Local Current Blog

From the North Country to L.A. County: Bonding with Minnesotans at a Jeremy Messersmith show in California

Jeremy Messersmith performs in the Current's studios. Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR.

L.A. is so different from Minnesota that it’s easy to get homesick. Sure, you’ve got beaches, 360 sunny days a year, and food from every corner of the world. But try finding a bar that shows Twins games, water as clean as any of Minnesota’s more-than-ten-thousand lakes, or a decent Jucy Lucy. Sometimes all it takes is a Prince song on the radio or a hipster that reminds you of Paul Bunyan to send you into a frenzy of MNostalgia.

I moved to Minnesota after college and spent most of my twenties there, interning at the Current and later working on other Minnesota Public Radio programs. I still have family in Minnesota and always considered it my home; but after several years of brutal seasonal affective disorder, a change in latitude sounded good. Three years ago I was offered a job reporting for KPCC in Los Angeles—a public radio station operated, like the Current, by America Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio—and I took it.

L.A.’s been great. Yeah, the traffic bites and I’ve lived through more large fires and scary quakes than I would have liked—but any given day in this city there are a dozen amazing things happening, especially in the music scene.

Bands I loved as a young punk, like X and Youth Brigade, play shows here. I’ve discovered new acts like Moses Sumney and Las Cafeteras. I even caught a Prince show, something I was never able to do for a reasonable price in Minnesota.

As rad as this city is, though, there’s something lacking for me. L.A. can be big and overwhelming. With four million people in the area, it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd. I miss intimate shows at clubs like the Triple Rock or the 7th Street Entry. I miss how the whole town rallies around up-and-coming performers. I miss the camaraderie of the Minnesota music scene.

So when I heard Jeremy Messersmith was coming to town earlier this spring, I knew I had to go.

Two other Minnesota expats and I snapped up tickets, but I didn’t know what to expect at the show itself. Sure, in Minneapolis Jeremy Messersmith can sell out First Avenue. In L.A., most of my friends give blank stares when I mention his name. Would anyone besides us come out for the show?

The club was surprisingly full for a Thursday: a good sign. Waiting for the music to start, I struck up a conversation with some women at the bar.

“What brought you out tonight?” I asked.

“We love Jeremy,” one of them gushed.

“Yeah,” the other chimed in. “Back home he’s a legend. I saw him just a couple months ago and it was amazing!”

It turned out they were both University of Minnesota students in California for spring break. As we talked, another group of people overheard us.

“You’re from Minnesota too? So are we!”

In about five minutes we’d amassed a small crowd of current or former Minnesotans. We heard stories about the horrible winter, caught up on news of the Vikings stadium, and reminisced about our favorite Uptown dive bars.

I’d found my people! Jeremy’s show was like a beacon to all us displaced Midwesterners. I scanned the crowd, wondering if there were any pure west-coasters there at all.

The show was great. Minnesota’s bashful balladeer was in fine form and his band made good use of the small stage. The crowd hung on every note. I thought to myself, if there are any Messersmith newbies here, surely they’re superfans now.

After the set my new Minnesota friends asked to take a group picture. We crammed in while someone from another state worked the camera. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get a copy of the photo myself.) It was weird to be suddenly posing with a crew of complete strangers, but not bad weird. After all, we kind of shared a bond.

“If only this place sold Grain Belt,” someone joked. “It’d be like we were home!”

Exactly, I thought.

Related: Jeremy Messersmith is playing at Rock the Garden on June 21.