Twin Cities Best New Bands at First Avenue, 1/11/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess
First Avenue's Best New Bands
With the Chalice, Wiping Out Thousands, John Mark Nelson, Actual Wolf, Eleganza!, Strange Names, and Bomba de Luz
Friday, January 11, 2013
First Avenue, Minneapolis

With 50 percent of the 2012 Picked to Click cast on display, plus Eleganza! and Bomba de Luz for good measure, First Avenue's Best New Bands showcase proved to be a solid reminder of what new sounds became quite familiar across the Twin Cities last year.

Seeing each act on the Mainroom stage was an interesting measure of the comfort and poise one can attain in a short performing history -- and the local music buffs who poured in to support friends, family, and their favorite musicians were a pretty generous crowd to play to. Of course, not all best new bands are created equal, and that was part of the night's allure.

See Also:
Slideshow: First Avenue's Best New Bands 2013

Photo by Erik Hess
It's astounding to believe that the first four musicians stepping onto the mainroom stage were just high schoolers. Bomba de Luz has already honed in on plenty of skills that take many musicians years to learn. Lead singer Lydia Liza Hoglund has a powerful voice well beyond her years. While many songs began with soothing, open-voiced guitar they quickly escalated to an explosive, heavy-strummed block of sound. It is clear that these tunes could also stand by themselves with just an acoustic guitar and vocals, but the band's dynamic interludes really set up the feel-good, jam-rock sound that makes Bomba de Luz. 

Photo by Erik Hess
Strange Names began their set with a deep, bouncing bass line which resonated through audience member's bodies. The thunderous clap of the drums set in as an electro synth snaked its way into place. For having such a tightly knit groove, Strange Names had a very open and free sound. The beat moved forward, yet the general vibe was very laid-back and sexy. Francis Jimenez added a modern garage guitar flavor, which made the music more bright and crunchy. Surrounding girls -- a few up to the challenge of becoming a "Potential Wife," perhaps -- squealed as Liam Benzvi charismatically maneuvered a classic ribbon microphone, while still being unafraid to throw himself into the music at the end.
Photo by Erik Hess
It would be wrong to just call Eleganza! a rock band, when their music encompasses so much more. While bright Beatles-esque chords stabbed through the opening song, frontman Brian Vanderwerf's wielded a mean acoustic guitar, giving the band a bit of a gritty sound. A few songs channel Chuck Berry-style rock 'n' roll, while others expose their country roots. Many a classic country riff was had from that mustard-colored Telecaster. Despite the genre mixing, Vanderwerf's voice carries comfortably over every song, giving Eleganza! a sound apart from the other bands. 
Photo by Erik Hess
Backed by the always dapper Hansen brothers, Actual Wolf strutted onto the stage sporting his trademark red specs, and a comfort with the crowd that wasn't always apparent in the other groups' performances. His music had a feel reminiscent of a cross-country road trip soundtrack. The acoustic and electric guitar blended to give off a bit of a Dylan quality while a rolling, rambling bassline holds it all together. There are plenty of alt-country signifiers tucked into Eric Pollard's own material, but he sure knew how to lean into Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere." Powerful stuff.

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