Decisions, decisions. That’s what local music fans and music reviewers faced Friday night at First Avenue with two outstanding shows both starting at 8:30pm. In the Mainroom, one of my long time favorites, Soul Asylum, was joined by The 4onthefloor, and Loki’s Folly. In the 7th St. Entry it was The Shackletons with Last Import, and Trevor DeVine and The Immaculate Beings. In the spirit of biting off more than you can chew, I attempted to cover both sides of First Avenue on Friday night as well as shoot photos at the Entry. Here’s the best that I can relay to you from that frantic Friday evening.
Loki’s Folly was the first opening act in the already full Mainroom and it was great to see so many fans arrive early to support the young duo. You may have seen the two sisters perform their favorite song “Kids Don’t Follow” as part of the annual Tribute to The Replacements at the Turf Club on Black Friday. Now they made it to the main stage at First Avenue. Can any other 12 and 14-year-old siblings claim that? If they were nervous they didn’t show it. They didn’t have time to fit in The Replacements cover with plenty of their own punk songs they played in their young brash style. Ryan Smith (guitarist in Soul Asylum and frontman of The Melismatics) is the girls’ instructor at Twin Town Guitars and in a proud moment he joined his students on stage for a song. The two hung around after to meet fans and looked even younger when not up on stage. Kudos to these youngsters for being braver than I could in playing in front of over 1,500 folks.
The 4onthefloor has filled the Mainroom on their own a few times and call it their favorite place to play. Tonight fans got their money’s worth with such a top-notch special guest before the main act. Frontman Gabe Douglas was wearing normal “Gabe” attire tonight after sporting his cutoff Zubaz shorts at last weekend’s benefit show. Drummer Jake’s mop of hair was over his eyes as he took care of the “stompin’ ” for the band. Matt wore a baseball cap but lost it as he and Gabe rocked out in tandem. I missed the first part of their set when over at the Entry listening to Last Import. I did arrive in time to catch some of my favorite songs like “Radio Edit” and “Faux American” off of their most recent album The North Remembers. Also, the fun “Tuesdays” and staple “Some Days.” As they neared the end of their set Gabe invited anyone that was bored to come down to Rochester to join them for New Year’s Eve. If not then they will be celebrating the band’s 10th anniversary with four straight shows January 17th – 20th. Gabe dedicated their final song to all of their friends including the band that will be their opening act on January 17th, saying, ” Let’s hear it for the Shackletons who are playing a sold out show right now next door in the Entry. This song’s for them.” Of course it was their anthem and song used by Kare11 when the Twin Cities hosted the Super Bowl last year, “All My Friends.” They had plenty of them Friday night.
After running back to the Entry to catch the start of The Shackletons set in the Entry we tore ourselves away to listen to the Soul Asylum show in progress. Of course we all think back to the original band with Dan Murphy and Karl Mueller but the current lineup of Dave Pirner with Ryan Smith on guitar, Winston Roye on bass, and Michael Bland on drums has been together for some time now. Dave wore his typical attire with torn jeans, and a black unbuttoned shirt over a black t-shirt, Ryan wore his usual striped shirt while Winston fashioned a baseball undershirt. Michael’s drum set was decorated with blue Christmas lights as he leaned back and set the beat. The group sounded tight after recently wrapping up a pretty cool sounding South American tour. They also added some deeper tracks to their setlist during that tour and used them Friday night as well. We took the opportunity during a song we didn’t recognize to cross back over to the Entry to catch the finish of the Shackletons’ energetic set which ended just after 11pm.
Returning to the Mainroom we were happy not to have missed “Black Gold” which featuring Dave on acoustic guitar playing the great guitar jam with Ryan. Sticking with that guitar he launched right into another top hit in “Runaway Train.” This got the crowd singing along and then taking over under Dave’s direction. Another great song followed with “Closer To the Stars” with Dave switching to electric guitar mid-song. This was my favorite of the night by Soul Asylum with Michael Bland pounding away on the drums and Ryan adding a nice guitar solo. Dave thanked the applauding crowd with his go-to line, “You are too kind.” Michael stayed planted behind the drums after the rest of the band exited the stage after the main set. That made it no surprise that they returned soon after. The surprise was that Dave sat down behind a keyboard for the encore. “Wish me luck, ” Dave said before beginning “Cruel Intentions.” They kept the encore slow with “Lonely For You” before the keyboard was hauled off for a more upbeat finish to the night.
It was a busy night trying to be in two places at once but also very exciting to listen to six different bands in the two venues in a three hour span. I feel a little guilty having had to miss some of my favorite songs when I was in the other room. I know I must have missed Soul Asylum hits like “Just Like Anyone,” “Misery,” and “Somebody To Shove” during the time I was enjoying the Shackletons next door. But it also illustrates what great music options we have in the Twin Cities and especially at First Avenue and the 7th St. Entry. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for young Loki’s Folly and planning to see the 4onthefloor in the near future for at least one of their four anniversary shows. Of course I’ll always be checking the calendar for Soul Asylum’s annual holiday show at First Avenue.