Artist: Mike Kota

Venue: Icehouse

“Pretty Girl Rock” night was a smashing success at Icehouse on August 19. 25-year-old artist Mike Kota headlined a stacked lineup with other Minnesota-based, female-led acts Emma Jeanne, Ava Levy and Daphne Jane delivering dreamy and punchy feminine energy.

Kota started writing music in high school thanks to encouragement from friends. She fronted local band Good Luck Finding Iris from 2016 to 2019 with musicians she’d met at summer camp. She’s since been writing and performing solo work and was featured in First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2022.

Mike Kota performing “Gaston Complex,” her recently-written song about toxic masculinity. She creatively incorporated guitar and vocal effects, including a vocal harmonizer pedal that transformed her solo vocal input into a three-part harmony instantly.

Kota has an mesmerizing, raw sound—her dreamy voice paired with her wailing rock guitar is sure to capture the unwavering attention of any audience. She kicked off her set independently with guitar and vocals before welcoming the band onstage. Playing with a full band is a new addition to her performances, as she debuted the full band in June at a show at the Grand Oak Opry in St. Paul.

Kota recently opened for Hozier’s sold-out show at First Avenue in May. She posted a video cover of his song “Take Me To Church” on TikTok last summer, and it went viral. Hozier himself saw it and sent it to his manager saying that he wanted Kota to open for him in Minneapolis, and the rest was history.

Guitar and keys player Zak Khan grins at guitarist Nate Walker from across the stage as the two played complimentary guitar riffs. “It's so much fun for me to go hang out with my friends and play music. That's honestly what it is,” Walker said. “And sometimes people will come and watch, and I think that's pretty cool.”

Kota and Walker described the Minneapolis music scene as “encouraging, collaborative, open and fun.”

“I've been in Chicago and Los Angeles, and they're just so big that it's hard to break in,” said Kota. “Whereas I feel like here you can make a band and play at a house show next week. And then three months from now, you could be opening for another band at a proper venue.”

Kota’s emotionally-rich music is having an impact on audiences, which is becoming another reason why she makes music.

“It’s my outlet, my passion…and more recently it’s been very cool to realize that it affects others in a good way too.” Her music certainly does have an emotional effect on people. “Sometimes grown men tell me that they cried,” she said.

A common thread in the Minneapolis music scene seems to be collaborative overlap, and the musicians on stage at Icehouse tonight also share their talents with several other groups. Bassist Megan Mahoney (pictured center) also plays in Boyish, Early Eyes, Huhroon, Yellow Ostrich, Lissie, and Trash Date. Joey Hays (right) drums in Boyish, Brunette, Huhroon, Bad Bad Hats, Miloe, and Trash Date. Nate Walker plays guitar in Aiden Intro and Daphne Jane. Zak Khan (center back) plays in Honeybutter, Huhroon, FruitPunchLoverBoy, papa mbye and his own solo project. Khan is also a producer in the Twin Cities music scene.

Where to find Mike Kota next:

Catch Mike Kota at North by North Loop on September 10. She is also releasing her EP, “Turning a Corner,” in the near future.