It always surprises me when I meet someone who has been living in the Twin Cities for a couple of years and hasn’t been to a show at First Avenue. I see it as a true treat that we have such an amazing music venue in our city and take advantage of it as much as I can but other people don’t feel the same way or don’t obsess over live music the way I do. When I found out that the guy I’ve been seeing hasn’t been to First Avenue before, my heart sank. First Avenue is such a big part of my life and a home away from home so to be seeing someone who has never ever been to a show there was a bit of a shock. I was waiting for just the right show to take him to, I wanted something that was nostalgic and something that truly put me in my element but then I realized that just being at First Avenue and experiencing live music is what puts me in my element so I snagged him a ticket to Friday night’s Iration show, grabbed a couple of friends, and finally got him to First Avenue for a show.
Sadly due to an early start time and the need to grab some food after a long day and before what was sure to be a fun but long night, my friends and I walked into First Avenue just as opening act The Ries Brothers were finishing up. My sinceriest apologies to the band. You could feel that the audience was already having a good time by the time we walked in which is a sign of just how great The Ries Brothers’ opening set was.
My friends and I got settled in our spot just in time for Maryland based Ballyhoo! to take the stage. As soon as they started I realized that this was probably the perfect show to be someone’s first First Avenue experience. Ballyhoo!’s beats were groovy and energetic while giving the room a feeling of carefree fun. I had caught Ballyhoo! before but I feel like it was always on a show or at a festival where I was there for other acts so I never really gave them the attention they clearly deserve. Shame on me. Ballyhoo!’s live show is infectious. The band members somehow came off as having the time of their life on stage even though they do this night in and night out all the while giving the audience a perfect set. I’ve dabbled in their recorded music and was pleasantly surprised that their live sound matched their recorded sound while still bringing something extra to the table. Ballyhoo! is a hard working band that has been grinding for years and it was refreshing to see that hard work pay off on the legendary First Avenue stage in front of me.
Iration’s set was perfectly understated. Like the bands before them, Iration didn’t force you to watch them or demand your attention but somehow got it. Conversations throughout the packed audience came to a silence as the band powered through their nearly twenty song set with a sense of power and passion that was impossible to ignore but people were still just standing around and dancing in their own little world instead of having their eyes glued to the stage. I got the feeling tht this is exactly what the band members wanted and enjoyed watching the musicians reach a state of zen that I don’t think I’ve ever seen from a musician before.
I wanted my friend’s first First Avenue experience to be an exciting one and thought that meant it had to be to see a band that I was completely in love with but I was wrong. I dragged him to a show that he and I knew next to nothing about, grabbed some friends to join us and a couple of rounds of drinks. It ended up being the perfect show to be a “First First Avenue” show.