MUSIC | Christmas with Yer Cronies

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With that ubiquitous Christian celebration looming on the horizon, the holiday fever pitch has officially peaked. Thus, tis the season for Christmas specials, Christmas shopping, and—most importantly—Christmas-themed rock shows. To keep my holiday cheer at a relatively stable equilibrium I chose to only attend one such show this year. I think I got the best one: “A Crony Christmas” at the 7th Street Entry, sponsored by newly minted local faves Yer Cronies. There was basically only one rule for the evening: every band had to perform a Christmas song. While the rule maybe should have been that every band had to do a different Christmas cover song (The Floorbirds and A Night in the Box both chose to cover Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “Christmas Time will Soon Be Over”) it still made for some interesting setlists.

As usual the Floorbirds put on a lovely lo-fi set, including a Mississippi John Hurt cover as well as the aforementioned Christmas song. The duo of Daniel and Alyssa consistently amaze me with the unblemished beauty of their Depression-era-sounding folk songs. The elegance of their music is such that in the tune “Moonshiner,” even death by alcoholism somehow seems absolutely gorgeous. While their set was the most laid back, the Floorbirds still managed to be one of the most engaging groups of the evening. They also announced that in the new year, the band will be adding two new members, a prospect that sounds exciting.

Next up were a relatively new band on the local scene: Joey Ryan and the Inks. The five-piece took the stage in Roy Orbison shades and with a confident swagger that I found surprising in a band that seems so fresh out of the gate. Ryan and his crew shook the shack with boundless energy and unabashed pop sweetness that brought to mind the current “twee” sound as well as the doo-wop acts of the 1950s. I am already ready to predict that the The Inks will be in the running for First Avenue’s 2009 Best New Bands showcase.

A Night in the Box was also on the bill, and turned the Entry’s dance floor into a blues-stompin’ hootenanny (into which band members occasionally leapt to participate). I have seen these guys play a number of times over the past two years and they have gone from being one of the Twin Cities’ best live shows to possibly one of the country’s. Guitarists Travis Hetman and Clayton Hagen pack as much energy into their performances as I have ever seen from a band, and the pair build off of one another extremely well. Though generally a little more reserved, violinist Kailyn Spencer and drummer Alex Dalton also rocked out—Spencer even tried out one of Hetman’s patented boot kicks.

Last to take the stage were Yer Cronies: the evening’s hosts and, by many accounts, one of the best new local bands of 2008. The Cronies played musical chairs with their instruments, with at some point or another pretty much all four of them playing just about everything. Their Band-of-Horses-style alt country and electronic-influenced pop made for a terrific closer; the band’s obvious comradeship on stage was infectious and in keeping with the holiday tradition. While Christmas was still be a few days away, the spirit was very much alive at the Entry that night. Thanks to these bands for a terrific Christmas party, and I wish them all much-deserved success in the new year.

Jon Behm is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.