As I watched coverage of Wednesday’s horrific tragedy in Minneapolis, I had this strange feeling that I knew the place even though I had never been there. Then it occurred to me: It’s the music. When I submitted my personal ballot for last year’s 885 greatest artists countdown, my top ten included five American acts, four of them from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I’ve seen Minneapolis through Prince’s eyes in Purple Rain, and from The Hold Steady’s point of view in the meticulous, miraculous detail of their songs. I know First Avenue, I know City Center, I know that bridge where the bus won’t stop because there’s just too many kids.
It’s remarkable how many of my most memorable musical moments were authored by Minnesota’s finest. I saw Bob Dylan put on a haunting show on my twenty-sixth birthday, the day after Kurt Cobain’s body was found. I saw the Replacements play a transcendent, spellbinding set just as the band was coming apart at the seams in 1991. And I danced on stage with The Hold Steady on a cold night last winter, feeling my love for rock and roll come crashing back in startling waves of heat.
I know that many grim discoveries will be made in the coming days in a city and state that will be shaken for a long time to come, and music seems trivial right now. But music connects us to people we’ve never met and places we’ve never been. And so as our thoughts turn to the people of the Twin Cities, I’ll think of the Minnesotans who have brought so much to my life, and pray that the people affected by the disaster can find comfort, solace and peace.