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Music on Trial: Mason Jennings embodies vibrant local music scene available at Oles fingertips


Like it or not, you live in the North. If you do like it, then you can already tell me a thousand reasons why Minnesota is the greatest state ever. If you resent the location of your college choice, let me change your mind. Two words, or rather, a name: Mason Jennings. He’s not just for Minneapolis moms and girls who just got out of bad relationships.

On April 5, Mason Jennings performed at the State Theater in Minneapolis. He played songs to an audience with a median age of 54, mostly from his new album “Always Been,” but he threw in some old kickers like “Be Here Now” and “Your New Man” for fun.

Jennings expressed many times that he was happy to be back in the city after traveling the country on tour with his two sons. The State Theater is not exactly in the price range of college-age students, but I was still shocked that I was among the youngest in the audience, especially because his music is becoming more popular among people our age.

To me, Mason Jennings embodies what it means to be from another place but call Minnesota your home. During his concert, that is what he did: “I’m glad to be home,” he said over and over.

Jennings was born in Hawaii, grew up in Philadelphia and traveled in his youth all over the country. His experiences in different parts of the United States are evident in his older songs, especially in his self-titled album that includes “California,” “California [Part II]” and “1997.”

Jennings chose to settle down in Minneapolis because he heard it was a great place for up-and-coming musicians. Like half of our campus, Jennings adopted his home and has become very proud of it. Many students claim they live in bubble, but that is a personal choice. Your time in Northfield may be short, and you may never return after graduation, but if you connect yourself to the culture around you, you’ll find your years on the Hill more meaningful.

Hannah Marti ’14 summed this up perfectly when she told me, “There’s a whole lot of things that are fun and interesting out there, and when you find them, it’s awesome, and you grow from it. That’s my experience with searching for local music in Minnesota.”

Mason Jennings is one example of great music in the cities. Others include Jeremy Messersmith, whose recent album just hit national charts; Caroline Smith, an Ole fav; Rogue Valley; Atmosphere; Brother Ali; Trampled by Turtles; Dessa,; 4onthefloor; John Mark Nelson; The Ericksons; The Pines and Twinkie Jiggles Broken Orchestra, a band fronted by Dessa’s bassist.

And you don’t have to be able to afford tickets at the State Theater to hear great musicians. Keep an eye out online for local shows. First Avenue in Minneapolis is the center of the music scene. Others include The Varsity, which just won an award for having awesome bathrooms; The Cedar, a non-profit venue of worldly sorts; the Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul and The Turf Club, if you’re not into frills. Keep your ears open for the Local Show on The Current on Sundays at 6 p.m.

Jenning’s lyrics describe the culture of Minneapolis perfectly: a little quirky, very down to earth and compassionate. You can live without recognition of place, or you can live in the place you chose to go to school, even if you don’t call it home. If Mason Jennings, who has seen and sung about every street corner in the United States, can come to the State Theater and declare Minneapolis his home, then St. Olaf students can find meaning in their temporary home.

Either way, as Mason Jennings would say, “Make yourself at home, cause I’m going out” to go listen to local music.

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