WORDS BY TAYLOR CARIK
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Minneapolis-St.Paul are towns full of music and music-makers; From techno-noise to hip-hop, outlaw country to classical (DISPATCH did a whole issue already!), there’s something for—and seemingly from—everyone. But with all the musical variety in MSP, the guitar continues to play a central role in the music scene, from the players who helped define the ’80s-rock heyday and are still strumming to another new generation coming up on local stages and in guitar shops. Whether in their own projects, supporting other musicians, or even supporting their gear habits with cover projects of the players that originally or currently inspire them, here’s a sample of just some of the Twin Cities guitar players rocking the instrument and moving audiences. (We listed just some of the guitarists from around town, and we’re just doing part one of the list here. See the other highlights here!)
Guitarist: Myra Burnette
Band: Miss Myra & The Moonshiners
Who else could split time between the two sides of the Mississippi? In New Orleans in the winter, Minneapolis-St.Paul in the summer, Miss Myra, a legit master of older jazz and ragtime songbook, can fill a show (including those intimidating multi-hour stints) with her support in The Moonshiners or just by herself.
Guitarist: Jason Medeiros
Band: Fret Rattles
Whether playing on one neck with high-octane rockers Fret Rattles or on two with similarly energetic Tang & The Tabs, Medeiros entertains as much as he plays. And he plays—along with the rock bands, you can catch him impressing other players at the likes of blues jams at Shaws and more. Worth going to see what hair color he’s rocking this week!
Funky, fresh, fun … Mayda’s oversized playing has earned her apt comparisons to none other than the Purple One himself. Moving between wah-wah strumming, rhythmic riffs, and fiery lead licks, Mayda infuses her music with a mix of hip-hop, the straight-ahead rock, and theatricality that would make Prince proud of the comparisons.
Guitarist: Kristyn Leigh
Weapon: 2012 HSS black paisley Fender Stratocaster
An army of one, Kristyn Leigh’s alter-ego M.A.Y. has spent the past few years wowing audiences from MSP’s smaller stages with nothing more than her laptop backing tracks and an envious prog-rock guitar tone.
Guitarist: Terri Owens
Band: The April Fools
A true veteran of the Minneapolis music scene, Terri Owens brings decades of experience playing all over the country and all over the Twin Cities with the likes of The Babysitters and The Flamin’ Oh’s. The miles on and off the stages, combined with work as a studio engineer, honed a keen style to her effortless playing that travels across pop, rock, and Americana styles with notable locals The April Fools.
Guitarist: Mike Drager + Ruby Blue
Band: Red Eye Ruby
The next generation of blues playing is alive and well in Minneapolis-St.Paul with the hard-working Ms. Ruby Blue rockin’ along with Mike Drager. Showcasing all the moves—sultry dynamics, emotional bends, screaming licks—both players can wow with their own playing, but make a formidable pair when playing together. Want to get into guitar or improve your own playing? Ruby Blue also teaches out of Twin Town guitars!
Guitarist: Taylor Seaberg
Band: Black Velvet Punks
A unique person makes for a unique player, so it’s no surprise that there’s a rough and ready lyricism to multi-instrumentalist and poet Taylor Seaberg’s guitar playing and tone. Along with the support of the Black Velvet Punks, Seaberg moves through jazzy chord shapes accented by fuzzy lead licks to make the next generation of funky rock.
Guitarist: Steve Brantseg
Band: The Suburbs, Faith Boblett
Another pillar behind Faith Boblett, Steven Brantseg has been helping keep local notables The Suburbs at the top of bills around town for decades, but has also joined everyone from Dan Israel to Willie Wisely. He’s a master of smeary rock licks and pop chord playing, and that in addition to being one of the most fun guitarists to watch work on the stage.
Guitarist: Jeremy Ylvisaker
Band: So many bands!
Speaking of 2F4D … Actually speaking of Minneapolis-St.Paul guitar playing, there’s none more notable than Jeremy Ylvisaker. As a guitar player, Ylvisaker’s rich tone in all its forms adds more of an additional voice than an additional instrument to whatever project he’s on. Releasing engaging music of his own, Ylvisaker also offers six-string support to many of the area’s biggest names—everyone from The Suburbs to Freaque to even his own son! And yes, he still finds time for an occasional Crüe cover song.
Guitarist: Chelsea Ox
Band: The Von Tramps, The Bloodies
Weapon: Gibson Joan Jett Signature Melody Maker and Reverend Dougle Agent OG
If coolness counted for guitar playing—and it does—Chelsea Ox of the wildly fun pop-punk and ska outfit The Von Tramps and horrorpunk group The Bloodies reigns as one of the best players in MSP. While Ox’s chops are impressive, catch a live show to see the dynamo’s mid-chord jumps.
Guitarist: Zacc Harris
While Zacc Harris has provided hours and hours of jazzy background music for coffee shops and Icehouse brunches, his precise and technical guitar playing is impossible to ignore. A true player, Harris can hit a melodic run alongside a horn section in a bigger ensemble, lay in those augmented notes that spice up a foundational chord, and rip through lead after lead while driving his trio.
Going from a moody and echoey rumble to a full-on howl, EVV’s playing put other players and fans on notice from the first few shows. Rockin’ an Epiphone that would fit in, say, Brian Setzer’s roster, EVV’s sound mixes jazzy movement around the fretboard with screaming leads and raucous post-grunge riffs. Get close to watch the playing, but caution: It will get loud.
Guitarist: Terry Isachsen
Band: The Silverteens, Flamin’ Oh’s
A favorite of many of the bands who play around town—just watch fellow players up front trying to steal his subtle moves—Isachsen plays a supportive role with legendary bands such as The Silverteens, Flamin’ Oh’s. That is, until he kicks in for a solo that could include anything from chicken-pickin’ to arena-rock guitar-god twirls.
Guitarist: Colin Shackletons
Go for the cover of ‘Can’t Hardly Wait,’ stay for the incendiary solos! Another younger entry on our list, the fiery rock ‘n’ roll that comes from Campbell’s Tele lights a fire under the feet of spectators—and inside any of the older and equally-respected players sharing the bill.
Guitarist: Lucas Scott
As heavy as the setting sun . . . The guitarist for metallers Sunless, Scott displays all the proficiency needed for the band’s prog style, from squealing harmonics to crunching riffs in different timings that move from blast-beat fast to low, heavy, and thudding. And he pulls it all off while delivering a classic Cookie Monster growl.
Don’t forget to check out some of these guitarists showcasing their skills on Thursday, January 12th at the Turf Club for DISPATCH Amplified: Six-String Showcase!