I’m all about the all ages shows. Not only do I find the crowds a bit more exciting to watch because, let’s be honest, kids in a crowd have way more energy than adults waiting at a bar for a drink, but also because it means the show absolutely has to be done by 10PM (Minnesota law) which means I actually get a decent night’s sleep. That being said, with last night’s show having a door time of 4PM and music start time of 4:30 and the unfortunate reality that I am an adult with a job, there was no way I was going to make it on time. After a less than thrilling fight with downtown traffic, I finally made to the show just in time to see the second act.
I already felt bad for missing opening act Roxbury but the excitement my photographer expressed as he explained to me how their set was made me feel even worse. He had nothing but great things to say about the opening act. My apologies to Roxbury!
The first band for me to catch was Detroit based Shortly. I was instantly struck by how quiet it was in the venue. Sure, it was just a hair past 5 and the crowd was light to put it nicely but it was still a rock show and the dead silence in the air had me a bit confused. That was before vocalist Alexandria (Alex for short) Maniak opened her mouth and started singing. Now, I’ve heard beautiful voices time and time again. I’ve gotten the chills from a haunting line of lyrics sung in just the right way but Alex’s vocals left me damn near speechless. Backed by three friends who seemed to only provide support and a body to her beautiful words and voice, Shortly’s set may have been quick but it definitely had me shook. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting when walking in last night as I had thought it would be more of a rock vibe throughout the night but I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
Following the beauty of Shortly was Oso Oso. Although I have heard their name time and time again, I had never checked them out prior to last night’s set and, per usual, I was instantly regretting that decision. Oso Oso’s music kept on the moody side of things with emotions being heard loud and clear throughout their obnoxiously short set (everyone’s set seemed far too short for my liking). Much like Shortly’s set and the two sets to follow, there was an undeniable sense of passion that radiated from the stage as the New York based four piece played through their set. With only two full length albums out since they started in 2014, it’s easy to call these guys a fairly new band with a long road ahead of them but if they keep performing like they did last night, that trek will be more than worth it for this band. I just call them like I see them and I can tell you with certainty that there are big things in the future for this band.
Up next was Have Mercy. Although I’ve seen them a couple of times, I feel like I’m given something different every time and last night was no different. I’ve seen them perform with a sense of vigor and aggression but last night that aggression seemed to take the backseat to a set full of pure emotion. Have Mercy is one of those bands that, when seeing live, you feel the music, not just hear it. Vocalist Brian Swindle’s lyrics cut right to the core and his delivery is goosebump inducing. Although their set seemed a little bit more laid back than the last time I saw them (probably trying to cater to the calmer line-up), I felt like it gave me a chance to see a side of this band that I wish everyone could see. With a brand new acoustic song performed by just Brian and his guitar thrown into the set of already moody music, I found myself feeling things that I didn’t think I would be feeling when walking into last night’s show. Although comforting and calm, there was this spike of energy on the stage and in the audience that primed everyone in First Avenue perfectly for what was to come from the headliners.
The Wonder Years took the stage right at 7:45 and I was instantly whisked away into a world where you jump on every beat and you scream until your voice is about to give out. Hailing from the Philadelphia area, The Wonder Years are one of those bands that took the scene by storm. They may have been around since 2005 but I feel like just recently they have started to get this cult following which is definitely deserved. With angsty lyrics juxtaposed by a pop-punk sound, this band has stayed true to who they are and their sound while still growing and maturing. Their latest album “Sister Cities” may not be my favorite of theirs but there’s no denying the maturity that it shows. Unlike many other bands that broke out in the mid 2000’s into an oversaturated scene of pop-punk, this band has never gotten lost on me. Each album seems to be timed with my life in an almost uncanny way. I’ve seen this band grow over the years and it made me so happy to find myself lost in a sea of people screaming along to every word like their life depended on it last night.
Much like Have Mercy, The Wonder Years have lyrics that hit you right in the feels. They sing about things that, although trivial in the grand scheme of things, mean everything to everyone. The energy and emotion that this band puts into their live shows will never get old to me. The rule of the evening was that when singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell jumped, the audience jumped. Now, I’ve heard bands try to put that rule in place before but it’s rare that an audience actually follows it. That was not the case last night and throughout the seventeen song set and two song encore, there were moments where I don’t think my feet ever touched the ground. I talk about getting the feeling of family and community when lost in a crowd at a concert– that was exactly the feeling last night.
I had to decide if I wanted to honor my edgier side by going to the Beartooth show last night or give in to my nostalgic/ moody side by going to The Wonder Years. I definitely made the right decision and I got a solid night’s sleep. I’ll call that a win.