There was a mini-music festival in downtown Minneapolis on Friday night. Were you there? Okay, it wasn’t quite billed as a music festival, but if you had your timing right, you could see eleven amazing local acts within just a few hours. Thankfully, my timing is impeccable as I have been training for nights like that for decades, and it made for such an exhilarating night full of amazing music. I hit both First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2023 show in the legendary First Avenue main room and The Silent Treatment’s ‘Suplex in 10!’ album release show just feet away at the more intimate 7th Street Entry. Since it was a huge night of music, I’m not going to try to combine the two shows into one post, so let’s chat about First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2023 first.
Okay, let’s call out the elephant in the room. Although First Avenue has dubbed the seven acts that performed the “best new bands of 2023”, I feel like that’s up for debate. I mean, that’s obvious, right? As lovely as they are, the booking team at First Avenue obviously can’t book everyone’s favorite act of 2023 in one night. The list would be too long as everyone likes different things. That said, they did a brilliant job finding contrasting vibes and genres regarding the seven bands they narrowed the night down to.
A case in point was the opening act, Clare Doyle. Although I wouldn’t call Minneapolis a country hot spot, I’m starting to wonder if there is a killer country scene here that I have just been blind to after hearing Clare open up the night. Her voice was stunning. There’s no other way to put it. Although it was early, and I knew I had a long night ahead of me, something about Clare’s performance with her amazing backing band had me feeling like I was already watching the cream of the crop. Sure, country music isn’t my thing. I think you all knew that, but Clare is one of those amazing humans that, genre aside, I would love to see again.
Second to take the stage. was She’s Green. She’s Green is a shoegaze band with a delicate approach to their music. Their sound was full and atmospheric without being overly oppressive or aggressive. Although everything was very slow and steady regarding their set, their sound filled the room in a way that I hadn’t heard a band do in years. Again, like Clare, She’s Green’s music wasn’t quite up my alley, but their performance impressed me, and I was thrilled to have already seen two completely different acts in one night.
Barlow was one of the bands on the bill that I knew nothing about, but they instantly hooked me. They had a classic R&B vibe about them, but the vocals really hooked me. Don’t get me wrong, the two amazing musicians on either side of Barlow killed it, but Barlow’s silky, smooth voice shook me. It was one of those larger-than-life kinds of voices that I was instantly captivated by. Being an R&B-styled band means this group wasn’t quite on my radar, but after their set on Friday, I will make it my mission to see them again at some point this year.
It was no surprise that Laamar was one of the bands on this epic line-up. Laamar has been buzzing, to say the least, and they are making some moves within the local scene. Some may not understand all the hype, and, full transparency, I was included in that group until Friday night. They played a flawless set full of music that calms your soul while breathing life into you after a hard work week. Laamar, like everyone else who graced both stages at the iconic First Avenue venue, is a band to keep your eyes on as they continue to make moves and put Minneapolis on the map.
Ber, the next act to take the stage, is another super buzzing name up here in Minneapolis, but Friday night was my first introduction to her. Again, all the bands that performed as part of First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2023 were amazing and have something special, but Ber seems to have “it”. Her pop songs were sung with such a sense of passion and fire but, at the same time, didn’t lack beauty. She has all of the makings of the next pop star, and when that happens, she will have the entire city of Minneapolis behind her.
I was super excited to see REIKI’s name on the line-up for Friday. I just saw REIKI when he opened up for midwxst in November. It was love at first note when it came to that show, so I was excited to see him on such a stacked line-up. What I loved about REIKI the first time I saw him was the journey through R&B, punk, rage, and everything else that he took the audience through. I was worried that, with such a short set, he wouldn’t take the audience on Friday night on that journey. Man, was I wrong. In true REIKI fashion, the set started with an emphasis on R&B before moving into something extreme and intense that I can only compare to Bob Vylan. Although it was probably a shock to some people in the audience. I thought it was definitely one of the best and most energetic sets of the night.
The final act to take the First Avenue main stage was L.A. Buckner & BiG HOMiE. Although the final act of the night and playing to a crowd that was quickly dwindling, this group did not hold back and ended up being one of my favorites. Their avant-funk sound seemed to fill every hole left by someone who couldn’t make it to the end of the night (admittedly, it was late as this final band took the stage at 11:30). Their sound was huge and brought such a sense of life to the atmosphere of the club. L.A. Buckner’s drumming was insane but, really, the entire band was so tight and solid. It was another shift in genre as far as the night was concerned, but it was also the perfect way to cap off a stunning event.
Sure, we can sit here and complain that maybe the seven bands that First Avenue picked for this event weren’t really “the Best New Bands of 2023,” but the fact is, that would be an impossible list to come up with. Every band that took the stage deserved to be there, but, more importantly, they seemed humbled to be there. Playing on such an iconic stage as part of a fully local show in front of a packed audience– yeah, Friday night was pretty cool.
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