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Minnesota’s top outdoor concerts this summer, and where to find them

Outdoor concerts are in abundance around Minnesota this summer. You just have to know where to find them.

Even with the demise of some high-profile festivals and a long wait for two new Twin Cities amphitheaters, there’s a glut of rock, pop, country and hip-hop shows to see under the stars this year around the state. And most of them don’t cost $340 plus fees (the cost of a “platinum” seat to the Foo Fighters’ nearly sold-out Target Field show with the Pretenders).

Old summer concert haunts such as St. Paul’s Harriet Island, western Wisconsin’s Somerset Amphitheater and Minneapolis’ Boom Island will be rocking again. Year-round music havens like the Hook & Ladder, Crooners and Palmer’s are taking it outside again. Minneapolis’ Surly and Utepils breweries have more music on tap. And excellent free concert series are being held in city parks from St. Paul to Edina to Rochester.

There are newer places and events fans may not know about, though.

St. Louis Park is newly testing concerts at a venue dubbed the ROC, for instance. And the big to-do on Harriet Island this year is an ambitious new music fest dubbed the Minnesota Yacht Club — which, we assure you, has nothing to do with yacht rock.

“This will be the kind of major rock festival the Twin Cities deserves‚” heralded Yacht Club promoter Tim Sweetwood, whose company, C3 Presents, also produces the Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza fests. Here, they’re bringing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morissette, Black Crowes and a couple dozen more.

Minnesota’s most happening new outdoor venue is the Ledge Amphitheater near St. Cloud. Housed in a former rock quarry an hour northwest of Minneapolis — not exactly prime selling points for concerts — it clearly has caught on in its third full-scale summer.

The Ledge jumped from hosting 12 shows last year to 18 this year, including the Stray Cats, Crowded House, Buddy Guy and both a Dwight Yoakam/Mavericks double-bill and Jewel/Melissa Etheridge.

“Word-of-mouth has been great, including among the bands and their agents who want to play here,” bragged Chris Fritz, concert promoter at the Ledge.

Veteran promotions company Sue McLean & Associates (SMA) — which used to produce the sorely missed Music in the Zoo series in Apple Valley — is as spread out as Minnesota’s outdoor concert season on the whole, producing shows everywhere from this new ROC space to Utepils Brewing to some cool genre-mixing shows at Plymouth’s Hilde Performance Center.

“Our intention was to simply book a bill of some of SMA’s favorite performers, genre aside, and hoping folks would get on board with the various musicalities, à la Rock the Garden lineups of years past,” said SMA talent buyer Shayna Melgaard.

Things are mixed up all over, in a good way. Here’s a breakdown of where you can see the best outdoor concerts this year.

Sports parks

Target Field, Mpls.

Top show: Foo Fighters, Pretenders and L7, July 28 (ticketmaster.com). We missed hearing Dave Grohl’s band echo through U.S. Bank Stadium in 2022 when drummer Taylor Hawkins died, so this is an excellent consolation site to catch them with new guy Josh Freese.

Also: Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins & Rancid, Aug. 17; Def Leppard, Journey & Steve Miller Band, Aug. 19.

Allianz Field, St. Paul

Breakaway, June 28-29 (universe.com). This touring electronic dance music festival with Illenium and Kaskade would be a great fit as the inaugural concert inside Minnesota United soccer stadium. Except it’s happening outside in the utterly unappealing parking lot.

In-town festivals

Twin Cities Jazz Festival, June 20-22, St. Paul’s Mears Park (twincitiesjazzfestival.com). The best free fest in downtown St. Paul features Kandace Springs, Joe Lovano, Karrin Allyson, Stefon Harris and a slew of area music makers.

Minnesota Yacht Club, July 19-20, Harriet Island, St. Paul (minnesotayachtclubfestival.com). The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morissette, Black Crowes, Gwen Stefani, the Offspring and a few bands from this century will play the inaugural nautical-themed rock fest from Lollapalooza’s team.

Basilica Block Party, Aug. 2-3, Boom Island, Mpls. (basilicablockparty.org). After a two-year hiatus, the fundraiser for the Basilica of St. Mary moves to a new site with past-heyday bands such as the Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows.

Brewery bashes

Surly Field, Mpls.

Pixies, Modest Mouse and Cat Power, June 20 (axs.com). A triple treat of indie-rock favorites from different eras, with the Pixies featuring three original players and brand-new bassist Emma Richardson, and Modest Mouse reuniting with its 2004 lineup.

Also: Black Pumas, June 21; Nickel Creek and Andrew Bird, July 13; more.

Utepils, Mpls.

The Jayhawks, June 6 (etix.com). The “Waiting for the Sun”-singing crew found another good place in the sun for a hometown summer gig, this one outside the brewery beside Bassett Creek.

Also: Grace Potter, July 12.

Metro area amphitheaters

Mystic Lake Amphitheater, Prior Lake

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, June 7 (mysticlake.com/shows-and-events). The Grammy-grabbing duo of rock god and bluegrass queen harmonize in mystical ways.

Also: Lady A, June 13; New Kids on the Block, June 23; more.

Hilde Performance Center, Plymouth

Lucinda Williams and Dessa, June 8 (suemclean.com/hilde). Both acclaimed memoirists, the Americana queen and Minneapolis’ revered hip-hop royalty bring their literate music.

Also: Michael Franti & Stephen Marley, June 7; Dawes with Ber, July 26.

Free city parks series

Lowertown Sounds, St. Paul’s Mears Park

Top show: The New Standards & Laamar, June 20 (lowertownsounds.com). The neo-jazz songbook reinventionist trio with Suburbs and Semisonic members pairs up with a rising Americana songwriter.

Also: Molly Maher & Erik Koskinen, June 13; Mary Bue, July 11; Flamin’ Oh’s, Aug. 15; more every Thursday night, June 6-Aug. 29.

Riverside Series, Rochester’s Mayo Park

Max Weinberg Jukebox, Aug. 11 (rochestermn.gov). The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame drummer of Springsteen’s E Street Band lets the audience pick the set list in his new act.

Also: Everclear, July 14; Vanessa Carlton, July 28; more.

Music on the Plaza, Edina’s 50th & France

Sarah Morris, June 7 (50thandfrance.com). The tender and sometimes tough Americana folkie kicks off this Friday night showcase of Twin Cities songwriters.

Also: Chris Koza, June 14; Annie Mack, July 26; Meghan Kreidler, Aug. 30; more.

Rhythm on the Rails, downtown Shakopee

Martin Zellar, June 19 (shakopee.org). The Gear Daddies frontman will tout his new solo album in the Wednesday night series otherwise laden with tribute bands.

Also: Fabulous Armadillos, July 31; more.

Worth the drive

Bluestem Amphitheater, Moorhead

Dwight Yoakam, the Mavericks, Aug. 11 (bluestemamphitheater.org). The maverick California country star and the Tex-Mex seasoned dance band are a doubleheader treat.

Also: Stray Cats, Aug 8; Lamb of God & Mastadon, Aug. 13; the Head & the Heart, Aug. 20; more.

The Ledge Amphitheater, Waite Park

Buddy Guy, June 7 (theledgeamp.com). One of the last old bluesmen brings his envied guitar skills and entertaining showmanship.

Also: Thirty Seconds to Mars, July 21; Jewel & Melissa Etheridge, Aug. 1; Stray Cats, Aug. 9; Yoakam & the Mavericks, Aug. 10; Crowded House, Sept. 14; more.

Grand Casino Hinckley Amphitheater

Snoop Dogg, May 31 (grandcasinomn.com). Get some “Gin and Juice” from the smokin’ rapper and close personal friend of Martha Stewart.

Also: Miranda Lambert, July 5; Heart & Cheap Trick, Aug. 16; Ice Cube, Aug. 31; more.

Vetter Stone Amphitheater, Mankato

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, June 21 (vetterstoneamphitheater.com). It’s a farewell tour for the “Fishin’ in the Dark” vets.

Also: Little Feat, June 30; Clint Black, Sept. 6.

Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset, Wis.

Outlaw Music Festival, Sept 6 (livenation.com). At 91, legendary road warrior and country warbler Willie Nelson has a Hall of Fame lineup that includes Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp.

Also: Hootie & the Blowfish, Aug. 8; Luke Bryan, Sept. 5; more.

Treasure Island Casino Amphitheater, Red Wing

Creed, Aug. 17 (ticasino.com). Reuniting in 2023 after an 11-year hiatus, Scott Stapp and crew will revisit the summer of 1999 when their career was “Higher.”

Also: Music by the Mississippi, July 27; Brooks & Dunn, Aug. 10; Lynyrd Skynyrd & ZZ Top, Aug. 30.

Outside bars and clubs

Belvedere tent at Crooners, Fridley

Count Basie Orchestra, June 23 (croonersmn.com). Get into the swing under the tent, with vocalist Carmen Bradford and the big band that just won a Grammy for “Basie Swings the Blues.”

Also: Lamont Cranston, July 4; Sherwin Linton’s 85th birthday, July 28.

Under the Canopy at the Hook & Ladder, Mpls.

Lissie, July 11 & 12 (thehookmpls.com). The soulful Iowan rocker of “When I’m Alone” fame will be almost alone on Night 1 and with a full band on Night 2.

Also: Jeremy Messersmith, June 20; the Big Wu, June 22; Pride Party with All the Pretty Horses, June 27; more.

Palmer’s Bar Patio, Mpls.

Palmfest, June 26-28 (palmers-bar.com). Forty mostly punky bands play over three wild days behind the beloved dive bar, including the Black Widows, Scrunchies, Christy Costello and the Arrivals.

Also: Shock! Punk! And Metal! Fest with Impaler, June 15; UnderCurrentMPLS Fartaversary, July 12-13; more.

None of the above

The ROC, St. Louis Park

Los Lobos, June 24 (suemclean.com). Out on their 50th anniversary tour, Los Angeles’ MexiCali rock legends will help break in concerts at the Recreation Outdoor Center, 3700 Monterey Drive.

Also: Okee Dokee Brothers, July 14; Wood Brothers, July 15.

Farther festivals

Winstock, June 14-15 (winstockfestival.com). The 30th anniversary of the little country fest that could features Cole Swindell and Jason Aldean in Winsted, Minn.

Blue Ox Fest, June 27-29 (blueoxfestival.com). Band of Horses and Sierra Ferrell are among host Pert Near Sandstone’s guests at this rootsy bluegrass/alt-twang campout in Eau Claire, Wis.

We Fest, Aug. 1-3 (wefest.com). The granddaddy of Upper Midwest country-and-camping hoedowns stars Jelly Roll, Parker McCollum and Eric Church in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Grand Rapids Riverfest, Sept. 7 (grandrapidsriverfest.com). A trio of Texas’ coolest acts, Spoon, Shakey Graves and Sarah Jarosz, will head to this downtown party in northern Minnesota.

Correction:
Previous versions of this story misattributed the photographer of the Snoop Dogg photo.

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