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Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

Est. 2014

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Castle concerts strike a chord with Rochester audience

Castle concerts strike a chord with Rochester audience

A collective of small businesses and arts promoters are banding together to raise the bar of Rochester’s burgeoning music scene.

Over the past year, this network of community partners — glued together by My Town My Music — has generated a series of packed shows at venues across the city, including two recently on the third floor of the Castle.

Now, heading into the weekend, they are preparing to welcome one of their biggest names yet: the acclaimed bluegrass band Pert Near Sandstone.

For Dustin Hart, one of the founders of My Town My Music, the recent success is part of a greater trend: artists and booking agents around the state (and beyond) are beginning to look at the Med City as a music destination.

“They often seemed hesitant to take a chance on Rochester, but more recently we've seen a major change with artists and agents now reaching out hoping for a show,” said Hart. “That's a direct result of people showing their support, and buying tickets and coming out to the shows.”

A hub for local music

Hart, his wife, Bekkie, and a third partner, Jonny Yucuis, launched My Town My Music in 2017 after kicking around the idea for a few years. Their goal was to not only organize concerts, but to build a culture around live music.

What they wound up creating was a platform for promoting shows of their own, as well as others around town. Their website, for instance, includes profiles of local musicians and a voting system that allows members to provide feedback on what kind of shows they would like to see.

“You’re not just coming to a show,” Yucuis said of MTMM’s member-supported mission, “you are helping build the Rochester music scene.”

While many concert organizers rely on a specific venue, what has made MTMM unique is the number of spots they have used for shows — ranging from Café Steam to the Rochester Art Center.

Minnesota rapper Dessa at the Rochester Art Center for a show hosted by My Town My Music / William Forsman

Minnesota rapper Dessa at the Rochester Art Center for a show hosted by My Town My Music / William Forsman

By developing these relationships with venues, Yucuis said, they are able to choose the right space for a particular artist and audience.

“The artist is the driver of where the show’s going to be at,” he said.

Concerts in the Castle

With the likes of Charlie Parr and JD McPherson selling out shows at the Castle, the MTMM crew believes they have tapped into a niche — one that fills the gap between big events at the Mayo Civic Center and the open mic nights you would expect to find at a local bar or coffee shop.

“We think that 450 [capacity] number is a really good size, for Rochester especially,” said Naura Anderson, director of Threshold Arts, the nonprofit arts organization tasked with programming Castle Community.

Threshold began exploring possibilities with MTMM long before the opening of the Castle concert hall, which is named after local jazz musician Les Fields. While it was always their intention to attract nationally-touring acts, Anderson said it is still “surreal” to see it happening this early on.

“Not only do the audiences have a great experience, but the talent has been as well,” said Anderson. “We now have bands reaching out to us, looking for times to come to Rochester.”

One partner, both Anderson and Hart said, who has played a major behind-the-scenes role in putting the concerts on is Northern Sun Productions.

Ben Assef, the company’s owner, has been working with MTMM since the start and was recently tasked with handling the audio, lighting and event production for the third-floor Castle concert hall.

“It's a challenging space and we're still fine tuning it,” said Assef, whose company also handles the staging setup for events like Thursdays on First & 3rd. “But everyone involved has been great to work with. There's a lot of creative talent being pooled together to make the whole Castle Community happen and it feels great to have a small part in that.”

Assef, along with others involved with My Town My Music, told us their goal is to continue raising the bar with each concert they do.

Gina Marcuccia of My Grandma’s Cardigan / William Forsman

Gina Marcuccia of My Grandma’s Cardigan / William Forsman

Gina Marcuccia, a local musician, had the opportunity to open for Charlie Parr last month with her band My Grandma’s Cardigan. Just in the past year, Marcuccia said she has witnessed the music scene “grow tremendously.”

“The best way to grow as a musician is to learn from and create with other musicians, and there's so much opportunity for that here now,” she said.

Med City Beat is a proud supporter of My Town My Music.

Cover photo: Charlie Parr at the Castle / William Forsman

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