Local Current Blog

Get to know First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2016

Lady Midnight performs at the Local Show's Artists to Watch showcase, August 2016 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

On Jan. 18, First Avenue will host its annual Best New Bands showcase — hosted, this year, by The Current’s Andrea Swensson along with Miles Anzaldo and Sylvia Jennings. Familiarize yourself with these six talented artists before making your way to the Mainroom.

Colin Campbell and the Shackletons

Colin Campbell & The Shackletons describe themselves as “a rock and blues band out of the Twin Cities writing and playing songs rooted in the rich influence of the ‘Minnesota Sound.'” The band consists of Campbell brothers Colin Campbell (vocals/guitar), Cameron (Bass), and Evan (Drums). The trio received airplay on The Current with “Vapor Eyes.”


Fraea, the Minneapolis-based shadow-pop duo comprising Jessie Daley and Drew Preiner, received recognition this year for songs like “Trouble,” “Awake,” and the eerily soothing synths of “Criminal.” The dreamy duo were also prominent this year as remix artists.

Lady Midnight

Lady Midnight’s work crosses genres, and she received wide recognition this year for songs like “Wax Line” (with Afrokeys) and “Charge it to the Game,” produced by MMYYKK (ZULUZULUU). She’s described her background as “Afro-Cuban music, hip-hop, pop, R&B, experimental,” and she weaves those threads into performances described as “entrancing” by our own. Earlier this year, the Local Show featured her as an Artist to Watch.

Sleeping Jesus

Nick Elstad, the founder and frontman of Winona roots rockers Sleeping Jesus, attracted buzz this year for writing and releasing the LP Perennial. Although the LP was written and performed entirely by Elstad — more on that in Michael Flicek’s piece last month — the band has now grown into a tight multi-piece unit.


Folk rockers Tabah burst onto the scene this year with a dynamic throwback sound showcased on songs like “Wargasm.” Their work was exposed to wider audiences this year not only over the radio waves but at the Local Show’s Artists to Watch showcase in August.

Tony Peachka

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On their Facebook page, Tony Peachka describe their music as “angry pop songs that smell weird.” Whatever you call it, it’s rapidly gaining a following. Listing them as one of the Local Show’s Artists to Watch, Andrea Swensson calls the band “a lungful of ocean breeze on a hot, sticky day.”


Ibad Jafri studies International Relations and Cinema & Media Studies at Carleton College. He is not an Artist to Watch.