“I said ‘I’ll make you smile’ for simple fact I’m good at it / “I’ll make you smile” just so I can sit and look at it”
I was probably 9 or 10 years old and it could have been the Midtown Global Market or Mercado Central on the southside of MPLS, when I was hopping out of our village-funded, beat-down Cadillac with a few newspaper stacks under-arm. Born and raised in Edina, Minnesota (“cake-eaters” most would think, I assume) I never really knew what the hell that meant until I started this job with my older brother and mother. Around the time of the ‘08 market crash, my parents and in-turn – family – also crashed. However, my family refused to give up our privileges for many reasons, remaining in Edina schools and activities, living next to CEOs and VPs alike as we were here – the south and north side of downtown Minneapolis – delivering free newspapers just to keep the lights on, while not even two years prior we were attending happy hours and brunches at the Edina Country Club. The silver spoon in our mouths was yanked out byway of an eviction, divorce, and a whole lot of trauma that created the perspective and vocabulary you are reading right now.
“Why the hell is this show review becoming a biography?” one might be asking;
It’s simple – my life and Atmosphere share a story line that cannot be separated.
When we realized it was make or break, we began hustling around town for jobs like delivering the “Star Tribune” in the mornings, and delivering “JobDigs” during the day – sometimes even missing school days to hit quotas and make rent on time. A lot was sacrificed – I didn’t really know what was actually going on until age and wisdom came to me – I just remember being confused and scared. One remedy came about around April of 2008 with an album “When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold.”
“Atmosphere?” I remember Andrew saying when I heard “The Waitress” for the first time over ten years ago. I had no idea what music really was yet, but Atmosphere was now an artist that would create the soundtrack to my life.
“I think it’s great how you used to be great / I can’t hate on how you choose to relate / but I know that you had the potential / I understand why you wanted to let go / a lot of pressure in the middle of those shoulders / and we ain’t getting nothin’ but older / ain’t nothin’ changed but the day we run from / but nobody knows it better than YOU, huh?!”
The struggle carried on, and as a “burb’ boy” in what many of my privileged peers back on the West Side considered the “hood,” I had no idea how to connect with the world beyond my suburban bubble beyond the culture, the art, the music, but overall: “Atmosphere”… “just a ten letter word.”
Fast forward, I’m twenty three, living with no wealth beyond comfort and the ability to tap in an Uber request to “The Palace Theatre” in Saint Paul from a home not far from where the old neighbor of front-man “Slug” cuts hair at a barbershop on my block, and you see me – a man that will never forget the boy who wanted to see these guys live before anyone else. I got into the show, bought a vinyl for record’s sake, hit the bar for a cider or two (never again four, not until the High Kings are back), and hit the general admission area.
On two occasions that night, we had the chance to view DJ Keezy flip and turn some fantastic beats as a DJ known for locally as the “Best Club DJ” in the Twin Cities. Following her, we got a chance to hear some newer content from Mink, with their newest album being “Deconstruction.”I also had my first time witnessing the musical and soulful prowess of Nikke Jean, a progressive and fire-spirited singer/piano player from Saint Paul. And, of course, before the memories came pouring back to me – we had The Lioness – who (much like Atmosphere and most of the lineup that night) reigned from the Minnesota Metro area as well. The Lioness is commonly associated with Atmosphere and other commonly affiliated acts such as Brother Ali. I have no intentions shy of seeing all of these artists in their own time, but, for me – this night was with Atmosphere. Around 10:00PM, Slug came out, and (as much as I was expecting shell shock) I felt way too calm. In the moment, I was disappointed: “shouldn’t I be jumping up and down? I haven’t seen these guys live ever” I thought to myself.
But then it hit me – Atmosphere was nothing new. Atmosphere was my soul and spirit during one of the worst, challenging times of my life. All-To-Famiiar faces took the stage, as planned, but my mind could not forget the face of my brother’s – a teenager at the age of fifteen, driving a damn-near-broken car around the Twin Cities of Minny, with me and a fat stack of newspapers every day for years – in neighborhoods that were completely irrelevant to the one we lived in.
Slug came out with a bang, asking for peace signs up (scissors), fists up (rocks); All we were missing after a few songs was “paper.” We heard a ton of songs, and Slug joked “some of y’all know I like to talk too much… lemme just get it all out of the way right now…”
“Two things… I love you, and we’re from here and we’re called Atmosphere… 42nd and Oakland – make some noise for the south side.” And noise we made. The night flashed by with the turning of each track by Ant and line from Slug. My life was flashing before my eyes.
Atmosphere isn’t just a band; no – Atmosphere is Collin Dobin. Atmosphere is Northstar Imagery. Atmosphere is Minneapolis. Atmosphere is St. Paul. Atmosphere is Minnesota. Atmosphere is “just a ten letter word.”