Friday was one of those spirited nights that happens every year at First Avenue, honoring the old guard of the Twin Cities indie-rock scene. Saturday was a more rarefied night that only happens once every few years, when new local bands conquer the club like old pros.
Even in the case of Friday’s annual Tribute to the Replacements, it was astounding how young some of the musicians were.
“I’m so excited, I’m shaking,” said singer/guitarist Emily Schoonover, 16, as her band Bruise Violet opened the Replacements tribute. The punk trio began their first-ever First Ave main-room performance with the snarling, snotty classic “Kids Don’t Follow.” The night really didn’t get any better than that.
Saturday’s homegrown headliners Hippo Campus — whose members are just coming of drinking age — had played First Ave a couple times before, but never with their name atop the bill or the kind of euphoric reception they got this time. They really couldn’t ask for a better first headlining appearance than that.
Here’s a recap from the all-local weekend.
A TRIBUTE TO THE REPLACEMENTS: Started in 2009 on the 25th anniversary of the ’Mats’ most celebrated album (“Let It Be”), the tribute focused this year on one of the least-loved discs, 1990’s “All Shook Down.” No surprise that attendance was down and the silver-anniversary set was less than golden — though not necessarily due to the material itself.
The rotating cast of singers who joined rock-solid house band the Melismatics was mostly unconvincing and unimpressive, although the segment started out strong with resident old-guard member Curtiss A going all Rod Stewart-y with “Merry Go Round,” and American Scarecrows singer Seth Davin finding the heart of “One Wink at a Time.” R&B/soul powerhouse PaviElle French also broke the mold mid-set with a gospel-ized take on “Sadly Beautiful.”
Bruise Violet kept up the youthful punk approach with blistering takes on “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “[Expletive] School.” Al Church, with a large ensemble, delivered moody, drawn-out, synth- and sax-laden versions of “Within Your Reach” and the deep cuts “Satellite” and “Oughta Get Love.”
Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band went for broke with a rock-starry tear through “Left of the Dial,” “Bastards of Young” and “Treatment Bound.”
Reverberating power trio Fury Things found a perfectly coy way of honoring the ’Mats brattitude by playing nothing but Hüsker Dü songs — and played them very well, too.
HIPPO CAMPUS AND BAD BAD HATS: The two buzziest young local rock bands of 2015 wrapped up a month of touring together — and, in Hippo Campus’s case, many more months of touring with the likes of Modest Mouse and My Morning Jacket — with an all-ages homecoming gig that sold out weeks ahead of time.
Most of the audience showed up on time to catch Bad Bad Hats, fronted by 24-year-old Kerry Alexander. Her coolly aloof-sounding yet richly melodic and colorful songs “Midway” and “Cruella” burned bright in concert. However, her quartet got a little lost in the big room with such sleepier, more ambient tunes as “All-Nighter.”
Hippo Campus kept the crowd’s rapt attention from start to finish. In an hourlong set, the jangly pop-rockers pulled off their sophisticated, Afropoppy guitar parts and choppy rhythms with seasoned gusto.
Many fans screamed like Beatlemaniacs when the set started, then sang along to songs from the two-month-old “South” EP, which made up the second half of the show.
The overexcited love song “Dollar Bill” came off hokey in concert, but “Violet” proved a spastically sweet charmer, and the new EP’s closing track, “The Halocine,” made for a fine slow-building, climactic pre-encore finale.
Saturday’s show reiterated what was obvious a year ago when Hippo Campus launched its debut EP in the 7th Street Entry: This is one hotly hyped new local band with the musical chops, songwriting talent and unmistakable charisma to be something bigger.
Whether or not things click elsewhere, it doesn’t get any bigger or better locally for a band than the scene Hippo Campus played to Saturday.
See more photos from Saturday’s show at startribune.com/music