[This story ran in early January, when First Avenue's Best New Bands showcase was originally scheduled but postponed on short notice due to COVID concerns. The lineup is the same for the rescheduled date Friday, March 4, in the mainroom.]
Most of the seven acts chosen for First Avenue's Best New Bands of 2021 already had to wait 18-plus months to play gigs, so what's another couple of months?
Especially since they still get to play the mainroom when all is said and done.
An annual year-end showcase that dates back to 7th St. Entry's weekly New Bands gigs of the mid-'80s — the 1986 edition with the Gear Daddies, Trip Shakespeare and Run Westy Run stands out as a formative year — this year's roundup of buzzmakers from around the Twin Cities was supposed to take place Friday. Omicron has forced a postponement until March 3, though.
The good news: That's more time for you to brush up on their music and get to know them. In some cases, there's already been a long waiting period for their arrival, since COVID spoiled last year's Best New Bands show altogether.
"Some of these bands could have been in the show last year if we'd done it," noted James Taylor, the First Ave talent buyer overseeing the lineup that he and other club staffers chose. "But some of them only just started during the pandemic.
"It's impressive how they're coming out of the gate so strong, even with all the challenges of playing in a band right now."
Here's an alphabetical rundown of each act, featuring an impressively diverse array of personal backgrounds and musical styles. Most of them have songs up on streaming sites such as Spotify, or here are some links to hear them elsewhere or buy their albums.
The newest of the newbies — and the one with the heaviest buzz — Austin and Taryn Durry famously formed their grungy but anthemic namesake rock band while quarantined in their parents' basement. They blew up via TikTok over the summer before ever playing a show, though Austin did have ample experience with his previous group Coyote Kid (fka Marah & the Mainsail). Their breakout song "Who's Laughing Now" is one of several rowdy slacker anthems from a nearly completed album that record labels are courting them to release. Look for a very limited preview cassette at this show.
Hear them: linktr.ee/Durrymusic
Minneapolis native Evelyn Speers has been learning musical instruments since age 11, including viola, cello, keyboards and all the tools of rock. That anything-goes spirit now comes out in Evv's music, which ranges from mellow, blue soul-baring to punky, Brittany Howard-like soul-rock powered by a deeply resonant voice and provocative, personal lyrics. The darkly romantic new single "Submissive" adds to the buzz for a full album release later this year, and Evv has already wowed audiences opening for the likes of Gully Boys.
Hear them: evvmusic.bandcamp.com
Each in their mid-20s and raised in musical families, the three members of this charmingly pleasant jazz-pop trio otherwise have very different backgrounds that define their eclectic and worldly sound. Guitarist Zak Khan was raised around the Middle East and Pakistan. Pianist Andreas Fenner grew up with European immigrant parents in Stillwater, whereas singer Clara Wicklund was raised among bluegrass players (her dad fronts the Barley Jacks). Their singles so far sound equal parts Lake Street Dive and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and their upcoming EP is sure to show off even more.
Hear them: honeybutterofficial.com
This Twin Cities-raised Liberian immigrant made his name over the past two years steadily issuing sexy, chill but smart and lyrical electro-rap and R&B singles online, including the Lazerbeak-produced, Khalid-flavored "Bridges" and a new track out this week titled "Too Sad." Once a homeless youth who wound up at Bethel University, he dropped in hard-earned personal advice throughout his 2021 album "Too Embarrassed" and sprinkles in colorful fashion in his live sets, which also feature his band the Cazual Citizen.
Hear him: soundcloud.com/kokoukah
After issuing rootsier singer/songwriter albums under her own name, Duluth's Sarah Krueger started shedding stressors in her personal life and reinventing her artistic side even before COVID. She already had a soothing, ethereal, poetic-sigh of a folk-rock/neo-twang LP ready to be released under a new stage name as a perfect mid-pandemic respite. The self-titled collection — including the Current-rotated single "What I Love the Most" — featured all-star players from the Bon Iver and Low camps, some of whom play in her lush live band.
Hear them: lanuemusic.com
Repped by the same management team as Dua Saleh, this north Minneapolis-raised Senegalese/Gambian rapper and balladeer was influenced as much by visual artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and African singers like N'dongo Lo as Kanye and the other American hip-hop artists echoed in his AutoTune-heavy electro-collage songs. He dropped an emotionally visceral EP last fall, "Mang Fi" (translation: "I'm Here"), but has also produced more mischievous tracks, including 2020's jittery jam "Idontneedsex."
Hear him: soundcloud.com/papambye
Named best new band in City Pages' final "Best of" issue in 2020 with their playfully thrashing rock sound, singer/keytarist Taylor Kraemer and her fellow early-20-something, suburb-raised bandmates — no lie, their names are Kate, Katie and KT — made good on their buzz during quarantine by heading to Chicago to record their new album "Loudmouth" with Henry Stoehr of Slow Pulp fame. Songs like "Planet Drool," "Piss Punk" and "Mr. F—You" are as bratty and bruising as you'd hope and make for a riotous live show, which the quartet plans to take on the road soon.
Hear them: vialband.bandcamp.com
Best New Bands of 2021
When: Fri., March 4.
Where: First Avenue, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls.
Tickets: $12 advance, $15 at door. axs.com