Dinkytown Music Scene
Music is the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they reflect on their experiences in Dinkytown.  All of the information below is drawn from the research of University of Minnesota students for 2006 Bob Dylan exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum.

The Early Days 
In the 50’s and 60’s the 10 O’clock Scholar is where the music happened.  The small café, which was located where Hollywood Video is today, is where the story starts.  Well-known musicians such as Spider John Koerner, Dave Ray, and the legendary Bob Dylan spent the early days of their performance careers.

Birth of Bob Dylan
According to Bob Dylan’s biography on Wikipedia and the students’ research, he enrolled in the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1959.  His real name was Robert Zimmerman but while in Dinkytown he started to refer to himself as “Bob Dylan” after becoming familiar with the poetry of Dylan Thomas.  He lived in an apartment on the second floor of Gray’s Drug Store (located on 4th street)  which has evolved into what is now the Loring Pasta Bar.  It has led some to believe the inspiration for Dylan’s song “Positively 4th Street” was from his short stay in Dinkytown.   As they say, the rest is history; he soon became actively involved in the Dinkytown folk music crowd.  He dropped out of college his freshman year and stayed in Minneapolis for a couple years until he moved to New York City in January of 1961.  

Dinkytown Music Lost for Two Decades 
The music scene in Dinkytown suffered in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  There was an established blues and folk scene in the West Bank bars and Coffman Memorial Union had rock and punk shows but all the musical venues had vanished Dinkytown with the coffee houses.  An 1883 state law that prohibited the sale of alcohol within a mile of Morrill Hall, restricted the existence of bars in Dinkytown for many years.  This could have been one of many reasons Dinkytown lacked music venues during the era.

Dinkytown goes Hip-Hop in the 1990’s
The Varsity Theater evolved into Dinkytown’s premier music venue.  Up until 1988, the Varsity Theater functioned as a cinema but it sadly closed due to competition with home movies. The Varsity re-opened in 1990 for the first time as a music venue, hosting popular shows such as the Sunday night hip-hop “Peace Parties” as well as death metal and punk shows.  Controversy regarding the crowds generated by the new music scene and the reactions from the neighborhood members ultimately led to the closing of the Varsity Theater once again until 2005. 

In 1998, where Kafe 421 is now, there used to be a sandwich shop called Bon Appétit.  The back of the shop was home to what was known as Head Spin Sundays which was weekly hip hop night.  Quite popular, it often drew crowds in excess of 200 people.  After almost 50 consecutive weeks, the city of Minneapolis terminated the event in 1999 in amidst of controversy.  Their reasoning cited entertainment license violations, however, some believe cultural tensions stemming from types of crowds drawn and the music being played were the catalysts.

The Present Music Scene 
Remodeled, refurbished, and reenergized the Varsity Theater reopened as a music venue in January 2005.  Today the theater is the largest venue in Dinkytown, hosting a combination of theater, music, film, dance and special events.  The Varsity draws from a talented pool of local talent as well as big name performers looking to play in a more intimate venue. The Dinkytowner has taken over the underground hip-hop scene (literally as it is located under Blarney's Bar and Grill), while the Kitty Cat Klub and theLoring Pasta Bar also play host to a diverse array of nighly performances. There has never been a better time for music in Dinkytown than there is today.