Radio K's Best New Bands of 2004 Showcase (Wednesday, January 19th, 2005, First Avenue Minneapolis)
By David de Young and Cyn Collins
See also: photos
Radio K’s Best New Bands 2004 showcase at First Avenue was a great way to shake off the pre-inaugural day blues with 5+ hours of great local music. Featuring The Deaths, Doomtree, Ova!, Thunder in the Valley, The Get Up Johns, The Chariots, and the Olympic Hopefuls, it was a chance for music fans to see bands they might not normally see, especially not all on the same night on the same stage. This year's event was co-hosted by KQ's Dave Campbell and Cities 97's Jason Nagel, with a special appearance by Radio K's Sarah Sandusky.
For some Minnesota music fans, Wednesday marked the first time they'd been to First Avenue since before the holidays. Many were surprised to find that most of the plexiglass, which obscured both view and sound from much of the upstairs balcony for years, had been removed. This change for the better opens up tons of great new viewing and listening spots in the club and creates a classier, less claustrophobic environment. And speaking of class, First Avenue now prominently displays a wine list, one from which red wine drinkers can actually specify a preference for a merlot over a cabernet/shiraz blend.
Club-goers should also note First Avenue is now charging $1 for admission with all comp tickets, a dollar well spent if it continues to go towards club improvements which are becoming more and more obvious upon each visit.
But enough with the intro, below are two accounts of how the night played out.
The Deaths (http://www.thedeaths.net)
The formerly Fargo-based The Deaths kicked off the evening around 7:30 with their kinky (as in Kinks-influenced) melodic rock. Catchy ballads like their own “Birmingham” were brought into focus by a cover of the Kinks “Rosemary Rose.” Christopher Danforth, a recent addition to the band on bass, reminded the audience at this longer than normal show to “Please, pace your drinking.” Later he and lead vocalist Karl Qualey joked that they had CD’s on sale, “but shhh, it’s a secret.” (Their CD release part y is actually Friday at the Entry.) - David de Young
Hip hop collective Doomtree took the stage and sincerely asked us to come closer. The rotating cast of MC’s including Cecil Otter and SIMS, also included some terrific spoken word from Dessa (Miss Spoken Word Twin Cities 2001). Doomtree’s set evidenced how well the band keeps up on their politics, both current and historical. One memorable line delivered in Dessa’s tense monologue (possibly called “Vanishing Point”) was “I’d like to give the world to Gore Vidal to see if he could save it.” (A tempting idea on the eve of the second inauguration of George Bush.) - D.D.
Ova is a two-piece drums/guitar/effects all instrumental noise machine that reminded me of a death metal White Stripes. (Guitar player Patrick Dundon vaguely resembles and has a bit of the swagger of Jack White.) Rumbling feedback would shoot straight back into fast tight bursts of beats at the nod of the gum-chewing guitarist. Some audience members migrated upstairs after 3-4 songs saying they needed to “rest their ears.” Some people used less polite terms. What I want to know is: what the hell was that big thing with the huge springs behind drummer Jesse Stevens’ kit? (P.S. I dare you to try and navigate the Ova! website.) - D.D.
Thunder in the Valley (http://walkingdead.net/~titv/)
Though I wasn’t overly taken by Thunder in the Valley’s stage presence when I first saw them in the fall of ’04, their performance at First Avenue Wednesday night showed them firmly in the driver’s seat. They even got the audience, which had more than doubled since the doors opened at 7 p.m., to clap above their heads on one song. Though they may seem overly derivative to the over 35 crowd, there aren’t many bands on the Twin Cities scene today offering such a diverse mix of what might be called vaudeville burlesque as this band. - D.D.
Thunder in the Valley’s East-Euro style punk always makes me think of one of my favorite bands the Knotwells, or Gogol Bordello without a horn section, fiddle, or dancing girls, and not nearly as raunchy (probably a good thing since there are many clubs Gogol’s not allowed to play in due to nudity and vulgarity.) But still, TITV, with their drink-sodden carnival-esque songs with ragtime keyboards, Klezmer rhythms, and oompa-pa swing got more people to dance, sing and swing their beers than any band I’ve seen in years. Except for the Knotwells. But I’d really like to hear a tuba or a trumpet and a fiddle in there to fill it out more. The ragged hobo features and cajoling instructions to the audience to dance by the bright dark-eyed vocalist Graham Smith were compelling aspects of Thunder in the Valley’s performance, which was clearly a crowd-pleaser. - Cyn Collins
The Get Up Johns (http://www.getupjohns.com)
The Chariots (http://www.chariots-music.com/)
The Olympic Hopefuls (http://www.olympichopefulsmusic.com)