It was all beautiful at First Avenue Friday night.
A beautiful night to cap off a beautiful early spring day in er, mid-February. Beautiful performances by beautiful people for a beautiful audience.
The Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider and Andrea Swensson of the Current emceed, letting us know we were in for something special with the winner of the 2017 Are You Local? competition. That would be Nick Jordan, and there was a sizable crowd for him. He let us all have it with a full-strength body blow of grooves and Princely theatrics. A song early on called, maybe, “What You Say,” was funky as shit. It sounded like the Revolution.
Everything was in lock step for the 23-year-old’s performance. The musicianship was tight, the dancers from Intermedia Arts were crushing it, and Jordan’s own vocals and maneuvers got the crowd hopping. He introduced “Flavors” as his favorite song; it rained down on the crowd, and we were sexier because of it. And “Petty” was on. Just on.
“I just have to stop and take this in,” said Jordan as he scanned the crowd. He seemed genuinely appreciative and awed by where he was. As he eased into the slow jam “Radio,” it was hard to imagine him on a smaller stage.
DJ Shannon Blowtorch filled in between sets from up top in the booth, binding the evening’s performers together with musical Gorilla Glue made of the Runaways, Go-Go’s, Violent Femmes, Salt ‘n Pepa, Prince, and Hall & Oates.
Everyone’s favorite tempest in a teapot, Gramma’s Boyfriend, tore it up next, sounding like the physical manifestation of the coming robot apocalypse crammed into a photo booth with a swarm of wasps. Singer Haley Bonar, always a costume lover, was smothered in an American flag garment, an ironic #MAGAMUUMUU, and she commanded the crowd to get down with “I Forgot!” This band is a noisy fucking joy -- harmonious, discordant, smooth and superchunk at the same time. Gramma’s Boyfriend will make you forget your own name.
Bonar asked, “How are you fine people out there tonight?” Then she ordered, “It’s time for you to do your thing.” The band kicked it through “Forgiven,” before launching blazing covers of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” and Daniel Johnston’s “I Live My Broken Dreams.”
Eventually, Bonar’s American flag get-up came off, to reveal a T-shirt that looked like a hairy man’s chest. “I have four nipples,” she quipped, gently chiding the crowd as “polite.”
Opening “Deep Vee” with a filthy hand gesture, Gramma’s Boyfriend was on a mission. The air vibrated, then burst into flame, and by the time they got to “We R Ctrl” the crowd had lost all ctrl. Fists pumped to the unholy noise. There was an unexpected sax solo. Cathartic and combative, “Bury the Hatchet” and “Glitter” ended the set.
The Suburbs, decked out in dapper duds, boldly opened with an as-yet-unheard new track, “When We Were Young,” off their upcoming album Hey Muse. It was then back to the band's '80s heyday for a string of bouncy, joyous songs like “Music for Boys,” “Life Is Like,” “Hobnobbin with the Executives,” and “Waiting.”
“It’s nice to be here playing with the youngsters,” leader Chan Poling said, referring to his new bandmates, before adding a dedication to fallen Suburbs guitarist Bruce Allen.
The emotional center of the performance was “This Monkey,” from the band’s most recent album, Si Sauvage “This monkey has a heart,” Poling sang in a wounded croon, before ending the song with a “Fuckin’ right!”
Poling went on to ironically praise global warming: “What a beautiful day. Today. Right now. Fuck everyone else.” Then came “Dumb Ass Kids.”
Finishing out the buoyant set as the crowd-pleaser “Born Under a Good Sign” (for which the crowd enthusiastically sang back up), the elegant requiem for lost love “Turn the Radio On,” and a couple brand new ones: “Lost You on the Dancefloor” and “Hey Muse.” 1984’s political statement slash 11th commandment, “Love Is the Law,” wrapped it all up: “People breaking the law… Like the president!”
Most 'Burbs songs are nimble little rumblers, and that is largely because of drummer Hugo Klaers. He doesn’t just lay it down – he attacks the beat. And that night, Klaers was kind enough to bring the folks up front an assortment of beverages when he came out for the encore.
Hydration was in order for the dancing people. While a soaring, majestic “Girlfriend” from Credit in Heaven may have launched the final approach, it was professional-grade “Cows” and “Rattle My Bones” that got everyone moshing. Moshing? Yes, moshing. Politely.
We were all local at this party.
Critic’s Bias: I was there for Gramma’s Boyfriend and the Suburbs (and both killed it), but I feel lucky to have seen Nick Jordan, too.
The Crowd: The people up front noticeably aged from Nick Jordan’s set to the Suburbs’. (Not a burn, just a fact of life.) Prior to the Suburbs taking the stage, I met Kim and Angie, who were decked out in 'Burbs T-shirts, along with light-up earrings and shoes. They were there to be seen, and they told me the band played their homecoming dance at Hopkins High School in 1987.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Oh! She’s up there." (“She” = DJ Shannon Blowtorch.)
Random Notebook Dump: Jeremy Ylvisaker, the guitarist for both Gramma’s Boyfriend and the Suburbs, is currently the hardest working guy in Minneapolis.