you can enjoy the outdoors and taste cleverly prepared snacks as you enjoy antics, opera, and a live orchestra. Make reservations by calling 1-800-838-3006, or visit for locations and info. $10-$20 suggested donation. August 11-September 29 —Sheila Regan

Minnesota State Fair
Minnesota State Fairgrounds

“Our fair was founded on agriculture,” says Minnesota State Fair spokesperson Danielle Dullinger. “While that’s always going to be the heart of our fair… obviously we’re not all farmers.” The fair’s mission today, continues Dullinger, is “telling people about the best of Minnesota.” While the Great Minnesota Get-Together continues to innovate, it’s that good old jump-in-the-wagon community spirit that’s kept it an unmissable attraction for millions of Minnesotans—and for people who arrive from across the country, fascinated by Instagram images of politically charged seed art and strange snacks stuck on sticks. New this year is a building in the North End (the neighborhood formerly known as Machinery Hill, for you long-timers), promising interactive “museum-quality exhibits” free with the price of admission. The exhibits will change every year, to keep you coming back… just in case the rotating malt flavors, fresh Minnesota brews, and multiple stages of live music weren’t already doing the trick for you. Daily gate hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Labor Day. $9-$14. 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul; 651-288-4400. August 22-September 2 —Jay Gabler

There she is: The Leinie Lodge Bandshell

There she is: The Leinie Lodge Bandshell
Minnesota State Fair


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