It would have been so easy to just stay home last night. There was a winter storm hitting the Twin Cities at full force. With lots of snow, wind whipping the snow around, and plummeting temperatures, sitting at home with the cats while watching it all unfold from the comfort of my couch sounded really great. As you all know, that’s not my style so after work I braced the roads and found myself downtown for one of the many shows that were going on last night.
After a couple of drinks and some less than healthy dinner choices in the way of fries smothered in cheese and chips dipped in cheese, my friend/ photographer and I made our way through the winter wonderland and found ourselves in the comfort and warmth of First Avenue. Our timing was perfect and almost as soon as we got into the venue and got settled, opening act Greg Grease took the stage to warm up the crowd.
Hailing from South Minneapolis, Greg Grease is one of the many performers from the Twin Cities that perfectly encapsulates what real life is like. His relatable lyrics mixed with this shining personality and the small stories he added between songs made him seem like that best friend you didn’t know you had. I was straight up laughing at his explanation for a song about dealing with people like that boss who asks you to do something that you already did a week ago. The way he explained it was just so damn relatable and sadly truthful that I couldn’t help but laugh having been through that exact situation multiple times yesterday at work.
Greg’s music is definitely that Minnesota hip-hop/rap style that I’ve truly fallen in love with over the years. It’s aggressive and full of passion that you could literally feel as he performed but at the same time, there was this honesty and kindness behind it. As I mentioned, Greg came off as that best friend you didn’t know you had and his personality shined not only in his live performance, but through his heartfelt lyrics that were about more than just going to the club and getting drunk. Although he was only on stage for under an hour, I was definitely captivated by him the entire time. The Twin Cities has a down right amazing hip-hop/rap scene and I honestly am gunning for Greg Grease to be the next one to ‘pop’ out onto the national scene.
As great as I thought Greg Grease was, the nearly sold out show that had braved the Snowpocalypse was not there to see him. They were there to see the one and only Vince Staples. Having just gotten off of a massive tour with Tyler the Creator that has been going on since late January, Monday night’s show was one of a handful that Vince was doing after the tour on his own. This solo show in such an intimate and legendary room was definitely a treat for the hundreds of fans that came out to see him. With the backdrop of the stage full of small LED squares that flashed with solid colored lights and showed images at points throughout the set, Vince took the stage to a roar of applause and a crowd that was eager to stay warm by way of jumping and dancing along to his infectious music.
At age 24, Vince is a youngster who knows damn well what he is doing. With two full length albums, a handful of EPs and a spattering of mixtapes, he has truly made an empire on his own two legs and to say that seeing that come together in a live show is inspiring for an entrepreneur like myself would be an understatement. Although there was an amazing light show going on all around the stage and venue, Vince’s set seemed humble in a way. His vocals rang through the air and unlike many other rappers these days, the stage was empty other than him. It was refreshing to see a rap show from a big name and actually be able to see something. There have been too many shows lately in this scene where I get distracted by the ‘posse’ on stage all with iPhones and cameras out trying to get that perfect angle. With the stage empty other than Vince, the lights, and a microphone, you were forced to pay attention to him although, with the way he commanded the crowd, I think it would have been that way regardless.
Vince didn’t really have much to say in between songs but he didn’t need to say much of anything. His music and his pure presence said everything. Although there’s no denying his fame and stature in the music industry, he came off as a normal human who just has a talent that deserves the spotlight. He didn’t come off as pompous or full of himself in fact, at times, he seemed a bit nervous or soft-spoken. Don’t let that description fool you into thinking his live show was boring… because it was anything but. Although he seemed calm, cool and collected, there was an undeniable sense of energy radiating off the stage as he stalked from side to the side of the empty stage.
With an extensive set of over fifteen songs, I loved the way that Vince powered through his set with a sense of passion, energy, and efficiency. There was no dinking around for this guy which is something that, at 24 years old, I think should be more than respected. Too many times people waste their set time away with banter that doesn’t need to happen and it’s almost obvious that, at times, they are stalling to waste time. That was not the case with Vince and whether you went to the show because you were a fan or went to escape from the winter tundra, you left satisfied and knowing that you just saw a damn good show.
Many places around the country would have shut down had they gotten the snowstorm the Twin Cities got last night but not us. With a spattering of shows going on downtown, it was business as usual for us hearty Minnesotans. Call us crazy if you want but, if you ask me, going to a show and staying warm in a mess of strangers as you watch a top-notch musician perform on a legendary stage sure beats sitting at home and falling asleep at 7PM.