After a stellar, jaw-dropping lineup in 2019 with the likes of Jason Mraz, Grammy Award-winning Kacey Musgraves, the Jawhawks, and Yam Haus gracing Basilica Block Party’s three stages, Minnesotans have been impatiently waiting to see what the 26th annual festival has in store. The answer? A strong, rising-star lineup that celebrates many genres, from indie pop and Americana favorites to experimental rock and genre-less acts—although with fewer radio darlings than in years prior.
Below is a summary of who you should get to know from the local music scene, plus song and album recommendations to get you in the spirit. Ticket pre-sale begins Friday, Feb. 7, at 10 a.m.
Bora York is a Minneapolis-based husband-and-wife duo made up of Chris and Rebekah Bartels. Their debut album, 2013’s Dreaming Free, was Chris’s music school senior project. Originally, it was meant to be folk, but after experimenting with synths and ambient textures, the album took a decided turn towards snyth pop. Their third album, 2019’s Emotion Vertigo, is the result of what Bora York refers to as a “slow and steady process.” After many demos (nearly 70, in fact) and a few years spent juggling parenthood and musical pursuits, Emotion Vertigo was recorded in their Minneapolis home studio and released last November. Listen to “Silence” and “Colorado” for a sampling of the album’s dream-pop, experimental sound.
The members of St. Paul-based Hippo Campus are undoubtably the indie rock darlings of Minnesota. They have performed at festivals like Basilica Block Party, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Summerfest, and they were named one of NPR Music’s favorite new artists of 2017. Made up of Jake Luppen (lead vocals/guitar), Nathan Stocker (lead guitar/vocals), Zach Sutton (bass/keyboard), Whistler Isaiah Allen (drums/vocals), and DeCarlo Jackson (trumpet), Hippo Campus has released multiple EPs and albums, most recently Bambi in 2018 and Demos I and Demos II in 2019. This is the first year Hippo Campus will be performing at Basilica Block Party as a headliner.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo
A comedic dance-pop duo with origins in Minneapolis, Koo Koo Kanga Roo consists of vocalists Bryan Atchison and Neil Olstand. Their sound has been described as a “Beastie Boys meets Sesame Street mix,” and they’re known for putting on fun, energetic, all-ages shows with lots of catchy beats, audience participation, dance moves, and songs with less-than-usual subject matter, including (but not limited to) dinosaurs, letters of the alphabet, ninjas, cake, and sandwiches. It sounds strange, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Chances are you’ve heard their most popular song, “Get Yo Body Movin,” before.
Mae Simpson Music
Mae Simpson will win you over with her big voice and stellar stage presence alone. Music critic Richard Dollarhide, of website Music in Minnesota, said, “Mae’s powerful voice has remnants of Janis Joplin and Ella Fitzgerald, tied together with a rasp of Joan Jett.” When she takes the stage with her talented six-piece band, listeners can expect hints of soul, blues, country, jazz, and rock. Head to Spotify to listen to “Words” (or check out the live version here at Aster Café) and “Don’t,” off her 2018 EP Feel It Comin’.
Matt Allen, a.k.a. Nur-D, is a relatively new Twin Cities rapper, but he started making waves right away, earning a slot at the 2018 Soundset Music Festival and five wins at the Go Radio-hosted Shut Up and Rap competition. He wasn’t always a hip-hop artist, starting out as a keyboardist in a rock band. To make the genre switch, Nur-D debuted his new, funky, honest sound at a 2018 album release party, for Songs About Stuff, at 7th Street Entry, playing songs like “Black Wizard Wave” (he was invited to perform it live for the Current, too), “20 Cha,” and “Tyler Breeze.” In 2019, Nur-D released single “Strange Love” with Minneapolis rising star Lady Lark, which is equal parts jazzy and catchy. You can catch him this month at Amsterdam Bar & Grill for the annual Hip Hop for Autism event on Feb. 16.
The Stress of Her Regard
The Stress of Her Regard is made up of Ciaran Daly (vocals and guitar), Criostoir Daly (bass), and Eric Wilson (drums and vocals)—formerly members of indie-rock band Idle Hands. The Minneapolis-based rock band is known for high-energy live shows and has performed at 7th Street Entry and Turf Club. For an example of the band’s style, check out Sport Marriage, the band’s debut EP, and stay tuned for their self-titled debut full-length album, which is set for an early-2020 release.
Members of the local music collective Kriyative Emblems of a Blue Soul Renaissance—otherwise referred to as Kremblems—came together to form 26 Bats!, a band with no intention of dealing with the boundaries of genre. Led by vocalist and keyboardist Bailey Cogan, 26 Bats! counts hip-hop, jazz, soul, and alternative rock as influences, though the musicians are trained in jazz and blues. Their latest album, Onyx, came out in December 2018. Listen to “Do What You Do,” recorded live in the Current’s studio, for an idea of what’s in store for a live performance.