If you’re a music fan in Minnesota and don’t have a couple of favorite new local bands by summer’s end, you’re not doing it right.
Summer is the best time to get turned on to new acts around here. There’s a diverse range and seemingly nonstop array of low-buck block parties, mini-fests, outdoor stages and other fun goings-on in the Twin Cities and points beyond, with event bookers who are often willing to give younger, adventurous bands a try. That makes it easy to fall in love with someone new.
Looking over the long list of big gigs crammed in between now and Labor Day, here are a dozen acts with bustling summer calendars and/or buzzing energy.
Yam Haus: A young, clean-cut synth-rock quartet from Hudson, Wis., the former classmates made a big splash last month as a last-minute fill-in opening act for Bishop Briggs in front of a packed First Ave crowd. That was a perfect setup for their slickly produced, radio-friendly debut album coming this month, “Stargazer,” with a mix of electro-poppy grooves and swooning vocals that suggest an Ed Sheeran opening should be next.
Annie Mack: This gritty, bluesy rocker and sometimes elegant song picker has been kicking around Rochester and southern Minnesota for several years. Now she’s making more inroads in the Twin Cities — including a Dakota headlining gig last weekend — following last year’s EP, “Tell It Like It Is,” which boasted a modern, Alabama Shakes-style rock edge but classic soul power.
Murf: Bring earplugs and maybe antacids. Goofily named after a character from “RoboCop,” this quintet follows Minneapolis’ grand tradition of damaging noise-rock bands such as Stnnng and Gay Witch Abortion, but with an even more insane stage show and heavier tinge of hard-core punk. The band’s self-titled debut cassette boasts bleeding dueling guitars, vein-popping vocals and 11 songs that average less than two minutes apiece.
The Bad Man: Between gravelly voiced frontman Peter Memorich’s penchant for jumping around shirtless on stage and saxophonist Ben Hintz’s cool, guitar-style involvement in the songs, this punky but rootsy Minneapolis quintet has offered plenty to gawk at and contemplate in such memorable recent gigs as the Grumpy’s Art-A-Whirl party and First Ave’s Best New Bands showcase. But the group also boasts many meaty, clever, hook-laden songs, including new ones for an album in the works.
(July 14: Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Fest at the Hook & Ladder, Mpls.)
The Shackletons: This band of rowdily rocking brothers from the Stillwater area has been in steady rotation on 89.3 the Current with their Brian Wilson-evoking pickup song “Minnesota Girls,” a good example of frontman Colin Campbell’s raspy, wry charm. Their live show, however, offers a mightier, wilder, high-energy sound with traces of Soul Asylum and even a little classic Who.
Joyann Parker: The late-bloomer blues belter just got off a spring tour touting her sophomore album, “Hard to Love,” and is playing all over the Upper Midwest this summer. She has a powerful voice but also an impressive groove, part Susan Tedeschi and Big Brother-buoyed Janis Joplin.
(June 23 & July 18: Tally’s Dockside, White Bear Lake; Aug. 26: Spring Cafe at Como Park Pavilion, St. Paul.)
Lena Elizabeth: Like her strumming instrument of choice, the baritone ukulele, this Minneapolis singer/songwriter has a heavy sound that belies her tender side. And her throaty voice lent a Brandi Carlile-like wow factor to smart, lovelorn songs on last year’s well-received debut EP, “The Line.” She’s been gigging around a lot since then, with a sturdy band that nicely adds to the heft.
Dwynell Roland: The lanky, wiry Minneapolis rapper put on a rowdy, wild-eyed performance at Rock the Garden’s local stage last summer and has a new album to promote this summer, “Young Roland.” The songs are loaded with booming, often spazzy electronic beats and a wide range of emotions, from down-and-out fight anthems to funny but provocative topical tunes, akin to local wiz Allan Kingdom but with a heavier style.
(June 30: Big Fancy Go Show, Cabooze Plaza, Mpls.; release party TBA.)
Jaedyn James & the Hunger: Minneapolis-based funk and soul up-and-comer James and her eight-piece, horn-addled band balances old-school Aretha Franklin grooves with a modern sensibility. Their full-tilt live shows and suggestive songs are at once empowering and sexy.
Scrunchies: Laura Larson of the riotously fun trio Kitten Forever strapped on a guitar again to form this slightly more melodic but no less noisy or heavy quartet with some other prominent young women in the indie-punk scene, including members of Bruise Violet and Tony Peachka. Their album “Stunner” just dropped this week, a raw, hyper-rocking debut.
Brothers Allmanac: The Allman Brothers are no more, so long live this new tribute band featuring some youngish vets from around the Midwest jam-band scene, including Circle of Heat’s Trevor Anderson and Tom Alane. They find the right balance of tight virtuosity and loose soulfulness befitting “Whipping Post” and other classics.
All Tomorrow’s Petty: Another tribute band, and not really a new one. However, the death of Tom Petty still feels fresh in many people’s minds, giving this once-just-for-fun all-star crew of local indie-rock and Americana players a new, greater purpose. But they’re still a ton of fun. The core unit includes James Diers (Halloween, Alaska), Rob Skoro, JT Bates and Jacob Hanson, and guest vocalists have included Aby Wolf, Haley and too many others to mention.
(Aug. 3: Movies + Music at Lake Harriet Band Shell with “Almost Famous,” Mpls.)