Nearly 100 upstart Minnesota music acts entered the Star Tribune’s 2017 Are You Local? best-new-bands contest. From there, 16 semifinalists were chosen, a group that was further whittled down by public votes.
Five finalists are now set to battle it out Monday at St. Paul's Turf Club, with the ultimate winner to be chosen by a cabal of Strib writers and editors. The champion will win a slot playing alongside the Suburbs, Gramma’s Boyfriend, and Shannon Blowtorch at First Avenue on February 17, plus $2,000 cash.
If previous AYL? results are any indication, any of this year’s semifinalists could be destined for big things. Minneapolis electro-pop duo Holidae -- whose Ashley Gold is set to host tonight’s show -- won it all last year, and Gold's band went on to score additional accolades (e.g., a 9th-place finish in last year's City Pages Picked to Click poll). Other recent winners and finalists have made names for themselves, both locally and beyond. Just last month, Minneapolis-based, Los Angeles-bound singer/rapper/and producer Ness Nite announced she joined the roster of L.A.'s POW Recordings.
Catch a glimpse of Minnesota’s musical future by learning more about the 2017 AYL? finalists below.
For fans of: Anderson .Paak/NxWorries, Erykah Badu
How they sound: Of all the finalists’ respective sounds, Minneapolis five-piece Ayvah’s is the hardest to pin down. That’s not just because they’ve hardly released any music, instead preferring to hone their live show. It’s also due to the band’s eclecticism; their sound is an intoxicating fusion of jazz, funk, soul, hip-hop, and more. Led by the preternaturally talented singer Ava McFarlane, the group reliably whips up kinetic, propulsive grooves, as attendees of their live shows have witnessed.
For fans of: Joy Division/New Order, M83
How they sound: In the almost four years since their lo-fi genesis, Minneapolis four-piece Graveyard Club have developed into a grander-sounding, more polished take on ‘80s pop with a prominent New Order influence. Lead singer Matthew Schufman is regularly complemented by the backing vocals of bassist Amanda Zimmerman, and their interplay has led to some of the band’s best moments (e.g., “Nightcrawler”).
Kiss the Tiger
For fans of: The Gaslight Anthem, Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen
How they sound: Kiss the Tiger do classic-rock revivalism exceptionally well, with Springsteen, Patti Smith, and Iggy Pop influencing their sound. Lead singer Meghan Kreidler discovered her love of rock just a couple years ago, and her unbridled vocals are an extension of that newfound passion. But she’s not the only thing to get excited about with this band. On their self-titled debut album, the rest of the five-piece consistently nail an explosive instrumental attack.
For fans of: Father John Misty, the Microphones/Mount Eerie, the War on Drugs
How they sound: On Grigio, their four-song EP from last year, this Minneapolis outfit officially arrived with a pastoral, expansive indie-rock sound that shares a few things in common with the work of singer-songwriter Phil Elverum. Frontman Anthony “Oz” Oslund has his songwriting fundamentals down, and the atmospheric production takes the band’s sound to a new level. While all the tracks on Grigio stretch close to five minutes or longer, Oslund and Co.’s sneaky knack for tight accessibility is evident in “Medicine Man.”
For fans of: Frank Ocean, Jeremih, the Weeknd
How he sounds: Previously named Best R&B Artist in City Pages’ Best of the Twin Cities 2016 issue, Minneapolis 23-year-old Nick Jordan may be the best pure singer in this grouping of finalists. While his vocals are his most impressive asset, there’s a lot more to his stylistically fearless musical identity. Jordan's inspirations include Prince, Jill Scott, and house music, and he injected his love for the latter into “Fantasy,” from his 2015 EP, NJ.
Are You Local? Finalists Showcase
With: AYVAH, Graveyard Club, Nick Jordan, Lazy Scorsese, Kiss the Tiger
When: 7 p.m. Mon., Feb. 6
Where: Turf Club
Tickets: $5-$7; more info here