1. The Stnnng (36 points) The inside of their CD case includes a note from First Avenue staff asking that they not destroy any of the equipment. Fans without earplugs get the real damage, though. Booming, wild, bleeding punk like the old Am/Rep and Touch & Go bands used to play. Next gig: Jan. 20 at Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
2. Melodious Owl (34 points) This trio of Hopkins teens isn't afraid to try on the showmanship that many other local bands shun. They also are inventive, doing more with one sax, one guitar, synthesizers and drum machine than many do with a full band. Next gig: 6 & 10 p.m. Saturday, 7th Street Entry.
3. Doomtree (30 points) This hip-hop collective, including P.O.S., Sims, Dessa, Cecil Otter, DJ Turbo Nemesis and Mike Mictlan, comes off like a family onstage.
4. Brother and Sister (28 points) A sibling duo (no, really) that is part White Stripes, part Whitesnake and part white noise. Alas, their last show is Jan. 7 but they are going out in true style: The gig is at 9 a.m. at an undisclosed location. (Check www.brother-and-sister.com for clues.)
5. (tie) Atmosphere (22 points) Many fans enjoyed the new live band. More seemed to prefer the live debut of Ant on turntables. Either way, Slug had no trouble keeping us interested.
Fort Wilson Riot (22 points) Another fun and somewhat silly act, this quartet has an insanely earnest, boogieing pop/rock sound, and singer Amy Hager is quite the dramatist. Next gig: Saturday at Hexagon Bar.
Happy Apple (22 points) Few jazz trios pack as much wallop, or leave you guessing so much (i.e., "How does he make that sound with those jumper cables and sardine cans?"). Next gigs: Jan. 6-7, Artists' Quarter.
BEST SONGS of 2005
1. Vicious Vicious, "Castaways" (22 points)
2. Atmosphere, "Pour Me Another"(18 points)
3. (tie) Low, "Monkey," and P.O.S., "P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life" (16 points)
5. I Self Devine, "Ice Cold" (14 points)
6. (tie) Brother and Sister, "B-E-S-T S-I-S-T-E-R E-V-E-R," and Halloween, Alaska, "Drowned" (12 points)
NO. 1 SIGN THAT THE SCENE IS ALIVE AND WELL
"No matter what genre you might pick, there's someone doing great work, from straight-up rock (Dan Israel) to country (White Iron Band) to hip-hop (Atmosphere, Doomtree, Brother Ali) to punk (Stnnng, Birthday Suits) to jazz (Happy Apple) to ambient (Fog, Martin Dosh)."
Chris Bahn, the Onion Twin Cities editor
"The resurrection of First Avenue, fueled by the Current, became a rallying point for the scene. The club's 35th birthday felt like an all-school reunion. (Let's not be strangers, OK?) A close No. 2: Ant comes out of the basement. I'm primed for the new Brother Ali disc."
Tim Campbell, Star Tribune entertainment editor