The Honeydogs What Comes After release at First Avenue, 3/10/12

The Honeydogs
With Rogue Valley and Farewell Milwaukee
First Avenue Mainroom, Minnepolis
Saturday, March 10, 2012

View a slideshow from the concert here.

After everything the Honeydogs have endured in the past several months -- including the passing of frontman Adam Levy's son Daniel -- this was a night to put the focus squarely on the music. The seven-piece band -- joined by Aby Wolf and Andra Suchy on backup vocals -- was already playing as First Avenue raised the screen in front of the stage Saturday, and they wasted nary a moment of the What Comes After album release show.

In one of the few instances of banter, Levy introduced his cap-donning pal Ryan Paul Plewacki, who filled in on guitar for the absent Brian Halverson. It was thrilling to watch the Sleep Study principal, who had reportedly learned every song within the past 48 hours, swing his lanky body around his section of the stage. "He can install a water heater like nobody's business," Levy cracked before launching into the acoustic pleasure of "Always a Long Time."

The Honeydogs What Comes After release at First Avenue, 3/10/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

In case anyone hadn't been thinking about the Honeydogs in a minute, now is the time to reengage. Over the course of the 20-song evening, which didn't feel like a long time, the Honeydogs managed to fit in 11 of the 12 songs from their latest release (save "Death by Boredom"), and this is material that makes great use of every player -- especially the horn section. New single "Aubben" figured in extremely early on, which could've been a problem if we weren't dealing with such a versatile troupe. Although there wasn't widespread ass-shakery present in the room, the song represents a vitality that has carried through all ten albums, but one of the strongest pop statements they've ever made.

The Honeydogs What Comes After release at First Avenue, 3/10/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

Although various members of the band have expressed disdain for the ubiquitous hit "I Miss You," this song is an integral part of Twin Cities history. What was evident in the room, however, is that this crowd was charmed enough -- and knew the words for most everything -- that no one was holding their breath until the group's early alt country hit rolled out. Where lots of the more-recent material is more complex instrumentally -- "Devil We Do" and its trippy coda and scorching solos, we're looking at you -- Levy brought the song alive by scraping and clawing around his upper register, letting his eyebrows dance like a pair of caterpillars in heat, and making a song he's performed umpteen times a unique experience all over again. 

The Honeydogs What Comes After release at First Avenue, 3/10/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

As much as Levy retained the center stage, and struck many stoic poses, credit bassist Trent Norton, Wolf and Suchy especially for harmonies that filled out and provided needed looseness to the infectious "Rumor Has It," "10,000 Years," and the soul-soaked "Panhandler's Serenade." There was no obligatory feel to any of this material. Even as the clock struck 10, and the closing notes of "What Comes After" spun into the ether, the Honeydogs hadn't lost a step. This might be the only instance that a regular Hookers & Blow regimen -- the name of Levy's soul covers side project that regularly plays three sets a night -- could yield such a high level of intensity throughout.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: A lot of people cheered when Farewell Milwaukee mentioned Cities 97, and plenty of folks who have been supporting the Honeydogs since their early days.

Personal bias: I always love "Broke It, Buy It" when the lyric refers to a devil not always having horns, and it being followed by a blast of trumpet and trombone.


Sunshine Committee
Rumor Has It
Particles or Waves
Too Close to the Sun
Red Dye #40
Always a Long Time
Everything in Its Place
Truth Serum
Broke It, Buy It
Panhandler's Serenade
Better Word
Blood is Blood
10,000 Years
Turned Around
I Miss You
Devil We Do
Fighting Weight
What Comes After

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