Local country artist headlines ‘Red, White & Boom’ July Fourth celebration

(Jonika Stowes/MSR News)

With a rough airy voice, Tre Aaron is hoping to make a space for himself in country music. Aaron is often shy concerning his good looks and muscular build, but exhibits the personality of an extrovert when his feet hit the stage.

Tre Aaron and The Sidewalk Blues Boys decided to make themselves official as a country music band in October 2016. The band, made up of five members, consists of Aaron on vocals and guitar, Phil Miller on guitar, Robert King on drums, Matt Vernon on guitar and vocals, and Santiago Fernandez-Gimenez on bass guitar and vocals. Each member has bounced around in various bands for 15-25 years.


Black music is American music. You can’t have American music, both literally and figuratively, without Black music and Black musicians.


Aaron gained his musical chops from his mother who’s a singer and his father who plays the drums. When asked who he’d want to share a stage with, Aaron said, “My grandmother, Julia. She passed [away] back in 2013 and she was an amazing stride piano player…

“I never really got a chance to [perform] with my grandmother. I don’t think I could keep up though. She was born in 1919, but even to the end, she could still play circles around most folks.” Harlem Stride Piano originated in the 1920s and 1930s as a jazz style of music in larger east coast cities such as New York. Notable stride pianists are James P. Johnson, Thomas “Fats” Waller, Louis Mazetier, Butch Thompson and Stephanie Trick.

When asked about defining “Black music” Aaron replied, “Black music is American music. You can’t have American music, both literally and figuratively, without Black music and Black musicians.” Aaron also said, “To me, Black music is music — there is no separation, no differentiating.”

He has been challenged on this view point since junior high school when other students would ask him why he’s not a rapper. Aaron contended, “If the music is made by Black artists, then it’s Black music. If the music is enjoyed by, and connects to Black listeners, then it’s Black music.”

For Aaron, being a Black artist in the country music genre has had a few challenges, but in the end his response is, “I’m keeping it real to what’s in my heart, and it’s the only way I can get it out.” He recalled a time when a venue that initially showed interest in their music, wouldn’t book them once they reviewed the band’s website full of pictures. Aaron wouldn’t say which venue it was.

He told of another occasion at Acadia on the West Bank when a few college kids started throwing the N-word around and no one in the venue addressed the college students. Aaron said, “But even on the toughest days, I wouldn’t and couldn’t trade it for any other genre — it’s who I am.”

​(l-r) Phill Miller,​ Robert King, Tre Aaron, Santiago Fernandez-Gimenez and Matt Vernon Jonika Stowes/MSR News

Aaron and the band have been making their way around town at local events, bars and music joints, including the May Day Festival in Powderhorn Park and popular St. Paul locations like Fern’s Bar & Grill and Wild Tymes Bar & Grill.

The band has had the most opportunity in Minneapolis on the West Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota where they started at Palmer’s Bar.

Aaron mentioned that in the future, he has his sights on playing the Minnesota State Fair, Pizza Lucé Block Party, the Cabooze, and First Avenue, where parts of the movie Purple Rain were filmed.

“It’s amazing that we’re playing at ‘Red, White and Boom’” the band’s next gig, which is usually held on the Mississippi Riverfront of downtown Minneapolis and hosted by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in observance of Independence Day, July Fourth.

“Red, White and Boom” kicks off July 4 at 6:30 am with the Twin Cities Half Marathon, and ends with live music from 6-10 pm. Fireworks begin at 10 pm. The festivities are free. Go to www.minneapolisparks.org for more details.

To keep up with Tre Aaron and the Sidewalk Blues Boys, visit www.treaaron.com online.


Jonika Stowes welcomes reader responses to jonikastowes@gmail.com.