Love is the Law Concert
With the Suburbs, Gay Men's Chorus, Jack Brass Band, P.O.S., Zoo Animal, and Hookers $ Blow
Ecolab Plaza, St. Paul
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
"Life is like a summer's evening," a lyric from the Suburbs' Tuesday performance proved to the second-most memorable statement of the night. After Governor Mark Dayton signed the gay marriage bill into law, the quickly assembled celebration show -- inspired by the Twin Cities band's 1984 hit "Love is the Law" -- was a delightfully warm, mosquito-deprived, and adoration-rich experience in downtown St. Paul.
With temperatures soaring north of 90, and then gradually cooling, many of the Minnesotans of all ages and walks of life seemed like they were in the middle of a hazy dream as they processed from the State Capitol late Tuesday afternoon. Sure, one of the most monumentous political changes Minnesota has ever seen had just taken place, but expressing the right to bare arms (and legs) was also on a good portion of the crowd's mind. Retro rock and soul all-stars Hookers $ Blow -- introduced as the more family-friendly "H and B" -- capitalized on the positivity right away, and got a huge ovation for their rendition of Queen and David Bowie's hit "Under Pressure." Largely assembled from members of the Honeydogs, the band fed off of the packed plaza -- reportedly 7,000 people at its peak -- and delivered while the air was still hot.
"How are you doing?" Zoo Animal frontwoman Holly Hansen later asked the crowd. When they responded with an uproar, she added, "Me tooooo!" From then on, she thrashed her way through a cathartic set. While her three bandmates ably constructed tight rock rhythm behind her, Hansen let her red guitar swing over her shoulder as if blown by the wind, and contorted her body as the emotion spilled from her lips. The set felt like a freedom cry, filled with Hansen's powerful voice and the spirit of the day.
P.O.S. led off his set with an apology to the crowd, "Pardon me if I don't flip out too hard, I'm kinda sick." But even in a so-called "hampered state," he and DJ Fundo stirred a young, rowdy contingent in the crowd into a united sea of waving arms and shaking torsos. In between a mix of We Don't Even Live Here bangers, Stef introduced the crowd to his tiny cowboy dance, and a water break incited chants of "Chug, chug, chug," which were updated to "Sip, sip, sip," on his prompting. "There's all kinds of equality all of a sudden," he noted midway through. "But there's still lots of work to do" As the strains of "Purexed" wrapped up a set that was supposed to be only three songs, hugs spread like a prairie fire.
Next, the New Orleans-inspired Jack Brass Band led an onslaught of call-and-response of jams, and some of the energy from the P.O.S. set clearly hadn't worn off as some kids got wrapped up in a mosh. The eight-man band sang lustily whenever they weren't occupied with their brass instruments, and they got a large swath of the audience singing along to a cover of Mel Waiters' "Got My Whiskey." The stage was kind of crowded for their set, but it was nothing compared to what would follow when the Gay Men's Chorus squeezed about a hundred vocalists onto it and the barricaded area in front. Wearing black shirts proclaiming "Marry Us," the choir filled the air with a song of the same name, as well as a swelling version of Andy Williams's "Walk Hand in Hand."
St. Paul Chris Coleman then joined the choir onstage for some brief remarks, which not only celebrated the equality championed on the day, but also the fact that a whole lot of people were gathering in downtown St. Paul. "I have never been prouder of the state of Minnesota than I am today," he said. "Today we declared that love is the law." And, you can bet that this was the cue for the Suburbs to hit the stage. Miraculously, the choir stayed as the band began playing "Love is the Law," and added a wall of voice to its first section. Coleman also stuck around to play guitar. This was spectacular.
Though the night probably could've wrapped in dramatic fashion right then and there, Chan Poling, Suicide Commandos guitarist Chris Osgood, and the Suburbs -- with a horn section, no less -- kept it going. "Rattle My Bones" followed as the stage cleared to reveal the core of the band, and it jostled the crowd in good measure, as well. Darkness and a wondrous cool breeze had fallen over the proceedings by this time, and the nattily dressed Suburbs' pull felt even stronger. The swaggering continued through a couple more numbers, including "Life is Like" and "Girlfriend."
Obviously pleased with themselves, and with the pleasure that was still ringing through the entire city on their side, the Suburbs started up a final rendition of "Love is the Law" to close the evening. Folks waved their T-shirts featuring the slogan, and it closed a statement performance that'll likely send local iTunes purchases of the song through the roof. Still, the weight of everything positive that happened wasn't an excuse to let being crowned a "more-tolerant state" be the end of it. "It's not about laws and marriage," Poling said. "It's about people."
Overheard: "I smell something interesting."
The Crowd: Wearing T-shirts featuring every single slogan you might imagine.
Personal Bias: This was a great day for politics and music in Minnesota.