Desaparecidos at First Avenue, 8/28/13
Photo By Erik Hess
With Birthday Suits
First Avenue, Minneapolis
August 28, 2013
Over the years, it has become quite obvious that Conor Oberst loves playing in Minneapolis. He has strong ties to the city through his one-time tour manager (and former 400 Bar owner) Bill Sullivan, and each riveting show he puts on here only strengthens that bond. And that Minnesota connection has tightened after Oberst revealed that he and his fellow Desaparecidos just spent ten relaxing, productive days in the Battle Lake area writing and recording new material.
Sadly, none of those new songs were quite road ready for the band's explosive 65-minute set at First Avenue Wednesday night, but the rest of their spirited material proved to be more than enough, as the quintet delivered a potent, noisy performance that got the pit churning and the band smiling in satisfaction.
The band took to the stage to a bloviated propaganda-filled speech from Ted Nugent, which gradually gave way to The A-Team theme song, before the band kicked in to the highly-charged opener, "Left is Right." The set was taut and tension fueled straight from the start, with any rust the band displayed at their comeback show at the 400 Bar clearly shaken off by now.
"Thank you so much, Minneapolis. It's so God damn good to be here," Oberst said energetically before he lead the band through a fiery new song, "The Underground Man," which the group just released on a 7-inch. It was a blistering start to the set, and the band never really let up once, charging from one track to the next with only random, politically charged spoken-word pieces serving as introductions to the songs.
Photos By Erik Hess
"The Happiest Place on Earth" and "Mañana" both churned with a raw intensity, and the crowd started to get roiled up by the impassioned punk numbers. "This is for everyone out there who had to smash their piggy bank to fix their car or pay for their surgery. It goes like this, son," Oberst sneered, before the band launched into a volatile take on "Man and Wife, the Former (Financial Planning)," which clearly resonated with the frustrated youth who filled the club.
Conor then gave a nod to his longtime cohorts in Minneapolis -- "This one goes out to Billy and Joe" -- before launching into the acerbic anti-consumer screed, "Mall of America," which rang true to an audience who have to live near the towering shadow of that excessive retail monolith.
"This one's about the music business. There's not much music in the music business," Oberst explained incisively. "It's mostly just business." With that, the band tore into a raucous version of "Backsell" which really set the place off. A rousing, anthemic take on "Man and Wife, the Latter (Damaged Goods)" proved to be one of the best moments of the night, with the crisp, bristling guitar riff building to a boisterous release in the chorus, as the crowd and the band all collectively lost themselves in the spirit of the song.
Photos By Erik Hess
"We'd like to say thank you to the Birthday Suits for playing with us," Oberst stated warmly. "Weren't they incredible? Holy shit! This is a love song for a communist." A dynamic, forceful take on "Te Amo Camila Vallejo" and the Landon Hedges-led "Survival of the Fittest/It's a Jungle Out There" quickly followed, with the band never once letting up on the gas during their breakneck set and the crowd growing more untamed as the night wore on.
"So, we spent some time over at Battle Lake recently. Or some people know it as Elbow Lake or Bass Lake -- we're going deep right now," Oberst explained affectionately about some time the band have been spending in Minnesota as of late. "We've been up there for like ten days recording some new songs. We can't play them for you yet, we've got to make sure they are tight first. But this song goes out to our new hometown of Battle Lake." The band then rolled through a venomous take on "$$$$" which had the band and the crowd pogoing in time to the track's driving rhythm supplied by drummer Matt Baum. "Greater Omaha" closed out the main set triumphantly, with Oberst dropping to his knees as the song exploded while a massive pit churned in front of the stage.
Keyboardist Ian McElroy took to the stage first to start the encore by passionately thanking the crowd, "Minne-mother fucking-apolis. Thanks for having us!" The band then wasted little time amping up the energy level once again, delivering a searing take on "MariKKKopa," that got everyone thrashing about feverishly. Oberst kept his political statements to a minimum for most of the set, letting the volatile, unsatisfied messages of the songs speak volumes instead. But towards the end of the performance he addressed the crowd heatedly.
Photos By Erik Hess
"The one thing our government seems truly afraid of is transparency. We're going to have to demand our democracy back from these fucking war criminals. I know there's plenty of people on fucking Wall Street that deserve 35 years behind bars a hell of a lot more than Bradley Manning." With that, the band tore into a scorching version of "Anonymous," with its lyrical call-to-arms of "Freedom is not free and neither is apathy," and the club erupted in support.
"Hopefully, we'll see y'all real soon," Oberst said as the rapid-fire performance came to a breathless close with a rowdy run through of the Superchunk-like "Hole in One," which ended with guitarist Denver Dalley in the crowd, and Baum jumping into the photo pit to shake hands with fans in the front. Though the set was only 65-minutes, Desaparecidos managed to pack the performance with 15 tight, aggressive punk-fueled numbers that provided precisely the type of release that fans were searching for on this humid summer night with the world continuing to corrode around us.
Personal Bias: I don't ever really miss a local performance from Conor Oberst, no matter what band he's playing with. Though I'm really starting to prefer the angry aggression he is able to let out with Desaparecidos.
The Crowd: A lot of kids looking to let off quite a bit of steam.
Overheard In The Crowd: Referring to openers Birthday Suits -- "I don't know who this fucking band is but they fucking rule!"
Photo By Erik Hess
Random Notebook Dump: Indeed, Birthday Suits did fucking rule, as their opening set built to a cacophony of sound and energy, with drummer Yuichiro Kazama wrapping a strap around his mouth to hold his harmonica in place as he beat the hell out of his kit with as many drumsticks as he could hold, frantically keeping time with the feral guitar squall of Hideo Takahashi. Apparently, the guys just finished recording a new album, and they clearly were in a celebratory and rather feisty mood. Their set was killer, and hopefully won them plenty of well-deserved new fans.
Left Is Right
The Underground Man
The Happiest Place On Earth
Man And Wife, the Former (Financial Planning)
Mall Of America
Man And Wife, the Latter (Damaged Goods)
Te Amo Camila Vallejo
Survival Of The Fittest/It's A Jungle Out There
Hole In One
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