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The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One
Featuring the 4onthefloor, the Twin Cities Funk and Soul All-Stars, Chastity Brown, and John Mark Nelson (with special guests Nicholas David and Zach Sobiech)
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, January 18, 2013

While the Current's 8th Birthday party lacked the superstar power of the Prince concert taking place a few blocks away, the lineup for the revered radio station's annual bash was filled with a strong batch of local bands (both young and old) that confidently proved that the modern Minnesota music scene is in quite capable hands. And the sold-out club was rightly packed with revelers choosing to celebrate the Current and the positive impact that they have had on local music.

See Also:
Slideshow: The Current's 8th Birthday Party: Part One
John Mark Nelson seeks support for new album on Kickstarter
With months left to live, 17-year-old Zach Sobiech says goodbye through song

First up was the 19-year-old singer/songwriter John Mark Nelson, who brought with him a talented nine-piece backing band filled with a small string section and a sonorous stand-up bass, which really gave his acoustic-based songs a rich, elegant touch. The lush orchestration of opener "Home" got the set off to an assured start, proving that Nelson and the group quickly grew accustomed to the big Mainroom stage during their stint a week prior at the Best New Bands showcase.

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

While a few of the hushed, spare songs in the 40-minute set ("Great Plains," "You Are Tired") got lost in the conversational din of the swelling crowd, Nelson led his band through two impressive new songs, "Boy" and "The Moon and the Stars," while asking for contributions to his Kickstarter campaign to assist in recording the new album with his full band at his side. "Beating In My Heart" took on a decidedly retro, early-Beatles sound, while the crowd passionately sang along to Nelson's Current hit, "Reminisce" as the set drew to a successful close, serving clear notice that we will be hearing from Nelson for years to come.

Chastity Brown also had a truly talented band behind her, with birthday boy DeVon Gray on keys and Robert Mulrennan on electric guitar especially standing out. Brown had the crowd hooked straight from the start with the simmering, bluesy stomp of "I Left Home," and the set only got better from there. "Thank y'all so much for supporting local music," Brown exclaimed, to both the Current as well as their listeners. "It's because of y'alls support that we can hit the road and make records. We can't thank you enough."

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

After a mournful, restrained intro to "Man And Gun," the soulful passion of the song slowly emerged as the smoldering track eventually took flight. But it was a rousing, heartfelt cover of Beyonce's "If I Were A Boy" that proved to be one of the clear highlights of the 50-minute set, and one of the night's first real surprises. Brown picked up the banjo for her last song, when the theme to Rocky inexplicably kicked in. "So, that just happened," Chastity joked, before composing herself to deliver a stunning version of "After You" which brought her performance to a lively end.

The good folks at Secret Stash Records have unearthed underappreciated recordings for a while now, and one of their best releases to date has been the double-vinyl compilation, Twin Cites Funk & Soul, which brought together some forgotten classics from this area during the '60s and '70s. Some of the true musical stars of that time got the First Ave crowd moving in a major way, as the Twin Cities Funk and Soul All-Stars delivered a jubilant, upbeat set that even got Fancy Ray dancing and cracking jokes. The three dapper members of the Valdons quickly got everyone dancing with an exuberant rendition of "All Day Long," and the spirited 55-minute set kept everyone's energy level high from start to finish.

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

After a stirring take on the Ben E. King classic, "I (Who Have Nothing)," a series of terrific vocalists joined the group, as Willie Walker, Sonny Knight, and Maurice Jacox all added their own musical fuel to the funky fire. The set hit its peak with an exultant version of Rufus Lumley's "Minneap'lis Minnesota," which had fans both new and old singing along to what surely should become a lost-but-thankfully-found anthem for the city.

 

Fancy Ray, who was serving as the unofficial MC for the set, then implored all of us to "Keep listenin', keep supporting local music, and keep getting down," before hitting us with his familiar phrase, "My, my, my, I AM the best looking man in comedy." The hits (and surprises) weren't quite done yet, though, as Ray went on to introduce special guest Nicholas David from the Voice, who joined the band for a smooth, slow-burning take on Al Green's "Tired Of Being Alone." The stirring performance proved to everyone why the impressive St. Paul singer came close to winning the music reality show's competition, and brought the soulful set to a memorable end.

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

Raucous headliners the 4onthefloor kept the strong momentum going, with a fiery 65-minute set that not only featured plenty of crowd favorites, but also had a couple of new songs from the quartet's forthcoming album due in April. In fact, the storming set began with a fiery new track entitled "Enough," which featured Duluth's Sarah Krueger on guitar and backing vocals. After a lively cover of M. Ward's "Magic Trick," the performance shifted towards boisterous audience singalongs "Junkie" and "Undertow."

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

But the most memorable moment of the night occurred when frontman Gabe Douglas introduced Lakeland singer/songwriter Zach Sobiech to perform his poignant hit, "Clouds," along with the band. It certainly was an emotional, touching performance, and one that Sobiech and everyone else in the club won't soon forget.

The Current's 8th Birthday Party, Night One, 1/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson

The band kept things churning with volatile takes on "Lionhearted," "On Tuesdays," and a truly blistering version of "Workin' Man Zombie." The night drew to a celebratory close as John Mark Nelson, Maurice Jacox, and Zach Sobiech all returned to the stage to join the 4onthefloor on a jubilant cover of Semisonic's "Singing In My Sleep" as snow fell over the crowd who were singing right along.

Jake Rudh then began the post-show set by playing Prince's "1999" video, perhaps teasing the Purple One just a bit--because even while he was performing just a short distance away, the Current can still throw a wildly successful birthday party without him.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I had seen three of the four bands play live before, but not the Funk and Soul All-Stars. And those guys truly delivered, as did all the groups on the bill.

The Crowd: A full house packed with Current listeners and local music supporters.

Overheard In The Crowd: Chastity Brown perfectly summed up the point of the entire evening: "It's like a big 'ol family backstage--and that's exactly what the local scene should look like."

Random Notebook Dump: Everyone on stage thanked the Current for their continued support and dedication to local music, and those weren't just empty platitudes--each of these bands' careers have all been directly bolstered due to airplay and continued support by the station, and without it our local music scene would look radically different than it does today.


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