Dear Local Current: I’m looking for venues or events that one can bring a teenager (13-16 years) to… We’d prefer to avoid the type of large teen-related events that occasionally occur at Target Center or wherever. We’re looking for more of a club experience. Any advice or information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
A few days ago, I received this note from a reader, and it got me thinking about how many all-ages venues actually exist in the Twin Cities right now. Toward the end of the ‘90s and early ‘00s it seemed like the all-ages scene was booming; between the Foxfire, underground venue the Church, and Eclipse Records, there were all kinds of opportunities for the under-18 crowd to gather and hear live music in a cool setting. But what about now?
I’ll admit, I haven’t been as invested in scouting out new AA venues since clearing that 21+ threshold myself, but I am aware of several spots that are still catering either entirely or mostly to an all-ages crowd. Here’s a list of the venues that have stood out to me as making exceptional efforts to throw teen and family-friendly shows; please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.
1. The Cedar Cultural Center
Recently named the Best World Music venue by About.com, the Cedar is also notable to Twin Cities showgoers for another reason: Each and every gig they host is open to all ages. Because the West Bank venue is nonprofit, they don’t necessarily need to rely on liquor sales to stay afloat, and in turn it’s given the space a very community-oriented, all-inclusive vibe.
Notable gigs coming up: Harry and the Potters with Koo Koo Kangaroo this Saturday afternoon; Kimya Dawson on April 18; A. Wolf & Her Claws’ CD-release show on April 21; and Haley Bonar with Peter Wolf Crier on April 27. Full event calendar here.
2. The Garage
Another nonprofit space, this city-owned Burnsville teen center has evolved into an all ages Shangri-La with a nightclub vibe. It’s the birthplace of popular Twin Cities bands like Quietdrive, Dropping Daylight, and Screaming Mechanical Brain, which speaks to the booking staff’s savvy for recruiting young talent. The Garage throws concerts nearly every Friday and Saturday night, including a battle of the bands on April 20 and a dubstep night on April 21. A full schedule for the month has just been posted to Facebook.
3. Acadia Cafe
This coffee house, eatery, and bar was previously on the corner of Nicollet and Franklin in Minneapolis, and now sits on the corner of Cedar and Riverside in the bustling West Bank neighborhood. Many of the shows are free in addition to being open to all ages, making it an ideal spot to drop in for a caffeinated beverage and some live tunes. The Diverse Emerging Music Organization (DEMO) hosts many of their showcases here, and the bookers take chances on newer acts who get to test their chops in an informal setting. Check out the full calendar here.
4. The Beat Coffeehouse
The Beat sits between 27th and 28th St. on Hennepin in Uptown Minneapolis, and has a separate room that can be sectioned off just for live shows. The venue first appeared on my radar when the Mad Ripple Hootenanny took up a residency there, and similar singer-songwriter nights still exist to this day. See a songwriter showcase there on Friday night, April 6, or up-and-coming artist Dan Mariska on Saturday, April 7. Full calendar here.
5. The Depot Coffee House
Located in Hopkins, the Depot hosts all-ages open mic nights every Tuesday and live music every Friday night. The School of Rock has a gig coming up on Friday, April 20 at the club, followed by a band charmingly called the Hamburglar and Bazooka Joe. See the full schedule here.
6. Ginkgo Coffeehouse
This St. Paul shop sits just south of the Hamline University campus and brings in high-quality touring folk and roots acts in addition to a slew of local singer-songwriters. Upcoming gigs include a House of Mercy showcase on Friday, April 13, and husband-and-wife folk duo Curtis and Loretta on April 27. Calendar here.
Honorable mentions: The Triple Rock Social Club occasionally hosts all-ages shows, as do First Avenue and Station 4. Other smaller coffee shops around town are reliable sources for all-ages live music as well, such as Corner Coffee in the Warehouse District and the Coffee Grounds in St. Paul.