Nooky Jones packs the Icehouse

The Digital High-Five.

Friday morning I reached out to an old friend through Facebook Messenger. I couldn’t believe we weren’t connected – 15 years since we last spoke. Kevin Gastonguay has been slapping keys since the days before I met him in early junior high.

Always a prodigy on the ivories, I lost touch and didn’t realize he was slaying runs with Nooky Jones and Cory Wong until I saw a recent video online. My initial digital-high-five turned into an hour-long text message session. Swapping stories of friends, family, and a quick timeline review allowed me to learn about the concert at the Icehouse in Minneapolis that night (December 27, 2019) from Gastonguay.

A couple phone calls later and I was headed to the show.

The Icehouse makes for a top venue in Minneapolis. I’m always impressed with the sound clarity, the tight-knit, community-driven atmosphere, and the connection one has with the stage. Last night was no exception. Opener Radiochurch dropped serious bars and hooks. Headliner Nooky Jones brought a richly neo-soul-funk groove session crowd-goers won’t soon forget.

Everything about last night spoke to the modern music movement in Minneapolis. A movement defined by honesty and a new era of self-expression that allows people to let go, let down, close their eyes, and move to the snap of the snare. If you want to taste, feel, and experience what Minneapolis is, then don’t miss the next opportunity to catch Nooky Jones on stage.

The question I kept asking was, “What makes this feel so authentically Minneapolis?”

For me, it’s the genre. A beautiful clash of jazz, soul, funk, and hip-hop draws people who love these genre niches to hear the performance of them mixed together in exciting, funky patterns with truly stylistic vocals.

A generation who grew up with the jazz legends of Richard Holmes, Gene Ammons, and Ornette Colemen – alongside those who spun Sly and the Family Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire on their woodgrain pioneer turntable – were alongside the Minneapolis hip-hop-heads loyal to the Rhymesayers community. They all converged under one roof. Beautiful.


Radiochurch, short off the release of their new EP in November, were a perfect opener to the evening. With a stronger mix of hip-hop-esque runs, the five-piece band brought an incredible vibe to the Icehouse.

I found myself getting lost in the punchy bassline hooks from Megan Mahoney and the strong leads from talented axe player Trevor Wiest. Ellis Cleve (lead vocalist) set the headspace for the entire concert.

Sleek black sunglasses, full-length-matte-green-canvas-army jacket, and mic-in-hand, Cleve elevated seasoned head-bobbers and intergenerational newcomers alike.

Nooky Jones followed suit. Sharply dressed in black with popping gold accents, Nooky took the stage to a packed house – standing room only with enough space to dance in your friend circle while sipping a drink.

Between sets, I met a couple visiting from Washington D.C. who were visiting their family for the holidays. They planned their trip around catching Nooky’s performance, which only speaks to the impression the Minneapolis music scene is having on the greater music community across the country.

Cameron Kinghorn (vocals) continues to grow in his connection with the band and command of the music. As if they were one mind, quick hand gestures make exciting mid-verse cut-outs that bring the audience closer to the heart and emotion of the music.

With an exciting mix of background vocals, Kinghorn hits an exceptional range that raises eyebrows and hands in praise of his soulful love for his craft.

The horn section straight slayed it. Featuring Scott Agster (on trombone) and Adam Meckler (on trumpet), together they mesh into the funky-mix bringing the dynamic high-notes and neo-ska twist that the crowd craves between Kinghorn’s verses. Their energy was addictive, and brought the older crowd down from the balcony, creating an exciting concert experience.

At times you can sense Kinghorn get drawn into his own rhythms – featuring different band member solos making it feel as if you are personally brought into a studio recording session that you wish you’d hit “record” on.

This is the sign of an amazing performance. When your mind gets lost in the music and atmosphere as if the band was commanding an audience of one and you are the audience.

Is the new era of Minneapolis music legends here?

We are seeing something unfold beneath our feet, and if you don’t grab a ticket soon you might miss out on your opportunity to be a part of history. Radiochurch and Nooky Jones remind us that Minneapolis is filled with a creative vibrancy and an audience craving a sound that brings raw-life to the forefront of the midnight imagination

Cameron Kinghorn is “Mr. Minneapolis.”  Show up Minnesota and see it for yourself.

Written by Anna Paulson


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