When Jellybean Johnson is hosting a party, the ratio of people wearing top hats and fedoras shoots through the roof. Music fans dressed to the nines turned out in droves on a frigid Sunday night to dance at the Minnesota Music Cafe, where the legendary drummer of the Time had curated a lineup of acts established and new to kick-off Super Bowl week in the Twin Cities.
Jellybean is a regular at the MMC — he performs there most Tuesday nights with Jaybee and the Routine — and his party had the familial vibe of a class reunion or neighborhood block party, with owner Karen Palm and dozens of others donning their own top hats in tribute. In addition to booking his bandmate from Morris Day and the Time, Tori Ruffin, and his group Freak Juice, Johnson filled out the lineup with mini sets by up-and-comers like rappers Baby Shel and Cloud, and the blues-rock group Corey Medina and Brothers.
One of the standout acts of the night was Tracey Blake, who thanked Jellybean for mentoring him and providing the most direct connection to the Minneapolis Sound of the 1980s and today. The title track of Blake’s new record, Get Up, succeeded in getting the audience out on the dance floor, and he kept them there as he shouted out the legends that came before him in music history and solidified his place as a next-generation star to watch.
The night ended with Johnson joining Freak Juice on stage to the giddy cheers of the crowd, and the band closed out the night with a blistering take on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” that had everyone smiling ear to ear.
Jellybean Johnson will appear on Nicollet Mall tonight with Morris Day and the Time, who are performing at Super Bowl Live’s “Salute to Prince” with Sheila E. and the Revolution.