MUSIC | Best New Bands of 2011 at First Avenue: A local mix


Greetings Daily Planet readers, I am Lindsay LaBarre. I’m a sixteen-year-old concert blogger/music fan and I hail from the beautiful habitat that is suburbia. I am the creator and sole member of a concert blog entitled My Mom Is My Concert Buddy. If you know anything about me from my blog, you know that I’m always glued to the barrier and always insanely early. But this time I got to last last Wednesday night’s Best New Bands show at First Avenue after the doors opened and I sat in the balcony. It was actually pretty nice though. Up there, it’s like a whole new world (a dazzling place I never knew … ). It’s an extremely advantageous spot for creeping on people, and I actually got to talk to my mom during the show for once. I’m not converted to be a balcony frequenter, but I think I’ll hang out there a bit more often. Plus, the newly-implemented-for-this-show members area was pretty fab.

The night offered a wide array of music genres and bands, and I was excited to review such a diverse show. Fire In The Northern Firs started out the set gathering a relatively small audience, but one which included Channy Caselle of Poliça and Gayngs fame. This five-piece band is self described as a “shoegaze / psychedelic / discokraut” band. Yep, okay. Sure. The first tune they played was a loop of a rhythm with a bouncy chorus breakout. Not really being a fan of repetition, I didn’t find a whole lot of greatness in their songs in general, but they definitely had a solid beat going. As always, the vocals were difficult to distinguish from the guitars but from what I could tell, Carin Barno was not a specifically skilled singer. Not that that’s necessarily bad. We’re thinking more Karen O as opposed to Regina Spektor. I think that Fire In The Northern Firs definitely have potential, but they need time to grow and mature their sound. They didn’t look entirely comfortable on stage yet, but I can see how it would be pretty intimidating to be a small local band and play First Avenue’s Mainroom.        

Sexcat was the next band up on the stage. From what I’d heard of them before this concert, I thought that they were going to be much more provocative. described them as a female Har Mar Superstar, but they weren’t quite as scantily clad as Mr. Tillmann. In fact, Hannah von der Hoff had on a whole vinyl-pant-and-leather-jacket combo and Megan Charles was wearing a black strapless romper and tights. Probably not the best choice for Megan though, considering she spent the rest of the show tugging her top up and keeping her arms clamped on her sides… Sexcat was overall a club band. They—like FITNS—chose to loop rhythms to compose their songs. Each song kept up a rock/dance beat, which was fronted by Ke$ha-styled talk-rapping from Megan and some really good vocals from Hannah. Hannah had the most stage presence of the five band members, and knew how to get the crowd energized and excited. The lyrics weren’t poetic (unless there is some obscure meaning behind “ALCOHOL” and “SMOKING” and “RAISE YOUR CUP” that I just don’t know because I’m not hipster enough), but I wouldn’t blame them for it. They’re—all in all—a dance band, and in my opinion, better suited for a club than a theater. The last song they played jumped into a more garage rock with a pop edge kind of song. Think The Kills, but much more streamlined and coated with a shiny pink veneer. This guitar-led song excited me at first and was easily my favorite of their set, but just went on for too long with the same repetitions. All in all, Sexcat definitely wasn’t bad but they weren’t my favorite. I think they’ll be popular in the smaller venue and club scenes. 

When Dream Crusher filed on stage, I didn’t really know what to make of it. The reasonably sized First Ave stage was crowded with two drummers, three keyboardists, three guitar players, one bassist, and one singer (to start). This local-music supergroup (including members of Me And My Arrow, St. Villain, Hardcore Crayons, Yer Cronies, Nyteowl, and Usonia) created a groovy synth kind of landscape layered with auto-tuned vocals in the style of Bon Iver. I hate comparing bands to other bands but I think it really helps people (and me) put the whole sound into perspective. And on that note, Dream Crusher was basically a toned-down all-boy Poliça, at least at first. A little bit into the show, a lady singer and a guy rapper came on stage to make the grand total of performers 12. The lady singer had a really nice voice, but it was drowned out in all the noise. (I’m sorry for all the vague references, but there were a hella lot of people in this band and it’s not clearly stated who is who). Well hey, they’re neck and neck with Typhoon. The mellow synth grooves weren’t especially well crafted, but I was impressed with the drumming talent. The two drummers on stage both had a lot of energy and speed to their styles. Unfortunately 12-piece bands can’t be solely drum-led. I appreciated the effort, but I suspect that this band isn’t going far beyond local. I don’t think that’s the aim anyway, it struck me as a fun project for musician friends.

Haley Bonar’s alt-rock side project was the up next on the bill, and Haley assumed the role of “Gramma” in Gramma’s Boyfriend. She shuffled out on stage wearing a large black Casper t-shirt and denim pregnancy pants, which were generously stuffed with some kind of pillow-like material. I don’t know if the crowd didn’t get it or they just couldn’t tell, but nobody on the dance floor was laughing quite as much as Mom and I were. She hammed it up by pulling some specifically booty-bumpin’ moves and chicken dances and wheezing out thank-yous between songs. On the music side, Gramma’s Boyfriend played a wide variety of rock songs. They had a lilting 60s beat, short punk bursts, a song echoing classic rock sounds, and a jumpy 80s pop song. I got bored with their show here and there, but it was overall really good. Their songs were weaved with some tasty bass lines and guitar riffs, and they knew how to keep the energy going. I’m going to plead to First Ave and say please please turn the vocals up. They’re never high enough, and I don’t get to fully enjoy the range of voices. Haley Bonar sounded lovely from what I could hear though. This was a side-project gone right, in my opinion and I hope to be hearing more of them in the future.

The next and most hyped band of the show was Night Moves. Recently gracing the cover of, signed to a label, and proclaimed “the sexiest band ever” by Chase Mathey of Radio K, so the bar was set pretty high for the night. They let me down though, continuing through the set with a slow and bouncy funk beat. John Pelant’s voice was a kind of Trevor Powers and Peter Pisano hybrid and he was decked out in a flowy blouse tucked into high-wasted pants. My mom said they basically were an early 70s band. I’ll trust her judgment. In a weird twist though, the crowd seemed way more into them than they were for Gramma’s Boyfriend. Night Moves themselves didn’t really seem that into the show. Expectations weren’t met, but they had a solid beat with indie drifts. They have success potential, but they’ll have to re-evaluate their style.

Oh man, oh man oh man. What happens when two pieces get together to rock and rock hard? Bloodnstuff. That’s what. This band consists of Ed Holmberg and Dylan Gouert who have been playing together for 10 years but started Bloodnstuff only 2 years ago. The first song started the show with a burst of pure rock. My mind usually shrinks back from the term “rock” standing alone. I’ve seen many “rock bands” who just jam and drone and repeat so many themes of the rock bands before them, but Bloodnstuff are pure rock. This band created shattering drum beats and hard-hitting guitar riffs that seem impossible coming from a two-piece. Ed Holmberg kind of had a similar vocal style that of Andrew Stockdale’s, which is fitting of the darker twist that Bloodnstuff have. The show was filled with interesting riffs that were equally matched in drumming and vocal skills. Their sound blends together in such a way that you don’t feel like one sound was dominating the other. So, when I see really good bands, I just kind of space out into a music trance. Because of this, I don’t have much more to say about them except to go check them out and help them on Kickstarter, which is a website I first heard about that night. It’s a site that helps promote projects like movies and band start up, and Bloodnstuff have a page where you can donate to help them release their first album. They’ve already reached their goal, but I’m sure every dollar helps. Plus, if you give enough money they’ll play a personal show for you. How cool would that be??

Ah, onto the last show of the night. He tweeted and deleted that he was “the only show of the night that was representing” (approximate quote). It was the local rapper MaLLy accompanied by local Get Cryphy regular, Jimmy 2 Times. The crowd mostly cleared out after Bloodnstuff, but the floor was about half filled with people when he started. I’m going to go ahead and tell you that rap is not really my favorite genre, but I’m also going to tell you that I know how to appreciate a good beat and a skilled and poetic rapper. My biggest annoyance with this show was that I couldn’t hear his rapping. The vocals are never ever ever ever loud enough for any band, and it’s especially annoying to not be able to hear a rapper’s vocals. Apparently from what people say, he enunciates really well and has a great rapping style but that was missed in this First Ave show. From what I could hear of his lyrics, the themes didn’t seem to be too original. Yes, I’m sure most people who rap about hard lives and sex and alcohol and fame have all experienced these things, but I don’t like hearing about them so blatantly and so often. Jimmy 2 Times beat was a traditional hip-hop beat with a looping bass beat and rhythm. It didn’t really excite me too much. There was one song that had a really nice line between rap verses, but it wasn’t developed and it didn’t last long enough.

All in all it was a mixed night, but I have fun seeing the diversity of Minneapolis’ local music scene.

Fire in the Northern Firs



Dream Crusher

Gramma’s Boyfriend

Night Moves



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