The Spectator

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Music

David Taintor and Thom Fountain

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Wisconsin

Here’s the difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota when it comes to music: Minnesota is Minneapolis and St. Paul. Wisconsin is Milwaukee, Madison, Door County, Wausau, and Eau Claire. This is a state debate, so I think it’s important to think of the whole state.

Most people nowadays, when thinking of Wisconsin music, gravitate to Bon Iver and all that comes with it (Volcano Choir, GAYNGS), but when you dig deeper you’ll find Wisconsin is a lot more than a folkster with an acoustic guitar.

Take a trip down to Milwaukee and everywhere you go you’ll see basement venues flourishing with punk and hardcore bands. Madison is home to Science of Sound Records, which maintains a varied lineup ranging from punk to chamber pop. Up in Door County and the Fox River Valley you’ll find both a well-established folk scene and plenty of younger folk rock groups.

And then right here in Eau Claire, a city of just over 60,000, we have a plethora of bands and natives getting national attention, from Megafaun and Bon Iver to Peter Wolf Crier and The Daredevil Christopher Wright, not to mention Vacation Dad and Laarks. Eau Claire Memorial High School has received national accolades for their jazz program, and UW-Eau Claire receives international attention for its music school.

That’s just what’s happening now.

Nostalgic? Les Paul, a pioneer in rock ‘n’ roll, was born and raised in Waukesha. Lake Geneva was the “Paradise City” Guns ‘N Roses loved so much. The Violent Femmes call Milwaukee home, and Garbage started their national run in Madison.

If that’s still not enough, we’re responsible for Cheap Trick.

Minnesota, you might as well “Surrender.” -TF

Minnesota

The Twin Cities are dotted with musical venues that are almost as famous as the artists who play there. First Avenue opened in 1970 and is still regarded as a local beacon for aspiring artists. A main-stage billing there is a clear signal that a band has “made it” among a throng of hopeful musicians.

One can hardly mention the Twin Cities’ music landscape without mentioning its hip-hop talent. The word Rhymesayers – the Twin Cities-based hip-hop record label – is almost synonymous with Twin Cities music. Atmosphere, local MC Sean Daley’s moniker, is one of the only artists in the Cities I can remember selling out First Avenue seven days straight.

The ubiquity of music venues bolsters the diverse and burgeoning music scene. Uptown from First Avenue rests the Triple Rock, a small but exclusive rock club that has fostered the careers of artists like Motion City Soundtrack among other poppier Minneapolis-based rockers.

While Eau Claire is certainly making a name for itself among a national independent music scene, the Twin Cities simply house more artists. To name a few heavyweights, both new and old: Husker Du, Halloween Alaska, The Replacements, Prince, Bob Dylan, Doomtree, Brother Ali, Johnny Lang, Soul Asylum. This abridged list could stretch many more columns. Wisconsin simply can’t contend with the Twin Cities’ population, talent and venues that continue to produce and cultivate diverse talent. -DT

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Wisconsin vs. Minnesota: Music