Last Saturday was the Ugly Sweater Party! What a night. So many questionable sweaters. So many bands. Ten bands to be exact. Since I’m not about to write about ten bands, I just picked my three favorites out of the lot. If your favorite band/your band didn’t make the cut, don’t feel bad—narrowing it down to just three was really hard (honorable mentions to Niiice and Ithomiid). Alright. Let’s get to it.
Being a band with multiple lead vocalists is difficult. It can be hard enough for listeners to really “get to know” one vocalist, much less two or more. Some groups manage to pull it off (The Beatles, Wu-Tang Clan). Some don’t (Brockhampton, The Eagles). It’s all a matter of firmly establishing personality through lyricism and delivery, which is something that Nightstones were really good at throughout their set! They had two singers, and each one had something unique to offer. The first singer that we were introduced to, Freya, had a laid-back, deadpan vocal style. This is yet another tricky thing for a singer to do while still conveying a sense of personality, but she nailed it, hitting the balance between wistful and dead inside right on the money. The other singer, Antoine, also had a lot of character. He, being very passionate and direct, acted as a foil of Freya, which worked especially well when their parts intertwined in gorgeous harmony. This is a band that I’ll be keeping an eye on from here on out, and so should you.
Sweater game: On point. Antoine asserted that his “Less Talkin’ More Noggin” sweater was the best sweater of the entire party. He wasn’t wrong. It was hideous.
Before the show, I’d been excited to see Last Import for a long time. They didn’t disappoint. Everything was tight, tight, tight. I loved it when everyone stopped what they were doing and did a little synced-up rhythmic flourish (whenever the bassist stopped to roll up her sweater sleeves, you knew it was about to go down). Their sound is 2017 surf rock done right, mining its own special vein of pep and staunchly resisting the urge to devolve into self-indulgent Beach Boys worship. It manages to be light fare without sacrificing substance and staying power. Also—every song is a bop. Guaranteed.
Sweater game: Decent. The singer and bassist both wore sweaters. However, I wouldn’t have gone so far as to call either of them “ugly,” so I’m gonna have to deduct some points for that. A solid attempt.
Why Not is one of my favorite local bands. Critic’s bias: they’re old schoolmates of mine and I used to play with them. Honest to god though, they’re objectively fabulous. Since all three members add something special to the mix, I thought I’d do a little profile of each of them.
Josh is Why Not’s drummer. Josh’s strength lies in his ability to jam all the complexity of prog drumming into economical math rock. It’s complexity tempered with restraint, and I love it. He has a great feel for timing out section changes as well. It’s clear that the whole band is good at communication, but as cliche as it might be, he’s definitely the one holding it all together.
Isaac is Why Not’s guitarist. The first thing you’ll notice about Isaac’s guitar rig is his ungodly amount of effects pedals. However, each one serves a purpose (I think). Even when his playing is at its most distorted, all of his intentionality and precision still comes through strong. The contrast between those twisted tones and his sparkly, funky cleans does a lot to open up the band’s sonic palette as a whole. Another strong suit is the way his lines interlock with the bassist (Henry)’s. They sound like they were built for the sole purpose of fitting together cog for cog, and the result is brilliant.
As well as being the bassist, Henry is Why Not’s lead singer. Henry is great at establishing character through his vocals. Whether he’s talk-singing at a normal volume or screaming his heart out, it’s all very conversational, almost like a less morbid Steve Albini. Although he can be very precise when he wants to, Henry’s unhinged moments (sometimes bass he just hacks away at all of his open bass strings at the same time) are some of his greatest contributions.
Regardless of how you feel about the local music scene in MN, I’d highly recommend checking these guys out. They’re not like the other boys. Go see them live as soon as you get the chance (they play shows around the Twin Cities pretty regularly). However…
Sweater game: Abysmal. Why Not really took an L on this one. Nobody even tried. Henry had a kinda weird looking sweatshirt with a big hole in the front, but he took it off halfway through the performance, so it especially doesn’t count. Shame on you Why Not.