Minnesota — there’s something in the air. And it’s not just that cold white stuff. It’s the spirit of Christmas coming to fruition. Sure enough, the holiday spirit was alive and well this past Friday night at the State Theater in Minneapolis during The New Standards Holiday Show. The New Standards are somewhat of a hometown “supergroup” formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota consisting of Chan Poling (The Suburbs), John Munson (Semisonic/Trip Shakespeare) and Steve Roehm. The New Standards have been putting on this annual holiday show for quite some time, and it’s something many of the locals look forward to year after year.
As I made by way downtown with the snow reflecting the glistening glow of city skylights, I was in the perfect, warm and fuzzy mood for a good Christmas celebration. As I settled into my seat, I certainly was not about to be disappointed by what The New Standards were delivering the audience (both those naughty and nice) for Christmas.
As the lights went dim, the night opened up with Michael J. Nelson and Joel Hodgson from Mystery Science Theater 3000 introducing the band. Their bright and shining faces peeked out of the stage curtain as it pulled back and disappeared from the stage. It was an odd, but pleasant surprise seeing these two come out of seemingly nowhere, and it got the ball rolling as many other surprise guests were also to come throughout the evening.
The New Standards wasted no time getting the crowd on their feet as they opened with a cover of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” Stage lights were flashing, and the backing band settled into a groove that had me unknowingly shaking my hips as I watched them preform. It wasn’t long into their set that I realized that not only are The New Standards trio talented at their instruments, they are also quite funny. Poling and Munson mixed in plenty of banter and crude jokes between songs, often getting a roar out of the audience by poking fun at guest musicians who came on stage.
One of the first guest acts of the night included Minneapolis based bluegrass group the Okee Dokee Brothers. Nominated for a Grammy in 2014, this indie band is notorious for playing catchy, feel good children’s songs. Singers Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander came out armed only with a guitar and banjo in front of the backing band, but rose to the challenge of sweeping the audience of mostly adults off their feet. Their music was whimsical and perfect for the Christmas spirit.
After the Okee Dokee Brothers left the stage, the audience was given a special treat with a surprise appearance by Doomtree superstar Dessa. In a highly majestic fashion, Dessa appeared atop one of the side balconies and preformed a dramatically hilarious reading of a made up Christmas haiku poem. She was confident and poised, and the audience was captivated by her presence. A warm, rowdy applause erupted after she disappeared from the upper tier and slipped back into the staging area.
Following Dessa was more Minneapolis musicians – including Jeremy Messersmith, Matt Wilson, and Tina C. (whose last name I unfortunately could not fully discern) and Aby Wolf. Out of all these musicians, Tina came out and absolutely stole the show. She flawlessly belted out a cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Her performance ended with the crowd rising for the first full standing ovation of the night.
As the set was coming to a close, people dressed in fir tree and devil costumes came bumbling across the stage, dancing around and adding to the theatrics. Additionally, a disco ball lowered from the ceiling, which was the beginning of the band igniting a full on 80’s dance party. The stage was full of glowing lights, and it began to snow down upon the audience. It was truly a spectacle. The encore consisted of a cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and the crowd seemed to enjoy this song choice, as they sang along in happy unison.
Having been in attendance for The New Standards holiday show this year, I can’t imagine going next year without it. It’s the Christmas show I didn’t know I needed until now. This is a truly unique production that us Minnesotans are lucky to enjoy. Often, we may take our music scene for granted, but last night proved we live in a thriving metropolis where artistic talent is nothing short of abundant.
2 more performances are scheduled for today, a few tickets are still available HERE