The Varsity Theater
August 21st, 2015
Graveyard Club started the night with dark yet playful tunes. They have and 80’s vibe, and the lead singer is reminiscent of David Bowie’s deep voice.
Verskotzi got the crowd really grooving with a mix of old tunes off Lemon Heart and new synth-pop tunes from the latest EP Waving.
Bora York dazzled with their upbeat dance music. Fans sang along proudly to music from their debut Dreaming Free and couldn’t help but dance to songs like Let Loose and The Way You Groove. It was a perfect night to fall in love with their new album Secret Youth. Check it out, and make sure you’re wearing your dancing shoes.
Saturday, June 22nd 2015
Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens (at The Walker)
Courtney Barnett, Conor Oberst, Belle and Sebastian
Even though Rock the Garden didn’t sell out this year, the lawn outside the Walker felt as full as any other year. The weather was beautiful and sunny.
Courtney Barnett was fantastic. She had a small band, only a bassist and drummer while she played lead guitar and sang. While probably best known for her creative songwriting and memorable lyricism, I was impressed with her confidence as a performer. Her vocals sounded as effortless as ever and she knew how to rock her fuzz pedals. Something about listening to Avant Gardener while sitting in the Walker’s garden just felt right. Conor Oberst started his set with Time Forgot from his most recent solo release Upside Down Mountain. The combination of my excitement to see Oberst live again, and my love for this song made this the highlight of my day. Oberst’s backing band was the Felice Brothers from New York, and their violin player gave an added dimension to Oberst’s live set that I loved. He played a great mix of songs from the recent Upside Down Mountain, and some of his older Bright Eyes songs. The overwhelming crowd favorite was Poison Oak from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning. Oberst expressed his appreciation for The Current, a radio station that actually plays his music. The crowd seemed even more appreciative to him for making his music. Although we only stayed for the first half of Belle and Sebastian’s set, it was clear they know how to dance it out. Frontman Stuart Murdoch’s black and white stripped shirt and bouncy dance moves kept every person there engaged and smiling. Their pop tunes were a perfect way to end a beautiful and fun-filled day.
April 22nd, 2015
Stevens started his set with all songs from his latest release Carrie and Lowell. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d play any of his other music. I think that I, along with many Sufjan fans, have an emotional connection with his older music because it is connected to memories. Memories of people, places, and times in our life. The new music hasn’t had a chance to connect to anything personal yet. I think the move to play new music for the first chunk of his set was a smart moves as it serves as an opportunity to connect the music to the experience that night.
The songs from Carrie and Lowell are beautiful. After playing 6 or 7 songs without pause, Stevens took a reprieve to talk about the theme of the album. He spoke about how the album is about death, and life; how everything is connected. He reminisced about the animals and pets he saw die when he was little, and how they still live with his family in their memories. He moved on to edgier songs from The Age of Adz. After which the “end of set” applause served as a welcome intermission to clear ones pallet for the last movement of the night: crowd favorites. He ended with classic Sufjan songs that you can’t help but love: John Wanye Gacy Jr, Concerning the UFO Sighting, Seven Swans, the audience was thrilled.
7th Street Entry
The audience for this sold out EP release show was full of long time fans who sang along not just to their single “Little Grace” or the rest of Bashful Creatures, but even to unreleased songs. When any group vocal portion of a song arrived and the audience’s volume matched the band’s, the bandmates glanced at each other with a look that said “Can this be real?”
Vocalist Jake Luppen’s effortless vocal leaps, and guitarist Nathan Stocker’s pristine echos of the melody line set this band apart as incredibly talented musicians. Bassist Zach Sutton and drummer Whistler Allen are the heartbeat of the band, keeping the tempos fast and energy high.
With plenty of songs in their own niche of quick tempo indie-pop, they also previewed their ability to play more variety with just as much skill when they threw in a few slow songs and rock driven numbers. They already have plenty of hits to choose from for their next release.
The audience needed no prompting to sing along, jump along, and dance along. They were as committed to experiencing the night as the band.
Although the four small men of Hippo Campus fit just fine on the stage of the entry, it was clear they are ready to graduate to larger rooms. They were giving off enough energy to reach the end of the block and back, and each and every soul in the room felt it.
Bummed you missed it? Well they’re playing playing again at the Triple Rock on December 27th. Get your tix here
. Better get them quick, they’ll go fast.
First Avenue Mainroom
Empress Of and her band from New York started off the night with cool beats, and great dance moves. She has a fantastic voice, with a natural tremolo, but robotic falsetto. Although coy, she seems honestly excited about the reception from the audience.
As the screen went up for the main act, the audience was plunged into a jungle, with rainforest noises and green stage lights on everything. As the band entered the stage, their music pulled us deeper into the rainforest. The lights in the backdrop looked like falling rain, or shooting stars. Even shy Minnesotans couldn’t resist the pull and nearly every body in the room was moving. I was struck by the beauty of this groovy electronic dance band’s music. The live band utilized four vocalists, often in unison, that sounded spot-on and gorgeous every minute of the set. The performance was flawless.
The frontman, Josh Lloyd-Watson, told the audience that exactly one year ago was the first time Jungle played as a band. I feel I can confidentially say for all Minnesotans in the room that we were honored to be able to celebrate their birthday and enter their jungle of music.
The Cedar Cultural Center
I’ve known The Ericksons’ music for years now, and I love their older folksy sound, but I’m delighted about the new direction of their latest album Bring Me Home
. They’ve traded a guitar for a synthesizer and picked up the tempo with a drum pad, all the while their songwriting and characteristic voices have stayed true to their roots. My favorite songs of the night were “Animal” and “My Love”, both off Bring Me Home
. The latter had a Regina Spektor-like vibe because of the strong vocals mixed with upbeat and quirky rhythms. Each song, new and old, was delivered with intention and heart, and kept the audience emotionally present throughout the set.It was clear that both sisters were incredibly thankful to be playing for an audience full of friends and supporters. They couldn’t stop thanking Greg Euclide for creating the artwork for the album and fellow local musician Molly Maher for encouraging them to finish the album. The audience was thankful as well, with people jumping up to give a standing ovation as soon as they could.
Keep an eye out for more local shows featuring The Ericksons and make sure to check out their new album Bring Me Home.
First Avenue Mainroom
Monday, September 1st 2014
Although electronic and synth driven sets never seem to have the same “live” effect as more traditional guitar or piano based bands, Washed Out brought the night to life with feel good vibes. The set felt short and many songs were from their most recent album Paracosm. They definitely left the audience wanting more. Frontman Ernest Greene kept the energy high. Although many fans stuck with their contented head bob, others gathered the courage to let their dance moves fly. While I would have loved to hear more songs from their previous album Within and Without, the fun-loving energy from the band and the audience was impossible to resist and I found myself loving every minute.