Cram the Van|Big Turn Music Festival

209 bands, 23 venues, 2 days, 1 great time

Unique venues included Fair Trade Books, Red Wing Framing & Fine Art Printing and Shear Perfection Hair Design.

Red Wing, MN, is already known for its pottery and its work boots, but for the past three years, the city hugging the Mississippi River has been making a name for itself with its weekend music festival: Big Turn (BTMF).

Over the course of two days, over 200 bands play in over 23 venues spread throughout downtown Red Wing, giving attendees the opportunity to explore the city while enjoying live music.

Have you ever watched a blues artist perform in a hair salon?

How about a rock band in one of Minnesota’s oldest bars?

A grunge band in a restaurant?

A country artist in an independent bookstore?

If you attended BTMF this year on Feb. 21-22, you could answer yes to all of these and more.

Big Turn venues varied from the more traditional, like the Sheldon Theatre, to the unconventional, like Boxrud’s Resale & Gifts. The wide variety of genres represented by regional artists at BTMF was also impressive. From Americana to powerslop and everything in between, there was truly something for everyone.

Midwesterners enjoy bragging about their high tolerance for cold, so it only makes sense that come February (or as BTMF calls it, Febrrruary) music festivals begin popping up in Minnesota.

Anyone from the upper midwest can tell you that February is not typically known for its balmy breezes, but we don’t care, or at least, pretend not to. I mean, The Minnesota Lottery is literally running a TV commercial with someone bowling using a bowling ball and pins made out of solid ice on a frozen lake. That is the level we are at.

That being said, the timing really does make sense. Besides the obvious boost to local businesses, it is a great excuse to get out from under the mountain of blankets you are burrowed in and shake off that cabin fever.

It isn’t the only winter music festival to pop up in Minnesota in recent years. Otter Tail County on Ice just celebrated its third year in January and The Rochester Thaw is back for year two in March.

The festival began at 6 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Everyone got the same amount of time (45 minutes) for their set regardless of popularity, with the last band hitting the stage at 11 p.m. each night.

Day two festivities began before the music with yoga set to live music, followed by breakfast at the Elks lodge and a $5 Bloody Mary special at various bars and restaurants downtown.

Even after enjoying Bloody Mary attendees still had a good three hours before the first music of the day to mill about downtown. I would recommend a visit to Fair Trade Books, where it is a tradition for newcomers to get a hand-selected book for free.

You simply tell one of the workers what kind of books you enjoy and they will magically find one for you that is almost creepily accurate.

There is a small catch– you have to yell “books make great gifts,” at the register in order to receive your free book. Still not convinced?

Not only is the small independent bookstore populated by preloved books, but a particularly lovable old dog named Reveler also calls the shop home. He wants nothing more than to calmly stand next to you and be pet.

Less than an hour south of Saint Paul, Big Turn is a great music festival aimed at kicking the winter blues without requiring you to travel far.

The sheer number of bands and page count of the festival’s logbook can be intimidating, so plan ahead and prepare for an unforgettable weekend full of amazing regional acts.

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