The Current's 7th birthday party at First Avenue, 1/28/12

The Current's 7th Birthday Party, Day 2

With Polica, Suicide Commandos, Sims, and Haley Bonar
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 28, 2012

View a slideshow from the concert here and coverage of night one here.

Was it arrogant of the Current to think that a two-night birthday was appropriate? Was it indulgent? Overkill? These questions were raised in the days and weeks leading up to this past weekend. By Saturday night, at the beyond sold-out First Avenue mainroom, the answer to all of those questions was abundantly clear. No, it was not any of those things and, in fact, it may not have been enough. While it was the radio station's birthday, what it really did was function as a showcase for the music that has been produced in Minneapolis over the past three decades.

Saturday night started out slowly with Haley Bonar delivering a solid set of her brand of Aimee Mann-ish folk rock. She began her set by playing a handful of songs including "Killer" on a Rhodes organ. Then, she stood up, said "Well, that's enough of that," and picked up her acoustic guitar to close out her set with a few more, many of them culled from her Leo EP. Toward the end she brought out Linnea Mohn from Coach Said Not To and the Dale Hush Hush to help out on "Moon Die" and threw in the stellar "Raggedy Man" ("Oh, here's 'the hit,' I guess." she remarked.) to much applause, as well. It was a spare, reserved beginning to a night that got increasingly louder as it progressed.

The Current's 7th birthday party at First Avenue, 1/28/12
Photo by Erik Hess

The set for Sims, who took a quick break from touring with Doomtree and flew in from Oregon just for the show, was also sparsely populated. It was just him, a mic and Plain Ole Bill on the decks, but his turned out to be the most eventful. Between songs, which included a hefty chunk of his Bad Time Zoo and a quick tribute/singalong to Doomtree's "Bangarang," Sims stressed the importance of working toward goals and being okay with who you are. "Here's how to rap in 2012," he offered at one point, "be your goddamn self everywhere, all the time."

The Current's 7th birthday party at First Avenue, 1/28/12
Photo by Erik Hess

At one point, a woman from the crowd rushed the stage and was quickly ushered off by stage manager Conrad Sverkerson.  A few minutes later came the coup: During "Burn it Down" as his set was waning, Sims jumped off the stage to the front of the crowd barrier, delivered a few lines then hurtled himself over it and fully into the crowd, igniting a pogo-fest for the last part of the song.

The Current's 7th birthday party at First Avenue, 1/28/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Old school punks -- they were, in truth, punk before punk had a name -- the Suicide Commandos opened with their own "Burn it Down." It included the intro to the 1977 video playing on the big screen, and then that ultra-simple, fantastic bassline kicked in courtesy of Steve Almaas. Their set was the most scorching of the night, with the songs all running together with no banter or stopping between them for the most part -- and when the did stop it was for mere seconds.


Some of their lyrics sounded a bit funny coming from three guys who are now in their 50s, but they are three of the coolest guys in their 50s you'll ever see. All the favorites were in the set -- "Mr. Dr.," "Shock Appeal," and the rest -- plus guests Kevin Calhoun and the Suburbs' Hugo Klaers jumped onstage for a couple of cover songs toward the end. There would be no Hüsker Dü, no Replacements, no punk scene in general in Minneapolis without the Suicide Commandos, and it made me wistful for the Longhorn Bar.

And finally, after a long wait, the Minneapolis it-band of the moment began to play to their biggest crowd yet. Equipped with two drum kits, a sampler and bass, Poliça was infectious, funky, electronically-driven music that sounded as organically-grown as the Commandos' did just minutes before. Songs that were introspective and at times so heartwrenching it seemed as if the mainroom might collectively burst.

The Current's 7th birthday party at First Avenue, 1/28/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Lead singer Channy Leaneagh's voice was at once both ethereal and cutting, distorted and elasticized by Auto-Tune -- but not in the crass way Auto-Tune is usually utilized. Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson's dual drum work was precise and jaw-drop worthy on songs like "Dark Star" and "Lay Your Cards Out. These songs were of the type that stick with you for longer than you'd like, making your mind spin, stirring up memories both good and bad. It was quite an end to a spectacular night, everyone's birthday should be this cool.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I like all of these acts for different reasons and seeing them all on the same bill was quite a treat.

The Crowd: More subdued (read: less drunk) than Friday's and I was happy that so many of them got on board with the Suicide Commandos.

Overheard: "Good to see [the Suicide Commandos'] Chris Osgood wearing a Super Mario Bros. 1UP hat to connect with today's kids."

Random Notebook Dump: Poliça makes the kind of music that haunts your dreams.

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