Locals Bad Bad Hats return to the Minneapolis stage with back-to-back shows at 7th St Entry on March 4. Submitted photo

Locals Bad Bad Hats return to the Minneapolis stage with back-to-back shows at 7th St Entry on March 4. Submitted photo

Best Picks Feb. 23–March 8

Updated: February 22, 2017 - 2:40 pm

What to do downtown after work

Good, good music

Bad Bad Hats are back. After a three-week tour across the country, members of the Minneapolis indie rock-pop trio have returned to their stomping ground to begin writing a new album, the first since releasing their successful debut record, 2015’s “Psychic Reader.”

The band — frontwoman Kerry Alexander, drummer Chris Hoge and bassist Noah Boswell — will play back-to-back shows at First Avenue’s 7th St Entry on March 4. Fellow locals Wingman, whose Connor Davison plays with Bad Bad Hats on tour, will open.

We caught up with Alexander to talk about the buzz around the band and what their new music will sound like. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

Are you getting good reactions across the country?

Touring is a kind of a crazy thing. The more we play, it’s funny the people that come back to the shows. A lot of the times we get people who saw us in one place, like on one side of the country, and then see us another place. Like in New York we had two girls who had seen us in Alabama. It’s just amazing. I think we’ve been seeing more repeat listeners.

Recently you’ve been featured in The New Yorker and other national media. Has that attention translated to your shows?

We feel very grateful to get that coverage. We played some of our very first headlining shows on the East Coast. You never really sure what to expect. We’ve done a lot of opening gigs and there’s a lot of built-in audience for the headliner. We were really pleased that people came out to the shows when we were headlining.

Twin Cities acts seem to be gaining ground on the national music scene. Is it a good time to be a Minneapolis musician?

I certainly think so. I love representing Minneapolis on the road. It’s fun to see how many people from Minnesota end up at shows all across the country. People always come up to say “We’re from Rosemount or Brainerd.” I really like coming from a scene that’s not as established as a New York or a Los Angeles. It feels like bands like us and our friends in bands are building a scene ourselves. It feels like a new, fertile ground for really cool music.

Now that you’re back in Minneapolis, where is your new album at?

We’re slated to record in April. We have a good handful of demos we’re working on. We’ve been playing two or three new songs on this tour. We’ve been gauging the reaction, and people seem to like them. (Minneapolis audiences) are going to hear some new songs, at least one they’ve never heard before. I think we’ll take March and go back through the demos that we’ve written and see what songs are sticking with people the most.

What are you doing to prepare for writing this record?

I listened to Cate Le Bon’s “Mug Museum” a lot once I started writing songs for this album. Brett Bullion — the producer on Psychic Reader, who is also producing our new record — has been encouraging me to listen to really different kinds of music. He’s like, “Whatever you would normally listen to, don’t listen to that.” It’s been fun to go to Electric Fetus and look for cool international records and finding “The Greatest Hits of Greece” or music from Zimbabwe. Who knows how that will come across in an album, if it ever will. It’s been a nice musical journey nonetheless. I just try to write music that feels right and sounds cool. I like exploring different styles on an album, and I think you’ll see some of that dabbling of different vibes.

What would you recommend to our readers?

We’ve been really enjoying Carroll’s new album, “As Far as Gardens Go”. People should check out Wingman. We’ve been listening to a lot of cool stuff in the van this tour. I’ve been a really big fan of Tancred. Her latest album, (“Out of the Garden”), has been on heavy rotation for me. It’s the exact style of music that got me into music when I was younger. It feels kind of nostalgic and it’s really fun. I like her approach to songwriting and rock music. Certainly, Angel Olsen has gotten a lot of plays. Also, Solange Knowles’ new album, “A Seat at the Table.” I’ve been enjoying “Cranes in the Sky.”

Bad Bat Hats' 2015 album "Psychic Reader." Submitted image
Bad Bat Hats’ 2015 album “Psychic Reader.” Submitted image

A happier hour

Warm Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts webCafé Lurcat is adding an extra level to its happy hour with, well, an even happier hour. In addition to offering its daily happy hour from 4:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m., the bar has begun the “happiest hour” from 4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m., which will see cocktails running you around $5-$7. But there’s more. There’s also a new menu of $5 snacks to fit whatever post-work mood you’re in, from Lurcat’s signature burger and curry crab cakes to cinnamon-sugar donuts and lettuce wraps with beef short rib. This means you can have a martini and fish tacos and still walk out of the bar for less than $15.

Balto of Portland. Submitted photo
Balto of Portland. Submitted photo

Not that Balto

From your first listen Portland-based band Balto might sound familiar even if you’ve never heard them before. The rock group, which just released their first full length, “Strangers,” in five years, weaves together rock, gospel and psychedelic music with results reminiscent of local band Night Moves or even My Morning Jacket. Songs like “Born Astray” show off Luke Beckel’s versatile voice, which moves from a whiskey-soaked whisper to a loud rasp that feels at home with a gospel choir. Others, such as “Lost on the Young,” the album’s opening track, have frontman Daniel Sheron bring out the band’s emotion-laded Americana roots. Balto will bring their new work to Day Block Brewing on March 9 so you can even grab a beer or a pizza while you listen. If you want to grab the album, “Strangers” was released Feb. 24 via Total Reality Meltdown.