Paul Clabo of Minneapolis:
1 Annabelle Chairlegs, South by Southwest, Austin, Texas. This place was loaded with students and young patrons to see a rising hometown band. Soaring vocals by Lindsey Mackin reminded me of Robert Plant, only feminized, and her band was really tight.
2 Erin Rae, SXSW. I was transported by the Tennessean’s dreamy country voice, as pure as Judy Collins’ and well matched by her band’s guitar work.
3 Catbath, SXSW. Pitted against hundreds of acts from around the world, this band did Minneapolis proud, featuring sharp starts and stops, focused harmonies and rocking guitars and drums.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Jon Batiste, “Live From Here.” The bandleader from “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” proved to be a perfect substitute host for Chris Thile. The Louisiana piano man told intriguing stories about his life (he transcribed Prince’s “Dirty Mind” in college), wisely skipped doing skits and showed estimable skills, covering everything from Bach to Quincy Jones. And his piano offers more range, depth and accessibility than Thile’s masterful mandolin.
2 Salute to the late Dick Dale, Los Angeles Times. Critic Mikael Wood had a killer opening line about the surf-rock king: “Dick Dale played electric guitar like he was more interested in the electricity than in the guitar.”
3 Felix Cavaliere, the Dakota. Backed by a solid band with top-notch harmony singers, the Rascals organist/singer treated boomers to his Hall of Fame hits (“Groovin’,” “Good Lovin’,” “People Gotta Be Free”) and mixed in other ’60s classics (“My Girl,” “Mustang Sally”) for a spirited good time.