Best New Bands of 2013 at First Avenue, 1/30/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess
Black Diet at First Avenue's Best New Bands of 2013
Best New Bands of 2013
Frankie Teardrop, GRRRL PRTY, Allan Kingdom, BBGUN, Black Diet, Fury Things, and Southwire
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's difficult enough to assemble seven artists for any show, let alone seven good artists. First Avenue's yearly Best New Bands concert managed to do so without any artistic repetition. These acts with varying amounts of newness still clinging to them provided a cross-section of the Twin Cities (and Duluth) scene at the moment. Hip hop, soul, gospel, post-punk, and alt-Americana could coexist under the banner of driven live performance, and for a crowd that was hungry for it all.

See Also: Slideshow: Best New Bands of 2013 at First Avenue, 1/30/14

Starting with Southwire, our representatives from the 218, the night proved that bringing personality to the stage was just as important as the songs. The group's self-titled debut intermingles Jerree Small's folk-spiced gospel voice and Ben Larson's rich low range impressively, but to see their faces grinding out the notes and feeling of the work is yet another pleasure. The despondent beauty of "Gone Astray" and the uplifting majesty of "Brother" showed mastery on both emotional poles of their all-too-brief set.
Photo by Reed Fischer
Photo by Erik Hess
The scruffy power trio of Fury Things ramped up the distortion to move things along, and filled in the gaps of their set with even more feedback. With Pixies-like dedication to pop hooks, and the raw, exclamatory quality of Superchunk's best, the band has hatched upon an amalgam of past alt-rock victories that incorporates enough of their own swagger and passion to keep it interesting in the present. Guitarist and lead vocalist Kyle Werstein channeled high energy into "Hard to Breathe," while bassist Devon Bryant and drummer Andrew Carson just beat the living snot out of their respective instruments. As newer songs with even more head-nodding surges ran past, the set became the neck workout of the night.

Anyone with upcoming nuptials to plan should get Black Diet on their shortlist immediately. Sure, "wedding band" isn't the sexiest way to describe a really tight rock 'n' soul act, but something as upbeat and steeped in the classic Stax sound as this group is hard to come by -- especially when you want elegance injected in some dance groves. Plus, they did a blistering cover of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" -- with a guest violinist -- that would've left everyone happy had the night ended suddenly right then. Melisma-prone lead singer Jonathan Tolliver knew how to move both his body and his voice in tantalizing ways that built on-stage chemistry backing vocalist Mugsy, and roused the rest of his band to action. Bassist Garrison Dakota Grouse was ready with enough over-the-top heroics and posturing to play to the back row.
Photos by Erik Hess
With Cloud Cult's Sarah Elhardt-Perbix and Shannon Frid-Rubin adding string and keyboard touches to the alt-country mix, BBGUN kept full-stage momentum rolling. On "Everybody Smokes," singer-guitarists Al Church and Neal Perbix harmonized and rocked like the veterans of local stages that they are. Neil Young and Big Star influences peeked out here and there, and Church was keen on starting chants among a now-eager room of participants. Even during the more melancholy songs, the focused labor of drummer Jeremy Hanson and bassist Jesse Schuster linked to the heart rhythms of the crowd.

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