Thursday night, the iconic St. Paul venue – The Turf Club – played host to a slew of great bands, some bands with local ties, others no local ties but somehow felt right at home in the Twin Cities. Theo Katzman, perhaps best known for his work with the funk group Vulfpeck, brought his tour to St. Paul for a night of great music, great showmanship and off the wall humor. Theo Katzman was supported on this leg of the tour by Bridget Kearney (of Lake Street Dive) and Cory Wong (Minnesota native and alumnus of the now defunct McNally Smith College of Music). Katzman and company had plenty of love for the sold-out crowd at the Turf Club and the feeling was clearly mutual. The crowd at Turf was one of the most energetic and lively crowds we’ve seen in a while – usually a more subdued batch of music-goers, Katzman and crew brought the fun (and the funk) back to live music. It was the perfect medicine on a cold Thursday night in St. Paul.
Opening up the evening was Bridget Kearney, perhaps best known as a member of Lake Street Dive. Though Kearney herself does not hail from Minnesota, her band takes their name from the well-known street in Minneapolis (which is Lake Street Dive’s guitarist/trumpetist Mike “McDuck” Olson hometown). Kearney opened up her set solo – just herself and her guitar but she immediately had the room hooked on her every move. Kearney’s style of songwriting is poetic, each verse, each line, telling a story that is as colorful & complex as her playing. Thursday also happened to be International Women’s Day and having Kearney kick off the evening was a perfect way to celebrate the occasion. Kearney brought up Theo Katzman and his band for a song or two. There was just a genuine and organic energy to Kearney, Katzman and the band that you couldn’t help but soak up every minute.
Following Kearney was Cory Wong – a name I’d heard floating around various musical circles in the Twin Cities but had yet to experience Wong live. And when I say “experience,” I mean just that. Wong & his band’s set was an experience to say the least and one that needs to be experienced live. I can confidently say – I have never seen anything like Wong and his bands’ set and probably won’t see anything like it for a long time. Wong’s style of music is not reinventing the wheel – he blends elements of funk with his horns section, blues, rock, jazz and more – but it’s personality that takes center stage. Wong’s banter on stage borders on spastic yet witty, bombastic yet understated, absurd yet thoughtful. From a ten-minute pitch for Southwest to a heartfelt speech about trading fear for gratitude, Wong’s set hit all the heartstrings. He was hilarious and heartfelt, off the wall and reflective, all in the same breath. He was a hilariously refreshing breath of fresh air and an unexpected stand out from the evening. There’s really no words that will truly and fully do Wong’s set justice – but all I can I say is if Cory Wong and company swing through your city – you need to go.
And headlining the evening was Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Theo Katzman. I first heard and fell in love with Theo Katzman after his 2017-release Heartbreak Hits, though Katzman has been making music long before that. As mentioned, Katzman is best known for his role in Vulfpeck but been making major waves with his recent solo releases. Heartbreak Hits was an album that hooked me from the first time I listened to it – it was cathartic, it was raw, it was witty. It perfectly tells the stories of the ups and downs of a relationship, the good, the bad and everything in between. There is something so refreshing about that album and Katzman brings that same quirky humor & energy to his live sets. Joining Katzman on tour was Lee Pardini of Dawes. Katzman showed Minneapolis plenty of love, joking about wanting to move to Northeast Minneapolis. The Turf Club was packed from wall to wall, drinks were plentiful, and their were good vibes all around. There was no better way to spend a Thursday night in St. Paul thanks to Theo Katzman and company.
Katzman continues his tour tonight in Chicago.