I took a week off of shows. I had some family come in from California and then my dad and stepmom made the trek up to north country to visit my brother and I. It was an amazing week but I was struggling. I’ve been homesick lately and seeing my parents definitely helped remedy that but I felt myself becoming more anxious and short tempered as the week went on. I instantly knew it was because of the lack of live music in my life so when Friday came around and I traveled the familiar streets downtown to First Avenue, it was like a sigh of relief. The fact that I was going to see an idol of mine and a band that I just can’t get enough of was the icing on the cake.
Kicking the Friday night show off was the one and only Kevin Devine. With more albums and projects under his belt than you really care about, it’s easy to say that Kevin is a force to be reckoned with and provided the life soundtrack for many misfit kids growing up in the 2000’s and beyond. Without a band behind him, Kevin took the stage with his guitar hanging from his shoulder and jumped into a politically charged set full of songs that I recognized and some that I did not. The one thing that remained constant was the feeling of nostalgia and love that I got from hearing him sing. He could have just been standing there and speaking into the microphone and I would have loved every single moment of it. Sometimes you find vocalists that provide a sense of comfort with just their voice. Kevin is one of those vocalists.
After a couple of songs, Kevin stopped and addressed the crowd praising the Minneapolis music scene. He went onto say how honored he was to be playing in a city that bred some of the greats including The Replacements, Husker Du, Prince, and Bob Dylan. With that, he jumped into a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me”. As he strummed and sang along, I couldn’t help but wonder. Does Kevin Devine realize that there is a whole generation of kids that talk about him like he does the greats before him. Now, I’m not saying Kevin is as good as Bob Dylan (sorry, he’s just not), but I’m trying to say that his influence was just as great on a generation that included myself. As the music faded out and Kevin handed over the stage to the crew who was getting it ready for the headliner, I couldn’t help but find myself lost in a cloud of nostalgia. Those are the best kind of clouds.
New Jersey based The Front Bottoms headlined the nearly sold out show. As soon as the group took the stage, the young crowd erupted into a sea of smiling, jumping people. This current tour is a special one because The Front Bottoms spent the first set playing through their EP’s “Rose” and “Ann” and spent the second set playing through their 2017 release “Going Grey” along with a couple of old favorites at the end. I can’t lie, I wish they had played more of their old stuff so I could sing along but The Front Bottoms have such a unique sound that I found myself enjoying even the newer material that I have yet to obsess over.
Singer Brian Sella has a very distinct vocal style. It’s not perfect. Hell, it shouldn’t even work. It’s off key and off beat majority of the time but that’s the charm. His lyrics are raw and real and that matches the realness of his vocals. Take that ‘I don’t give a crap’ vocal style and mix it with the mostly upbeat drum patterns and you are left with nothing short of a dance party. These days it takes a lot to get me to weave my way into the middle of a crowd. It takes even more when it’s 100 degrees outside and even hotter in First Avenue but within the first couple of songs, I just couldn’t resist. The Front Bottoms’ music makes you want to move. It makes you want to dance. Even if it’s a slower song, there’s this sense of conviction and passion that just can’t be ignored and that adds a sense of energy to the music that may be missed when just listening to recordings.
Although the setlist was predictable due to the album play-throughs, there was an undeniable sense of excitement between each song of the nearly thirty song performance. Sure, the crowd knew what song would be played yet but that didn’t stop them from waiting impatiently as guitars were changed out and the band regrouped for the next. I attributed this to the young crowd. Their endless energy in the miserable heat kept the old lady I have become at bay. If you were in the thick of the audience during last night’s show, you were fourteen again without a care in the world. You didn’t notice the sweat rolling down your back or your makeup dripping down your face. All you noticed was the band on the stage and that feeling of euphoria that every band should give you when playing live.
Last night was my first show in almost a week so I went for it. I needed that feeling. I needed that sweat rolling down my back and that smile on my face. Last night was everything I needed.