Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 11:10 am
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 Cactus Blossoms played the Current's birthday bash at First Avenue in January and return to headline the club Saturday.
“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.
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).