Last weekend I was in Chicago for Riot Fest. Two of the bands performing tonight, Just Friends and Mom Jeans, played Riot Fest to an insane amount of people and they had two of the best sets that Riot Fest had to offer. Seeing them in a smaller setting like Amsterdam Bar in St Paul was going to be a treat after the performances they put out last weekend.
Friends and Family and Fun. That was the basic theme of the night. All of the bands knew each other very well and were all connected to each other. They were all appreciative of each other and kept thanking each other during each band’s sets. Not that this isn’t normal, but you could really feel the love and comradery between these bands. They also wanted us in the crowd to forget about this thing called life and just have a fun night.
Kicking things off for the night was Mover Shaker from Detroit. They were an intriguing band to me because their sound didn’t fall into one place. They had a dose of pop punk, rock, a dash of emo (whatever that means anymore) and all that wrapped up with metal tendencies. It mixed very well and sounded very tight. Since they were the first band, they had the tough job of hyping up the crowd at Amsterdam at the early time of 5:30 on a Sunday night. With the sun beams of light still pouring in the top windows of Amsterdam, Mover Shaker managed to rile up the crowd and got us all out of our Sunday slump. It was a bittersweet set though as this was the last date of the tour for the band which they passionately thanked Eric from Mom Jeans and everyone else involved on this bill. They told the story of how the last time they played the Twin Cities that it was in basement to only 3 people and to see the crowd at the Amsterdam was all worth it. They were appreciative of the people and the people were appreciative of Mover Shaker.
Just when things were starting to bump and get wild, along comes Shortly, another band from Detroit. A total polar opposite of Mover Shaker and all the other bands on the bill. Shortly is quiet and sincere and has a huge spacious sound. Just when one of their song gets that tension build up and you think the song is about to explode, it falls right back down onto a room full of pillows and kittens. That is the one thing that I took away from this set: They never go over that basic rock and roll threshold and instead builds you up to just gently and calmly put you back down. All of that paired up with the somber and borderline depressing lyrics from singer/songwriter/guitarist Alex Maniak, you get a calming before the storm of what was about to come and Alex let everyone know that while her crowd was just chill and embracing her sounds that what was coming up next was about to change.
In a 180-degree shift from Shortly, Just Friends came out and they kept on coming out. I think I counted 10 members. The crowd that was at a standstill for Shortly was about to get a not-so-rude awakening from Just Friends. Jump kicks, circle pits and surfing. That is the crowd for Just Friends and if you are not digging that, the band will encourage you to participate. Singer Sam Kless wants you to have a good time and go absolutely ape shit crazy during their set. Did the crowd follow suit? Hell yes they did. It went from calm to bonkers in a blink of an eye. Just Friends is hard to label for a genre. Are they Punk? Are they hip hop? Are they funk? What are they? I still don’t know but it was a huge party and so much fun. And any band that isn’t a ska band that has a horn section is a winner with me. Fresh off of a successful Riot Fest performance last Sunday, it was nice seeing them in my home town with people I regularly see at shows. This band is here to party and this band is here to stay. All 10 or so of them.
Another band that killed it last weekend with a huge crowd at Riot Fest is the headliner Mom Jeans. After a set from Just Friends, you’d think we would need a breather and take a quick break but no… Mom Jeans picked up where Just Friends left off sans about 6 members.
Mom Jeans are a power-pop-emo punk band from California that proudly wear their hearts on their sleeves and they had the crowd jumping, moshing, surfing and belting lyrics along with MJ frontman Eric Butler.
There is something special about a band like Mom Jeans that can write catchy and moody songs and have an entire crowd scream the songs right back at them. That what was going on at Amsterdam Bar. Every song was a sing along. Every song was a jump along. Every song was at full 100% crowd participation. From flying crowd surfers to getting lost in a pit, there wasn’t one person in the crowd that wasn’t having fun.
This band that has their tongue planted firmly against their cheek knows how to party, write catchy moody songs and give those songs funny and silly titles, e.g., “Pickle Bart” “Jon Bong Jovi”.
Although Mom Jeans doesn’t take them too seriously, the music they perform was serious and they were a perfect way to close out a boring Sunday.