Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks has stepped onto the First Avenue stage innumerable times over the past 30 years, but he still remembers doing it on Dec. 28, 1992.
“We were touring and kind of lost touch with things while we were gone,” the bassist recalled, pinpointing the first time his band filled its hometown’s pre-eminent rock club. It came at the end of a year that also saw the release of their breakthrough, influential alt-country album “Hollywood Town Hall.”
“It was the first time I got up there, looked out at the crowd and said, ‘Wow, we’re doing all right.’ And my mom was there, too. It was just an unforgettably great feeling.”
Those warm, familial, reassuring vibes are commonplace at First Avenue this time of the year. It’s a long-standing tradition — and partly a practical business arrangement — for Minnesota bands to fill up the calendar at Minneapolis’ mainstay rock club between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, particularly the bands that spent a lot of the past year far away from Minneapolis on tour.
This year is an especially rich one for the club’s run of year-end local gigs. Relative newcomers Lizzo and the Cactus Blossoms — who, in true First Ave form, couldn’t be more dissimilar musically — join the fray to celebrate their biggest, busiest years yet, while Har Mar Superstar, Atmosphere, Mason Jennings, Low and Soul Asylum are also keeping up appearances and keeping the tradition alive. First Ave’s longest-running tradition, Curtiss A’s John Lennon tribute, also coincidentally falls in this stretch every Dec. 8.
Soul Asylum was one of the first to make a habit of playing the club around the holidays in the late-’80s, and did so for reasons that still hold true today.
“The touring calendar slows down for everyone this time of the year,” said First Ave booker Sonia Grover, who called the custom a win-win for the bands and the club alike. “We have more open dates at the club because there aren’t as many out-of-town bands coming through, and the local bands themselves are coming home for the year and want to play in town.”
Grover said it’s more than just a business arrangement, though. “It feels like things are always a lot more festive for the bands, seeing all their friends and maybe being more relaxed than they usually are,” she said.
Or as Perlman put it: “There’s always been a heavy eggnog side to these shows.”
Offering a more sober assessment for his own band — which rode out some rough patches to regroup around its best-received record in 13 years — the Jayhawks bassist added, “We’ve been having a good time and have a lot to celebrate, so it’s definitely a good year for us to be doing this.”
Here’s a rundown of upcoming acts and a recap of their year.
Har Mar Superstar
9 p.m. Fri., $20
Just a few weeks after officially becoming a Minneapolis resident again, fun-loving soul-pop singer Sean Tillmann and his expanded band hit the road in April behind “Best Summer Ever,” a more electronic and deeper-thinking LP issued via his buddy Julian Casablancas’ label. They crisscrossed America twice and trekked across the Atlantic for festival dates. Their fall U.S. jaunt was with gold-speckled electro-grinders Tickle Torture, who will also open this tour finale.
The Cactus Blossoms
9 p.m. Sat., $15
Page Burkum and Jack Torrey ramped up their tour schedule after winding down their weekly Turf Club residency in 2013, but the harmonious twang brothers turned into bona fide road warriors after January’s release of their swinging and swooning debut for Red House Records, “You’re Dreaming.” The vintage country duo’s 100 gigs this year included opening dates for Kacey Musgraves and JD McPherson, who produced their record. They’re returning from Australia in time for their first First Ave headlining set. They should be ready for it.
9 p.m. Wed., sold out
The torchbearers for Minnesota hip-hop don’t need a new record to hit the road or sell out First Ave for the umpteenth time, but it adds an extra spark. Slug and Ant — along with added deckhand Plain Ole Bill — have been hard at it since August behind their looser and more lighthearted eighth album, “Fishing Blues,” selling out other mainstay venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheater, the 9:30 Club and Webster Hall. Those dudes know a good place when they see it.
Dec. 3, $25
This year was an unusually quiet one touring-wise for the soft-voiced, sharp-tongued indie-folk picker, who has held down this annual gig for nine years and made a live album off it in 2009. But Jennings did make a lot of noise this year on his raw, self-made record “Wild Dark Metal,” which he’ll discuss in an interview running next Friday.
Dec. 10-11, $20
She played sporadic U.S. dates touting her late 2015 LP, “Big Grrrl, Small World,” but the image-conscious, positive-minded rapper and R&B singer had many other projects that kept her away this year. She took on hosting duties for the MTV variety series “Wonderland.” She also signed with Atlantic Records, which issued her fun EP, “Coconut Oil,” and turned her single “Good as Hell” into a minor hit — which Lizzo, in turn, turned into a postelection anthem with a powerful TV performance Nov. 9 on “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”
Dec. 16, $20
Frontman Dave Pirner and longtime drummer Michael Bland led Minneapolis’ biggest alt-rock band of the ’90s into a new era with “Change of Fortune,” its first record without original guitarist Dan Murphy. That led to a summer tour with the English Beat and a fall jaunt that included Japan. This will be new guitarist Ryan Smith’s first time at First Ave with the band, but hardly his first time there (the Melismatics bandleader also anchors the annual Replacements tribute, moving to the Turf Club on Friday).
Dec. 17, $20-$25
No other Minnesota band earned more stamps in their passports this year than the enduring Duluth trio, which rode the buzz for last year’s album, “Ones and Sixes,” to dates on four continents, including gigs with PJ Harvey in Berlin and Istanbul. The group’s hallowed 1999 holiday album, “Christmas,” has a holy following in England, so it’s doing another U.K. tour in early December. This lone U.S. holiday show was tacked on as a benefit for Second Harvest Heartland.
Dec. 29, $32.50
Proving you can have a second and maybe a third or fourth act in America, the cult-loved alt-twang/folk-rock band regrouped again with Gary Louris as its sole frontman and a new sonic palette on its first LP in five years, “Paging Mr. Proust,” coproduced by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. The album’s paisley-hued, ’60s pop sound earned high slots on the Americana radio charts and a warm reception on lengthy U.S. and European tours.