Nick Costa’s Twitter message reminding folks about his Devastator CD release show Saturday night must have reached many of his friends and fans. The result was a strong turnout at the 7th Street Entry, especially for a Memorial weekend show.
Local band Taj Raj opened up the show with their friend Nick Costa in the audience. Nick has played with their band before and they decided that his CD release party would be the perfect occasion to reunite the band. They had not played a show for 3 and 1/2 years but had been talking about getting together for a reunion show. All five members united for the show: Ben Burwell (vocals/guitar), Jake Wallenius (drums), Chris O’Hal (guitar), Jake Pavek (keyboard) and Mark Kartarik (bass). The band was born when Burwell and Wallenius were both attending St. Thomas Law School and their music evolved from rock to more of an indie folk/country sound.
Burwell stood center stage wearing a simple sweatshirt and ball cap with his acoustic guitar and sang all of the band’s songs, with Pavek and the others provide the harmonies. I’m most familiar with their 2013 EP Fine Hearts Alive, so I enjoyed hearing “Gold Cup”, “Romani”, “Pollice Verso”, and especially the super-catchy “Begging the Devil”. They also played a number of songs from their most recent album, 2015’s Night Speech. If you were at the show, you know you were able to grab both of these disc’s for the incredible price of FREE. They finished their set with a fun cover of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” that transitioned into one of their earliest songs,”18 Wheels.” It was great to see the band really enjoying their return to the stage. Burwell said they will see what kind of feedback they get from the show before deciding whether to continue playing. I suggest you give them some well-deserved positive feedback.
Nick Costa took the stage to a round of applause in a tan, western, three-piece suit with a matching hat. Jake Pavek (from Taj Raj) stayed to play keyboard. The bearded Costa would later introduce the band as an All-Star band which included Jake Quam on drums and Matt Brandes (from 4onthefloor) on bass. Many of you may know Nick as the guitarist in The 4onthefloor or have enjoyed hearing him play some of his acoustic cover nights around town. But Costa is also a songwriter, having written 5 full length records and 3 EPs in his previous bands and solo projects.
Devastator was born out of incredible tragedy, as Costa described in his Facebook announcement, “Well, folks, it’s here. Started writing this thing a few years back and took chunks out of me to do it. It’s a pretty raw representation of my life at that point. A lot of the songs have to deal with what was going through my mind when I lost my brother. Others range from being about fading friendships, to how weird romantic comedies are. It took a lot for me to make this record. It took even more for me to find the courage to put it out. But today, my friends, I present Devastator on all streaming platforms.” It had to take tremendous courage for Costa to bare his emotions to the world as he did in these songs. Hopefully, it also helped his grief process.
Costa kicked off his show by playing several songs from the new album, in order. He admitting he was “so hot” in his suit on stage, he joked he may need to take off some unnecessary clothing. He played harmonica in a song and removed that as well as his coat afterwards. He still looked rather dapper with his vest though. I was surprised to hear Nick announce on the night of his Devastator release show that he has another one ready. He played a song from that upcoming album and dedicated it to his friend Andy. Before the band took a break, they also played “New Normal”, which amazingly describes how confused, lost, and alone Costa felt immediately after the loss of his brother. It also featured some spirited guitar work.
After Nick played a pair of solo songs that he apologized for being “so sad”, the band returned for something special they wanted to do tonight. It was Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, and the audience could not help but sing along with the band to the strong ballad. There was also a sneaky mission by a couple friends to shoot off a confetti party popper on the festive night. Following the slower “On My Mind” Costa and the band waved to the crowd and left the stage. When called back for an encore, the singer joked they don’t have any more songs. But they played a great cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” for a tremendous closing number. Chants of “Nick Costa, Nick Costa” followed the man of the evening off the stage. Friends and fans would stick around afterwards to congratulate Nick and visit. It was fun to be part of Nick Costa’s Devastator release show. If you were unable to make it to the show but want to order a physical CD or “squirrel” t-shirt you can do so HERE.