Winter Ball 2019: Bad Bad Hats And Co. Rocked Out At First Avenue


I was nervous this past Saturday night. Having never been to a ball before, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I fall in love? Would I meet my princess after all these years of watching romantic comedies and Disney movies that have promised me such? I went for a jog, dressed up in my finest casual garb, and hit the streets to First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis.

When I got to the show, Last Import was just taking stage. Off the bat, Drummer Jane Halldorson managed to create a pulse for the entire club as my heart rate became harmonized with the pounding of her fantastic drumming. Bassist Grace Baldwin and Emily Bjorke were positioned in front making a triangle formation – a look I haven’t seen since the old-school Blink 182 stage set up when it was Mark, Tom, and Travis. The trio absolutely dominated the stage that night and you could tell they were all having a blast while doing it. While they present a very upbeat and punkish, almost blitzkrieg-bop sound (dare I compare them to the Ramones?) – what blew me out of the water was how well they blended vocals on stage. Their singing was spectacular even with such an upbeat and kick-*ss style. At the end of the day, I need to emphasize how fun and stimulating this group is – if you’re looking to break a personal record at the gym or are trying to dance your face off after some tequila shots at the bar, turn them on. 

Soon after Last Import left stage, we were joined by Ratboys. First things first here – the “duo” I read about when writing my preview for this show is in fact, officially, a group of four. Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan were joined by drummer Marcus Nuccio and bassist Sean Neumann. My favorite part about this group’s performance was how in sync they were. They offered a lighter vibe than Last Import – if you are looking for almost a nostalgic, road trip music vibe I would point you towards Ratboys. I’d compare them almost to a more gentle sounding Young the Giant; I feel any comparison is wrong here, though, as they are truly a unique band with a unique sound. Their riffs are catchy, and it was truly hard not to dance along while they jammed out as a group of friends on stage. They were the most harmonized group I have seen perform yet, and their music was dense in skill and quality. 

Two acts in at my first ball and I was still without true love – I felt like my chances were defeated. I kept looking, though. I grabbed a drink from the bar and relocated myself to the main area of the show – my chances surely had to improve, I thought, as Bad Bad Hats came to stage. 

Bad Bad Hats came out wearing suit coats – they meant business. After a song or two – a voice rang out “It’s us! Bad Bad Hats!”  So it began. Throughout the course of the night, main hits like “Things We Never Say” were harped on for us to witness live, and for people like myself, it was the first time to have such an experience. What really stole the show, though, was the personality of the band and specifically lead singer, Kerry Alexander. The audience was greatly amused by the playful, innocent humor of Alexander. For starters, the song “Joseph” was jokingly dedicated to all the Josephs out there. Beyond that, Kerry told stories about the Buffalo Bills football team and losses of year’s past (her parents are from there) and we even dove into the meaning of Christmas Winter Ball. What IS Winter Ball? I, for one, thought it was like what we saw in the movies – love was MEANT to be in the air, no? Well. Kinda. Alexander dove into it – “What is Winter Ball? It’s family, it’s music…. Andddd it’s 150$ worth of decorations from Target.” I was dead in laughter. This band is so authentic and down to Earth and this just highlighted that. More hits were played and the crowd jammed along all night long. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Bad Bad Hats or seeing them live – I would best summarize their sound to that feeling you have when your cruising down a ski slope, or coasting across a lake in the summer on a boat. Upbeat, fun, and smooth sailing. They were a blast. 

The performances were spectacular, and I invite any and all to make sure they mark down “Winter Ball” on their calendars for next year if it comes around again. As for the love story I was looking for? Well, it turned out that romance was not on the setlist that night. I’m still without a date to my corporate holiday party coming up, but I did find out that First Avenue has a vending machine with Cheetos in it – so, a TYPE of love was in the air, even if it wasn’t the love I was looking for.