It’s been a spell since we’ve rounded up some of the Twin Cities’ best all-ages venues, and with last weekend’s “Back to School” edition of the Local Show still fresh in our minds it seems like a good time to revisit the topic and a few more venues to the list. What young music lover doesn’t want to start the school year with a few concerts on the calendar?
The following venues cater either exclusively to the all-ages crowd or only infrequently host shows with age restrictions. As always, please feel free to leave your own suggestions and favorite spots in the comments.
1. The Garage
Don’t let the fact that this is a city-owned teen center fool you — the staff of the Garage in Burnsville have worked hard to maintain a hip aesthetic that’s more nightclub than after-school rec center. The venue typically hosts shows on Friday and Saturday nights, including a gig with American Idol contestant and Twin Cities native Reed Grimm coming up on Saturday, September 15. Their full calendar is on Facebook.
2. Cedar Cultural Center
The Cedar is always a no-brainer when it comes to making recommendations for younger audiences, since every single show is presented free of age restrictions. Given the wide variety of national and international talent that the Cedar draws to its West Bank Minneapolis space, that’s a very good thing.
3. Black Dog Cafe
Like the Cedar, this Lowertown St. Paul cafe is always all-ages and opens its doors to a wide range of musical acts; in the community, the space serves as a hub for the Twin Cities’ free jazz and improvisatonal scene.
4. The Depot Coffee House
This Hopkins hangout is a great testing ground for new, young bands — notably, it’s the spot where burgeoning chamber pop artist John Mark Nelson played his first gig. All shows are all-ages; see the full calendar here.
5. Your Local Record Store
Bummed that your favorite artist is playing a 21+ show when they swing through town? Then keep an eye on the websites of your favorite record stores, who will often try to snag in-store performances while touring artists are in town. All three locations of the Electric Fetus (Minneapolis, St. Cloud, and Duluth) have been known to book in-stores, in addition to Twin Cities shops like Treehouse Records.
6. The Beat Coffeehouse
As with the Depot in Hopkins, this Uptown Minneapolis spot not only welcomes young music lovers into its space but is known for booking youngsters on its stage. The calendar is looking sparse at the moment (as with many all-ages venues whose patrons are just returning to school), but shows will be updated here.
7. State, Orpheum, and Pantages Theaters
Though the tickets are much pricier than others on this list, the Hennepin Theater Trust’s collection of venues tend to book a strong lineup of touring acts, and almost all of their shows are open to all ages. Recommended shows coming up: Metric (September 11 at the State), Silversun Pickups (September 20 at the State), Ben Folds Five (September 29 at the Orpheum).
8. Myth Nightclub
One of the Twin Cities’ largest clubs, this Maplewood spot frequently sets the age restriction low or makes its shows all ages — including their Stone Temple Pilots gig coming up this Friday.
9. Blue Nile
Most gigs at the Blue Nile are 18+, offering a good option for recent high school grads who aren’t quite old enough to get into the bars. The South Minneapolis restaurant is home to Desdamona’s long-running open mic night, “The Poet’s Groove,” which takes place every Tuesday. Full schedule here.
10. The Whole Music Club
Situated in the heart of the East Bank campus of the University of Minnesota, this basement club offers a selection of all ages and 18+ shows, making it a great spot for college students to get up close and personal with big-name acts. An added bonus? Many shows are either free or under $5.