For almost twenty years, First Avenue has made a tradition of highlighting the most promising emerging acts in town with their Best New Bands showcase.
Best New Bands showcase at First Avenue, 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis. Friday, January 18, 7 p.m. Ages 18+. For information and tickets ($7), see First Avenue’s Web site.
According to Sonia Grover, club booker at First Avenue, bands are chosen based on a loose voting system that asks “local media, bands, and people at other clubs in town” for their input. In the beginning, the Best New Bands extravaganza would take place in the 7th Street Entry over three nights, and it wasn’t until 2002 that the event was consolidated into one evening in the main room. This year’s event, which takes place Friday night, is the first to occupy a coveted weekend slot at First Avenue.
As the annual event continues to grow in popularity, First Avenue has partnered up with Radio K to promote the showcase and further emphasize the importance of supporting local music. “It can be difficult for a local band to establish itself as a major player in the Minnesota local music scene,” explains recently-departed Radio K marketing director Anna K. Olson. “The event is good for the bands, and good for potential fans who may not have the time to keep up with local music but who can come to this showcase event and discover new local artists.”
Here’s a quick look at who is playing this year’s Best New Bands showcase:
A Night in the Box and Black Audience are two bands who seem to have been transported directly from the early 1900s. The former specializes in early bluegrass and speak-singing (picture Jack White guest starring on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), while the latter accentuates the powerhouse vocals of lead singer Jayanthi Kyle by stripping down their instrumentation to old-timey accessories like washboards, banjos and spoons.
It’s hard to tell if anyone would know about Gay Witch Abortion if it weren’t for their attention-grabbing name, but the band has earned their keep on the local scene by playing blaringly-loud, breakneck punk music.
In another act of time travel, both Gospel Gossip and Mouthful of Bees recall the days of lo-fi basement recordings and post-punk bedroom confessionals. Mouthful of Bees have earned myriad critical acclaim locally for their breakout album The End, while Gospel Gossip is just picking up steam with their release Sing Into My Mouth—which sounds like it might have been released circa 1980.
Ghana-born rapper M.anifest is sure to be a highlight of the evening. His unique, powerful strain of African-based hip-hop combines the clever and positive lyricism of rappers like Talib Kweli and Brother Ali with intricately woven beats and samples. While it seems local hip-hop has been dominated lately by all things Rhymesayers and Doomtree related, it seems M.anifest has arrived to smash all of our preconceptions about rappers from Minnesota. And Ghana.
East Coast transplants To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie aren’t necessarily new (last year’s The Patron was actually their second release), but having moved to Minnesota in 2007, they are certainly new to us. An electronic boy/girl duo, TKAPB create expansive music that is as dreamy as it is droney.
Andrea Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance music critic and co-founder of online music site Reveille Magazine.