Every January, City Pages and Radio K showcase Minneapolis’ Best New Bands show at First Avenue. Even if you don’t get out much, you owe it to yourself to check this annual event, and see what the new up-and-comers have to offer.
This year, we were blessed with another year of hyper-talented musicians and an audience who isn’t afraid of the Siberian-cold Minnesota weather. I was pleased at a return to garage-pop-rock with electric guitars blazing. But I was disappointed at the trend of replacing drummers with fucking mac laptops. Anyway, here’s my overview of the currently best new noisemakers in Minneapolis.
Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords
I’ll be honest, I had no idea who Grant Cutler was… and I still don’t. Seems he’s half of the electro-pop duo, Lookbook, and now he’s the front man for Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords. Don’t know about the “Gorgeous Lords” part, but the rest of the name fits well.
Grant has a rich, deep voice which dominates this easy-listening experiment that needs a serious shot of… something. Passion mostly, but I’d add adrenaline, tequila and methamphetamines, because they make Coldplay sound like punk rock.
The music was brooding, but it didn’t have enough energy to be dark. Slow, but not enough energy to be sexy. Like a lethargic walk through a pool of waist-deep maple syrup. You couldn’t make love to this music, and you probably shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery while listening to it.
In 1987, Jake Sullivan stepped through some kind of funky time-machine/blender hybrid set to Future/Frappe and ended up in Minneapolis 2010. I’m sorry for him because he missed out on the whole Grunge/Industrial Rock thing, but it’s been long enough that the 80’s are cool again, and I bet Jake doesn’t even notice, and I can’t think of a compelling reason for us to tell him.
BadNRad is really a one-man show, consisting of Jake and a fucking Mac laptop. The laptop holds together the percussion, synth and sound FX, while Jake plays along with guitar, keytar, keyboards and/or sings through a pitch-shifting vocoder. He’s joined onstage by insane friends dressed as pole dancers, Richard Simmons, Michael Jackson, and a giant slice of pizza.
BadNRad put on a great show. Jake Sullivan is hyper-talented in all the instruments he plays, but as far as Best New BANDS go, I have to write off BadNraD because of the laptop. Jeremy Messersmith and Peter Wolf Crier record and loop samples on the fly that blow away BadNraD’s ‘Push Play’ mentality. But BadNraD had plenty of moxie and performers to pick up the visual slack. All in all BadNraD is a wickedly fun retro-adventure/guilty pleasure – best enjoyed live.
Back in July 2010, Phantom Tails released their debut CD, Sounds of the Hunchback Whale. Phantom Tails are fun, fun, fun and easy to listen to. They blend moody, Cure-ish dark pop with quirky, music-box melodies and put a bit of sugar-gloss on the whole thing to make it taste good.
In a recent interview with Chris Riemenschneider, they described their genre as Deep Space Doom Funk. I don’t think they’re kidding, either. Check out this killer video of All Good Things:
Local legend Ed Ackerson (Polara, etc…) and Julie Ackerson (Mood Swings, etc..) joined forces in more ways than one by getting married and starting a band with the mysterious name BNLX. They both sing, while Ed plays his always awesome guitar and Julie plays bass. Everything else is done by a fucking Mac laptop. The music is straight-up, kick-ass, pop rock.
The highlight of the evening was their rocked-up cover of Prince’s When Doves Cry. Absolutely Epic.
They would have been better with a real drummer, though.
I’ve met the one-man-band Hastings 3000 (also known as H3K,) and I was looking forward to seeing him perform live… and I’m still waiting. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to Skype him in on a teleconference from Hawaii, or whether First Ave actually tested this questionable idea before they fired it up in front of a crowd, but it didn’t work. I think we saw him for about three seconds and heard his voice (and a ukulele) for about five seconds, but that was it.
Plan B was to play a couple of his songs off the CD while people wearing gas masks filled the house with fog from industrial fog machines. The music was good. (Check out this cover of Ã‡a plane pour moi ) The intentions were good. But the plan was poorly executed. Please don’t hold this against H3K, but I’ll have to reserve judgment until the next time he plays here in Minneapolis.
Fact: Girls with Guitars are Hot.
Those mourning the loss of Ouija Radio can rejoice at the return of Christy Hunt and her new cohort of blazen, brazen rockers. Pink Mink blew the room away with hooks, looks, and weapons-grade guitar tones. And I’m not just saying that because Christy booked Jagged Spiral’s very first public performance.
Thanks to Arzu Gokcen for having an intervention with Christy and saving her (and us) from Christy’s near-retirement.
Oh yeah, and they have a real drummer.
- Pink Mink Official Website (Sign up for their mailing list and get two free song downloads)
- Pink Mink on Facebook
- Pink Mink on Twitter
The Goondas have worked hard to become local media darlings by following the formula of “bad boy” rock bands – most notably The Replacements. I can’t help but notice that reviewers have more to say about their on-stage antics than their music, so I was interested to both hear and see this band for myself.
I can verify the antics. The lead singer is completely drunk and belligerent onstage – spitting up, falling down and climbing up onto things even a sober person shouldn’t. His drunken slur obliterates any possibility at audience comprehension. The band has the energy of a Springer Spaniel on crack.
I’d love to rip on the Goondas for being nothing more than The-Replacements-Wanna-Bes, but I can’t, because the Goondas back up their image with some awesome, tight, catchy songs. They bring fun, punch-drunk-rock back to the fore. In a word: entertaining.
Hey, it worked for the Replacements.
Oh, and they had a real drummer.
Special Guest – The Jah-Hawks
The greatest crossover band I know of is called Dread Zeppelin. A Led Zeppelin cover band performing Reggae-style with Elvis as their lead singer. If the thought of such things pegs your excitement meter, you’d have been thrilled at the special guest of the evening: The Jah-hawks, a band that played Jayhawks songs, Dub-step style.
I’m not enough of a Jayhawks fan to recognize anything beyond the hits “Blue” and “Waiting for the Sun” which were wonderfully (re)done. But the others were lost to me – I would have mistaken it for original reggae music. So if you like Dub/Reggae, check these guys out. If you like the Jayhawks, then check these guys out. If you like music in general, these guys are really talented. Check out the video below. (Look for me and Xtna in the lower-right corner, front row.)
Real drummer – check.
Trending the Best New Bands
Xtna was disappointed at the lack of diversity, but I was thrilled that there were more fun, uppity, dance-rock bands than previous years “best new bands” shows. I’ll admit there were plenty of white folks with guitars, and no hip-hop, rap, folk or blues, but what bothered me more was the number of drummers replaced by a fucking mac laptop.
Should be interesting to see which way the trend swings next year…