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Best New Bands of 2012

12 Jan

Tooting our own horn. Strumming our own strings. Banging our own drum. Call it what you will, but last night, First Avenue put up their picks for the “Best New Bands” of 2012 and it was an occasion to celebrate, because yes, there were some damn fine bands on display. Hosted happily by Chase Mathey of Radio K’s Off the Record, David Campbell of the Local Show on 89.3 the Current and Jason Nagel of Minnesota Music on Cities97, the night was uniformly high on energy and talent, with a mix of youth and experience made new, and a satisfying stylistic range. If you didn’t already live here, First Ave should convince you it’s a good idea.

Bomba de Luz kicked off the night, with the youthful quartet moving confidently through their bossa nova-styled rock with a jazz combo technicality that provided a great platform for singer song-writer Lydia Hoglund to let loose her surprisingly expansive and effervescent voice. Bomba de Luz will be opening up for Brian Laidlaw & the Family Trade at Icehouse on January 25th, and Chastity Brown is also on that bill, which should be a peanut-butter-and-chocolate delicious pairing.

The high energy at the start of the night carried on with Strange Names as frontman Liam Benzvi jazzercized through the set, spinning around to the mic with a golden-throated voice, as Francis Jimenez provided some sharper grit via guitar and voice. They closed with the single “Potential Wife'” which has been on heavy rotation, but the first part of the set was less sample-heavy, but no less danceable.

As Nagel noted when Eleganza! took the stage, these guys weren’t really all that “new,” to which frontman Brian Vanderwerf riposted good-naturedly, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Representing bands like Chooglin’, Kruddler and Ol’ Yeller, the sextet shared not only a love of odd punctuation, but experience in how to make great country-fried bar rock jams that brought out the high-kicking heartbreak and PBR that deserved all the cheers it got.

Carrying on with the experience, Eric Pollard’s pseudonymous Actual Wolf showed his outlaw chops with solid block of tunes recalling Neil Young and Nashville-era Dylan. The Retribution Gospel Choir drummer was joined on bass by RGC’s Steve Garrington and drums and guitar by the omnipresent Hanson brothers, a throughline of quality for so many Minnesota acts.

In a return to youth, John Mark Nelson brought up ten other band members on stage with him, including a string quartet, upright bass and xylophone. The young man is a talented composer and coming on the heels of the success of bands like Mumford & Sons, is striking while the iron is hot, but with the mass of bodies onstage and the energy of previous sets, Nelson and his sweetness seemed to get a little lost in the mix. Never fear, though, it won’t be his only chance to impress on the Mainstage, as he’s on the bill for The Current’s Birthday Party next weekend.

Wiping Out Thousands flipped the script entirely on Nelson’s set, with only two members and high-intensity electronic dance music, they started their set with a couple sparse white beams of light above them, glitchy samples and haunting, reverberating vocals, like monks in a cathedral. Alaine Dickman and Taylor Nelson’s attention to detail, minimal banter and continual set kept the crowd moving throughout, and, as they did at their release show at the Entry, kept the crowd wanting more.

And we’ll admit it, we missed The Chalice. Before this is perceived as a BadNraD/Chris Riemenschneider 2011 kerfuffle, we like The Chalice, but we had to see a man about some organic eggs in an underground parking lot. This is, after all, Minneapolis. And The Chalice is on that sold-out Current Birthday Party bill on Saturday, so they’ll be fine and we’ve got eggs. Deal with it.

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