The Best New Bands showcase presented every winter by First Avenue and Radio K is a must-see for many local music fans: a one-stop shop for the latest and greatest in Twin Cities music, with seven bands for seven dollars. This year’s lineup was typically strong, and diverse enough that just about everyone in attendance loved some acts and hated others.
Multitalented musician Grant Cutler, whose widely-beloved band Lookbook broke up last year, has kept his longtime fans and started winning new ones with his latest outfit, which goes by the name of Grant Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords. The crowd (including me) was still filing in when Cutler played, but those present were held rapt by the Gorgeous Lords’ moody blues. (They don’t actually play blues—I just wanted to use that term.)
I have to disclose a bias here: I’m friends with Jake BadNraD and his signature backup dancers, with most of whom I appear regularly on Freaky Deeky. So I stood at the rail and pumped my fist like the trufan I am. Woot!
After BadNraD’s synthpop, Phantom Tails greatly pleased those who were ready for some anthemic, guitar-driven rock.
Though I’ve hugely enjoyed their EPs, this was the first time I saw BNLX live; the husband-and-wife duo of Ed and Ashley Ackerson rocked so hard that they might drive Mates of State into counseling, throwing in their crunching cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” for good measure.
There was grumbling in the Twittersphere when it was announced that Hastings 3000 would appear via Skype from Hawaii, where he’s on tour. The Skyped ukulele performance went just as poorly as the grumblers feared it would, but then the Mainroom screen rose to reveal a projection of Hastings 3000 that flickered eerily in the thick smoke generated by machines held by gas-masked assistants. “I loved the hologram of H3K,” Cyn Collins later wrote to me. “I have never seen someone do a 3D ghost video performance like that. He called me after to ask how it went. I told him the audience was surprised, transfixed, confused, talking excitedly about it and that it looked very cool.”
This wasn’t the first rodeo for the members of Pink Mink, who have been members of Best New Bands multiple previous times—but as Pink Mink they’re on their way to trump all those previous efforts, with a classic post-post-punk sound that just gets stronger and stronger.
When the event organizers promised “surprise guests,” they were not kidding. The “Jahhawks” turned out to be an all-star ensemble fronted by Zach Coulter of Solid Gold and Gayngs; they played exclusively Jayhawks covers, in dub style (a variety of reggae). I loved the weirdness of the whole concept—Coulter told the Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider that before founding the Jahhawks, he knew only one Jayhawks song. When I debut my Lipps, Inc. cover band next year, I hope we sound half as good.
This afternoon Twitter has exploded with debate over Chris Riemenschneider’s decision to grab dinner instead of watching BadNraD, because “I knew they weren’t my thing.” I’ve followed the conversation uneasily, since—dear reader, I throw myself at your mercy!—I left before the Goondas’ set, with the intention of eating a late-night breakfast. While Carl Atiya Swanson was tweeting, “And then there was the dirty drooling, drinking spitting, slurring, smoking, roaring, ragged saving grace of the Goondas,” I was sitting in a cab in front of the closed Uptown Diner.
Maybe it was those shots of Karkov talking, but I swear the burly, bearded cabbie—who’d just concluded a disquisition on outlaw motorcycle clubs, and was about to get into the dirty details of the Quebec Biker War—turned to me, shook his head, and said, “You should have stayed for the goddamn Goondas. Step up your game, Gabler.” I will. I promise I will.