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Meet First Ave's 7 'best new bands' before tonight's show

Mike Blaha, Dwynell Roland, Lady Lark

Mike Blaha, Dwynell Roland, Lady Lark K. Praslowicz/Nick Fay/Grady Brannan

Tonight, First Avenue will once again ring in the new year with a showcase of some of the Twin Cities’ freshest, most exciting artists.

The eclectic lineup features seven pop, rock, and rap acts, any of whom could play a huge role in the future of Twin Cities music. Get to know all seven (five of which were also City Pages Picked to Click finalists this past fall) below.

The Bad Man

For fans of: The Stooges, New York Dolls, Downtown Boys

How they sound: Led by rowdy frontman Peter Memorich, this five-piece fuels their boozy, raucous noise with classic punk spirit. Their debut album, last March’s Aint Clean, was a 19-minute whirlwind, ranging stylistically from the lightning-fast “Knock Down” to the bluesy sway “Sound of the City.” And throughout, Ben Hintz reminds us why there will always be a place for an energetic saxophonist in rock.

BLAHA

For fans of: The Blind Shake, Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall

How they sound: Blind Shake co-founder Mike Blaha’s stomping garage rock outfit subtly radiates a pop sensibility that seems to come naturally to the singer/guitarist after a decade-plus of making records. Whereas the Blind Shake is known for not having a bassist, BLAHA has a four-string player in Allison Gunderland, and their sound is more robust because of it.

Dwynell Roland

For fans of: P.O.S, Dem Atlas

How he sounds: Roland’s versatility may be his greatest asset. From confident trap bangers (“This Year,” “Dude”) to more ’90s-indebted tracks (“Devils,” “Eva Change”), the rapper’s latest project, The Popular Nobody, didn’t necessarily have a unified sound, and that’s fine. In other words: Give Roland any beat, and you can expect him to handle it well.

Early Eyes

For fans of: The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club

How they sound: Early Eyes formed in October 2016 for what they thought would be just one show, and while they may still be developing their eclectic sound it’s already exciting. Incorporating jangly indie pop, shimmery new wave, and even a little funk, last March’s Minutes EP also stood out for Jake Berglove’s popwise vocals.

Lady Lark

For fans of: Prince, Sheila E., Lizzo

How she sounds: Taylor Harris, aka Lady Lark, delivers a slick confluence of pop, R&B, and funk that can recall Minneapolis predecessors from Vanity 6 to Lizzo. As you might guess from a couple of Lady Lark’s song titles (“The Rhythm,” “Move Your Body”), the music is also supremely danceable.

Sass

For fans of: Speedy Ortiz, Bad Bad Hats, Bully

How they sound: Fronted by singer-guitarist Stephanie Jo Murck (who’s also played in Cherry Cola and Tony Peachka, a First Ave BNB act last year) Sass’ music has an easygoing indie pop surface. But the band can also explode into a full-blown garage rock stomp, and Willem Vander Ark isn’t shy about cranking some searing lead guitar work.

Thomas Abban

For fans of: Sufjan Stevens, Devendra Banhart

How he sounds: Abban’s songs exhibit a pure inventiveness that’s rooted in his freakish talent as a multi-instrumentalist—and especially as a guitarist. His ambitious, hour-long debut album, last year’s A Sheik’s Legacy, is built on an art-folk foundation, but it embarks in bluesy and psychedelic directions.

First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2017

Who: The Bad Man, BLAHA, Dwynell Roland, Early Eyes, Lady Lark, Sass, and Thomas Abban
Where: First Avenue Mainroom
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5
Tickets: $10/$12; more info here