As mundane as it can feel to talk about, it’s impossible to separate the culture of the Twin Cities from their frigid winters. Even the toughest born-and-bred Minnesotans can find themselves down in the dumps during cold months. With subzero wind chills and mountains of graying snow, calendars across the cities become dotted with residencies: local artists playing weekly shows with a rotating cast of guests.
Residencies might have sprung out of necessity, a way to fill calendars and keep venues busy during the time when few dare to navigate tour vans across the slick roads of the Upper Midwest, but they’ve evolved into a cornerstone in the way the local music scene functions. One of the residencies happening this winter features local trio Gully Boys at the 7th St Entry, every Sunday in December. Across the five shows, Gully Boys are playing alongside an array of other artists ranging from DIY staples like Heart to Gold to dream-pop duo tiny deaths.
This December is far from Gully Boys’ first brush with residencies. Aside from playing on lineups curated by artists like Andrew Broeder and Beasthead, the band booked their own residency at Mortimer’s in early 2018. “It kinda put us on the Minneapolis map,” Gully Boys guitar player Kathy Callahan said of the experience.
“We built so many connections with other bands and with the venue through playing those shows,” drummer Nadirah McGill added. In the nearly two years since the band’s first residency, the band won the City Pages Picked to Click poll, played a headlining tour, took the stage for First Avenue’s Best New Bands, and released their first LP. With all this momentum, this year’s residency was a different experience for the trio.
“We took a second to be like, ‘Here are some people in Minneapolis who really inspire us and we really enjoy playing with and also put on a great show,’” McGill said about the booking process. Each night in the residency spotlights a different niche in the Twin Cities music community and, as a result, a different audience.
“Our first night was very DIY, we wanted that to be at the beginning because without that community we wouldn’t be anywhere,” McGill said.
“The crowd was really young and a lot of fun that first night. It was like a house show,” Callahan added.
This week’s show featured performances by Purple Orange Beach (a P.O.S hardware set) and Marijuana Deathsquads in addition to the resident themselves, Gully Boys. Before the show McGill said, “Deathsquads is who I was personally most excited for.” This show wasn’t the first time the Gully Boys drummer had the chance to collaborate with the group: McGill drummed with Deathsquads at last year’s Broder and People residency at the Turf Club.
Marijuana Deathsquads, who burst onto the scene themselves with a 2010 residency at Nick & Eddie, exemplified what makes Twin Cities residencies so special. There were three drum kits crowded onto the stage, so close it looked like their cymbals might touch. In the center of the floor, where a moshing crowd assembled for other nights of the residency, stood folding tables covered in pedals, mixers, microphones, and hardware.
As the frenetic energy of drums and distorted vocals filled the room, a couple people filtered in, all greeting the scene with the same look of bewildered amazement. People stood on their tip-toes on the edges of the room, peering into the center, trying to decipher how the collage of sounds was being assembled. Throughout the set, McGill sat at the drums in the center of the stage, looking like a lifetime member of the band. Between songs, the drummers exchanged warm smiles.
Gully Boys took the stage with the natural charisma and confidence of expert performers. Before the show, bassist Natalie Klemond explained that while the first show of the series was met with jitters, “Getting on stage every week in the same venue makes you feel so much more comfortable in that space.” Their crisp vocal harmonies and shredding guitar riffs filled the room, captivating the crowd.
The group played a handful of songs off their upcoming EP Phony alongside some all-but-retired older tracks. “Since we’ve played so many shows in such a short period, we’ve brought a lot of songs out from deep in the archives, stuff we hadn’t played in years,” McGill explained.
“We had to relearn our own music. It was like, ‘Wait, what chords are those?’” Callahan quipped.
“Three years ago we didn’t even know how to play our instruments,” said McGill, “so to be here at First Ave playing our own residency is unbelievable.”
It’s not that the Twin Cities invented the residency; even suggesting as much would send a shiver down Celine Dion’s spine after her over 1,000 performances in Vegas. However, there is something unique about the way that this community collaborates and connects in the winter.
Just down the block from the Entry that night, a massive rotating display for Target Center shows happening nearly a year from now illuminated the street. Shows of this scale, of course, have their own merit, but the looming LED display made the intimate and communal evening in the entry feel all the more valuable.
Here are some upcoming and in-progress Twin Cities winter residencies to keep your ears out for.
Gully Boys: Sundays in December @ 7th St Entry
All Tomorrow’s Petty: Thursdays in December @ Turf Club
Charlie Parr: Sundays in January @ Turf Club
Radio K Gigawatt Residency: Sundays in January @ 7th St Entry
The Cactus Blossoms: Mondays in January @ Turf Club
Humdinger! A Humbird Residency: Tuesdays in January @ Icehouse
Erik Koskinen: Mondays in February @ Turf Club