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Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12

Best New Bands of 2011 Showcase
With MaLLy, Bloodnstuff, Night Moves, Gramma's Boyfriend, Dream Crusher, Sexcat, & Fire in the Northern Firs
First Avenue, Minneapolis

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

For a slideshow from the concert, click here.

In a talent-rich music scene like the Twin Cities, any time you assemble a showcase of the Best New Bands, you are bound to leave out some deserving groups. And while I do believe that the local hip-hop community was woefully underrepresented by one lone act out of the seven (MaLLy) in last night's annual Best New Bands night at First Avenue, the talented bands who were chosen indeed represent a good cross-section of our eclectic scene. And no matter if you've heard of them prior to the show or not, it's quite compelling to see fledgling bands rise to the challenge of playing the hallowed Mainroom stage.

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12
Photo By Ryan Siverson

The substantial turn-out at last night's event was encouraging, for both the bands and local music fans alike, but the unexpected long lines at the door sadly kept me from seeing a good portion of Fire In The Northern Firs opening set. But their moody, taut sound went over well, and clearly put everyone on notice that this will be a band we'll be hearing a lot more from in the future.

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12
Photo By Ryan Siverson

Sexcat were up next, and the stylish quintet got the party going with their sultry, electro-pop sound. Vocalists Megan Charles and Hannah von der Hoff sang exuberantly over the seductive, synth-heavy R&B grooves the band was generating. The fact that the band was clearly having fun on stage added an easy amiability to their sound, and their enjoyable half-hour set proved that good looks aren't the only thing the band has going for them.

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12
Photo By Ryan Siverson

The sprawling collective Dream Crusher started out their set as a nine-piece, but finished the performance with a dozen musicians on stage. And while having that many instruments involved might muddle the sound of most bands, Dream Crusher had a studied texture to their songs that sounded quite expansive in the large room. At times their sound (and setup) had a definite Gayngs-like vibe to it, but they changed things up enough throughout their set to keep things interesting, and even brought a couple MCs out towards the end to give the night some much needed hip-hop flavor.

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12
Photo By Ryan Siverson

For most of Gramma's Boyfriend's set, all anyone around me could talk about (or look at) was Haley Bonar's ass. She came out in some highly augmented fat-pants that certainly accentuated her prodigious, and distinctly artificial, derrière, perhaps having some fun with her post-pregnancy figure. Never mind the fact that the gifted Jeremy Ylvisaker and Mike Lewis were crafting some infectious riffs behind her, all eyes were on Haley, who pranced around the stage howling above the rowdy rhythms the band were generating. It was a fun set, with just the right amount of mindlessness to keep us entertained.

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12

The hotly-tipped Night Moves were up next, and their hazy, guitar-heavy sound really blossomed nicely in the Mainroom. The quartet had the most polished sound of any band on the bill, so it's really no surprise that they recently signed a record deal with the prestigious UK label Domino. While they didn't have much of a stage presence to augment their swelling soundscapes, they still managed to deliver a riveting half-hour set full of  indelible, atmospheric rock songs that have caught the attention of music fans in the Twin Cities and abroad. 

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12
Photo By Ryan Siverson

But the night simply belonged to Bloodnstuff. The raucous two-piece took to the First Ave. stage on a mission to obliterate the place with their massive riffs and relentless rhythm, and they did just that during their storming set. With an enormous sound that is equal parts Black Sabbath and Wolfmother (without the cheese), the duo really ignited the crowd with their heavy, hard-charging sound. Guitarist Ed Holmberg delivered one crushing riff after another while wailing away like a heavy metal banshee, while Dylan Gouret simply beat the hell out of his drum kit while setting the song's breakneck pace. It was everything a hard rock set should be, and was over in a flash. 

Best New Bands of 2011 showcase at First Avenue, 01/25/12
Photo By Ryan Siverson

Sadly, the crowd thinned out considerably by the time MaLLy took the stage, and those that left early missed a young MC who proved that he is not only ready to open up for Atmosphere next month, but he is set to claim his own well-earned place amongst the areas hip-hop elite. His fiery flow and brazen confidence served him well on the big stage, as he easily got what was left of the crowd moving along with him. MaLLy is definitely ready to play to larger crowds, and hopefully he attracts plenty of new fans from his upcoming shows with Atmosphere because he's clearly on the verge of blowing up, if he hasn't already.

And with that, another Best New Bands showcase comes and goes, and while it's tough to say which bands will break out big in the upcoming year (or what bands might just break up), these shows always reaffirm that the Twin Cities music scene still has a pulse left, and that there are plenty of great local acts to see each and every night of the week.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I had only seen two of the seven bands live before last night, so I had no real idea what to expect.

The Crowd: The biggest turn-out I can recall for a Best New Bands showcase--perhaps letting those with First Avenue memberships get in for free helped bolster the crowd a bit.

Overheard In The Crowd: "So, they are like the Twin Cities version of Snow Patrol"--in response to Night Moves.

Random Notebook Dump: While the renovations at First Ave. aren't complete, taking out the stairs leading up to the bathrooms has created a lot more open space and a much better view from that area.


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