In true Minnesota fashion, the temperature was in the single digits and no one seemed to care. The MPR Listener Appreciation Party was exceptionally appreciative last night at the Varsity, giving out goodie bags full of CDs, coupons, passes, and other surprises to every guest that came out. One girl in particular, sitting across the street at Mesa Pizza after the show, was churning in excitement over her Iron & Wine album, among many other treats from her member's bag. But even though the admission was free for MPR members (otherwise an easy 8 bucks), last night wasn't just about free stuff.
[jump] In addition to scheduled acts Peter Wolf Crier, Midwest Standard Time, and a DJ set by Solid Gold, MPR unveiled a surprise special guest, S. Carey; it seemed as if Midwestern label Jagjaguwar Records had come to town to answer the Twin Cities' cries for a great line-up, because they nailed it.
When it came time for Barb Abney (The Current on-air mid-morning host) to announce the special guest, the show had been well underway. Rumors of the proposed surprise guest had been floating around all evening, and some were anticipating Prince to come walking out from backstage. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we weren't privy enough to have Prince before us; rather, we were introduced to Sean Carey. Best know previously for his musicianship in Bon Iver, Sean is no stranger to local love, having played a show for his first album release of All We Grow at both the Electric Fetus and Southern Theater a few months back.
With a wide variety of instrumentals, Sean's punchy vocals go down like a mulled apple cider; and with such organic lyrics one may feel as though they're lost in the woods of Wisconsin - Sean Carey undeniably filled the Varsity with warm pleasure on such a cold night.
As if Sean Carey wasn't enchanting enough, Peter Wolf Crier approached the stage shortly after Carey's set. Duo Peter Pisano (vocals/guitar) and Brian Moen (drums/vocals) are no strangers to Minneapolis crowds. Their fans eagerly took to the front of the stage and stood in awe at the amour and intimacy they were receiving. Peter Wolf Crier's set lifted everyone's spirits just high enough to hit the rafters with their hard meddled folk music and bravely course vocals. Peter Pisano plays his guitar as if Bob Dylan is standing in the crowd watching his every move, with jaunty precision.
Playing many of the favorite songs most often heard on the Current, such as "Hard as Nails," "Crutch and Cane," and "Saturday Night" with passion and glamor, Moen's percussion fit like a puzzle piece beside Peter's vocals. Their boisterous and heavily berated approach came off as sincere. These are all good things, especially when taking a step in modernizing folk's perspective; it sounded like country mixed with a dose of blues-rock, backed behind Peter's raging voice, which swallowed the air like a wolf howling in the distant Midwestern night.
Many of Minneapolis's favorite musicians, hosts and socialites came out to show their support; it seemed as if The Varsity was flying with under-the-radar folks that most wouldn't have a chance to meet otherwise. The MPR Listeners Appreciation Party was more low-key than one might have expected, which made it all the better to be a participant. Peter Pisano, Brian Moen, Sean Carey, members of Solid Gold, Barb Abney, and many other loved Midwestern favorites could be seen hanging amongst the crowd before and after their sets. When it came down to it, we were all just members, locals, and friends coming together to support our love for Minnesota Public Radio.
Personal Bias: I personally love any show held at the Varsity Theater, it's a venue like no other. I will find any reason to go see a show there!
The Crowd: Honest, respectful people coming out in support of music!
Overheard in the crowd: "Peter Pisano is so dreamy!"
Random Notebook Dump: It would have been better to see more people come out in support, as the turnout wasn't as prosperous as one would have liked. But the people that were there understood exactly what they were privy to.