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Following an especially memorable 2013 edition (in early 2014), First Avenue announced another impressive and certainly eclectic lineup for their Best New Bands of 2014 showcase, scheduled as always soon after the start of the new year on Jan. 17. That’s a Saturday night, which usually guarantees the newbies a large crowd compared to a weeknight. Click here for tickets and more info.
First Ave staff polls local music insiders and makes their own picks to compile the lineup each year, which also comes down to the performers' availability and willingness to play (which explains the absence of a any more-obvious newcomers of 2014).
Here’s a quick rundown of who’s playing:
PaviElle French: Crossover poet, dancer, actor and neo-soul/R&B singer with an impressive eight-man band that includes members of Sonny Knight’s Lakers. Following in Lizzo’s shoes, she’s also booked to play one of the Current’s 10th anniversary parties the following weekend. Read our recent profile of French.
Tiny Deaths: Lizzo’s former bandmate in the Chalice, Claire de Lune, stepped into more of a Beach House/Phantogram-type ambient-rock soundscape on record with Grant Cutler (ex-Lookbook), and then turned it into a band with Votel’s Ben Clark and auxiliary members of Night Moves. Here's our write-up on the record.
Warey: The newest of the “new bands,” this group only just started a monthly Icehouse residency last week but was a shoo-in because of who’s in it: Polica singer Channy Leaneagh, with her former Roma di Luna bandmates Ben Durrant, James Everest and Ryan Lovan.
Zuluzuluu: While he showed hints of Afrobeat, reggae, dub and psychedelic funk influences on his 2012 effort “Cornbread, Pearl & G,” rapper Greg Grease dives full-bore into that hazy sonic territory in this chilled-out, experimental group, also featuring DJ Just Nine, keyboardist Taylor Johnson, and MPC player Trelly Mo.
Suzie: Night Moves co-founder Mark Ritsema steps up to the mic and steps out in glammy, androgynous attire in this new side-project, offering echoes of new wave, Bowie and Solid Gold-style synth-rock.
Sam Cassidy: Fresh off opening Ike Reilly’s Thanksgiving Eve gig at First Ave, this cabinetmaker-by-day folk-rock newcomer shows traces of Father John Misty and local fave Actual Wolf on his newly issued debut, “Debt,” recorded with help from members of the Red Daughters and Jeremy Hanson (Tapes ‘n Tapes) and Rob Skoro (Mason Jennings).
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, 89.3 the Current is staging 10 Days of Random Acts of Musical Kindness in January. Some of these acts are more random than others but most of them are pretty cool and definitely kind.
* The events start Jan. 15 on the low-key with a Coffee Break with the Morning Show, with music by the Ericksons and free doughnuts and coffee. Free.
As for the more exciting events:
* Record shopping at the Electric Fetus with three Current DJs on Jan. 16. Free.
* 10-inch record release party for a special anniversary vinyl disc, with live performances by the Suicide Commandos featuring Craig Finn and Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady and L'Assassins on Jan. 17 at the Turf Club. $15.
* Jose James, the Minneapolis native who has been making noise since moving to New York, will be in concert at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester on Jan 17. $24.
* Concert and party featuring Hamilton Leithauser of the Walkmen, at the Turf Club on Jan. 17. $15.
* Concert with Current faves Dan Wilson, Jeremy Messersmith and Caroline Smith at the Bryant Lake Bowl on Jan. 18. Tickets only by winning on the radio.
* Mary Lucia’s Rock and Roll Radio Hour goes live with Little Man, Tropical Depression and —drum roll, please — Billy Idol at the Turf Club on Jan. 19. $25.
* A screening of Prince’s “Purple Rain” with live music by Heiruspecs featuring guest vocalists Maurice Jacox, Ashley Dubose, Tickle Torture, and a “special guest” at the Fitzgerald Theater on Jan. 20. $15.
* Two-day anniversary concert and live broadcast featuring Cold War Kids, Dead Man Winter, Hippo Campus and Allan Kingdom on Jan. 23, $20, and Atmosphere, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, The Trashmen and PaviElle at First Avenue on Jan. 24. $25
Tickets for all ticketed events go on sale this week: noon Thursday for MPR members and noon Friday for others. For more information, go to thecurrent.org/ten
To no one’s surprise, Green Day made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility.
Also elected was frequent nominee Lou Reed, who died in October 2013 and was a sentimental favorite even though he's already a Rock Hall of Famer as leader of the Velvet Underground.
Other members of this year's class:
-- Blues-rock guitar heroes Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.
-- Punk champion Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
-- Masterful ‘70s soul man Bill Withers.
-- 1960s blues favorites Paul Butterfield Blues Band, whose keyboardist, Mark Naftalin, grew up in Minneapolis, where his father, Art, was the mayor.
Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong also has a Twin Cities tie-in: His wife, Adrienne, is from New Brighton and the couple has a second home in the Twin Cities. Last summer, he played guitar on a few dates with the Replacements (who, ironically, didn't make the Hall of Fame ballot this year despite their much-heralded reunion).
The 30th annual induction ceremonies will be held April 18 in Cleveland.
The aforementioned inductees were voted in by music industry figures, critics and previous Rock Hall inductees.
A Hall of Fame committee also voted to induct 1950s-60s R&B group the 5 Royales as an early influence, and to give Ringo Starr an “Award of Musical Excellence” (he was previously inducted as a member of the Beatles).
At this particular end-of-year juncture, just a regular solo set by either Haley Bonar or Gary Louris would be noteworthy. Bonar spent a big chunk of 2014 on tour with a fully electrified band supporting her NPR-buoyed album “Last War.” Louris hit the road again over the summer with the newer version of his old band the Jayhawks to promote reissues of their three 1997-2003 albums.
It was nice to witness both tunesmiths strip things back down again. However, Thursday’s pairing of the two Twin Cities singer/songwriters at the Cedar Cultural Center brought them both down (or up?) to a new level of rawness. Each had to perform three of the other one’s songs, as is the m.o. of the Cedar’s Song Exchange series.
“It’s one thing to play Gary Louris’ tunes in your room,” Bonar said during her opening set. “It’s another to play them in front of Gary Louris.”
She did just fine. In fact, Louris was probably only exaggerating a bit when he declared her cover of the Jayhawks’ “Blue” “the best version I’ve ever heard.” She played it on the Cedar’s old, beat-up yet beautiful-sounding stand-up piano. That's also how she performed her own song “From a Cage,” one of several “Last War” tunes that took on new life unplugged from the highly produced recorded versions (also including the title track and “No Sensitive Man”).
After “Blue,” Bonar returned to acoustic guitar for a perfectly desperate and fragile-sounding rendition of “Big Star” – the Jayhawks’ “Big Star,” not her own song of the same name. Louris himself came out and helped her with his “She Only Calls Me on Sunday.”
Louris’ set was loose and sometimes discombobulated, filled with a handful of new tunes that he plans to record soon (the L.A.-folk-sounding “Useless Creatures” was tops), a few favorites (“Save It for a Rainy Day,” “True Blue”) and a couple lesser-played gems (“Everybody Knows,” “You Look So Young”). He meandered his way through a solo take on Bonar’s “Anyway Rattlesnake” but fared better -- with her help – in “Kid October” and, you guessed it, her own “Big Star.”
The pair actually matched up best in the encore, when they backed each other up on their own songs, “Kill the Fun” and “Tailspin.” They finished on a playful note with one of the most infamously awkward duets of all time, the Frank and Nancy Sinatra love song “Something Stupid,” a smart choice to end a wisely curated songwriters showcase.
The Song Exchange series continues tonight at the Cedar with Astronautalis and Mark Mallman. I seriously hope those two pull off a love-song duet, too.
Is he a crooner or just a croaky voiced geezer? Those questions will be answered when Bob Dylan releases what might be the most unusual album in a long career of surprises—a collection of songs associated with Frank Sinatra.
Dylan’s “Shadows in the Night,” featuring covers of 10 tunes including “Autumn Leaves” and “What’ll I Do,” will be released Feb. 3. Even though he’s considered one of the greatest songwriters in American popular music, he has released albums of cover songs, most recently 1993’s folk-music collection, “World Gone Wrong.”
But never before has focused an album on the songs associated with one artist.
"It was a real privilege to make this album," Dylan said in a statement. "I've wanted to do something like this for a long time but was never brave enough to approach 30-piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a five-piece band. That's the key to all these performances.
"We knew these songs extremely well. It was all done live. Maybe one or two takes. No overdubbing. No vocal booths. No headphones. No separate tracking, and, for the most part, mixed as it was recorded. I don't see myself as covering these songs in any way. They've been covered enough. Buried, as a matter a fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day."
On tour recently, including at his three Minneapolis concerts at the Orpheum in November, Dylan closed the evening with “Stay with Me,” which will be on the Sinatra album. Frankly, his crooning on this ballad was one of the night’s highlights, and his often ravaged voice sounded surprisingly musical.
He also posted another song, "Full Moon and Empty Arms,” on his website last spring along with the cover of the album “Shadows in the Night” but no explanation.
The explanation finally came Tuesday from Columbia Records, which will release the new album. The announcement said there are no strings or background vocals on the recording. Dylan produced the project under his pseudonym, Jack Frost.
Here are the songs on the album:
1. "I'm a Fool to Want You"
2. "The Night We Called It a Day"
3. "Stay With Me"
4. "Autumn Leaves"
5. "Why Try to Change Me Now"
6. "Some Enchanted Evening"
7. "Full Moon and Empty Arms"
8. "Where Are You?
9. "What'll I Do"
10. "That Lucky Old Sun"
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