Summer has finally settled in and concert season is in full swing. Looking at the calendar of events for this summer I was elated when I read one of my favorite local bands would be headlining a night full of Minnesota talent at the Varsity Theater. Saturday night showcased the talents of local acts; Hi-Fi Cali, Dustin Hatzenbuhler, Cedar and Whosah.
The headlining act, Whosah, had tweeted about having a small acoustic set in front of the venue before the doors open at 7 p.m. I love when bands announce small sets out of the blue, they tend to be more intimate and get fans closer to the music. I arrived shortly after 6, and Spencer, Dave and Dallas were already drumming and strumming on their guitars. The rain clouds had parted and the sun was starting to shine through, the three sang “Make A Move”, “Better Than Us”, “Oxygen”, and “Ghost Town”. Mixed in with their own songs were a couple covers “Stand By Me”, and a cover of “Get Somewhere” by another local group, Yam Haus.
Hi-Fi Cali started out the night. I had not heard of this due before but I always enjoy finding new artist! Producer Chris Bartels and drummer Bjorn Nilsen have been releasing singles and remixes together with a smooth electronic blend of vocals.
Next on the lineup was Dustin Hatzenbuhler. This was also a first listen for me. Right away I thought of Jason Mraz. The pianist has been playing all over the cities performing original songs such as “Original Things” and “Nothing Better”. I wasn’t too sure how well Dustin was going to fit in musically by his set up. On stage, Hatzenbuhler sat behind a keyboard with two guitarists and a drummer. I was expecting a softer mellow sound after hearing “Keep Bringing Me Home” but boy was I in for a surprise! With his latest single, “Wife You Up” all you want to do is dance and sing along. It’s the type of ear-worm that will leave you hitting repeat.
Cedar, formerly Cedar Avenue, is a band who has been around for quite a while. Their debut album, Temple Songs, was released in 2007. Since then, they have evolved as a band, in both sound and name. Cedar is an older group of guys, which made me curious as to what they had to offer. Instantly, they drew the crowd closer to the stage. The singer addressed the crowd saying, “If it wasn’t for all of you, who come out to these shows, we wouldn’t be able to do this.” It’s amazing how music can bring people together, even if it is for one night. Cedar would fall perfectly into any of my playlists on Spotify. If you have the chance, go see them live.
The main act, headliner, star of the night, leading act, the bee’s knees of the night Whosah took the stage with Dallas’s signature light up guitar for the intro of “Oxygen”. I first caught wind of Whosah back in April when they opened for Vinyl Theater. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into on Saturday night. *SPOILER ALERT* I was wrong.
Where to start? Spencer Grimes, lead vocals, pianist, and graceless dancer with his signature Minnesota cherry red blazer has a way to make anyone who feels out of place, at home. I must give him credit, dancing confidentially is hard but having the balls to dance on stage in front of strangers without even blinking is impressive. Unlike many artists the singer uses the whole stage and interacts with fellow band mates Nate (bass), Mack (guitar), Dave (drums) and Dallas (guitar) as well as the audience.
The band as whole gives you this feeling of longtime friends. Almost as watching a performance for friends and family, they never cease to amaze me. Nate is by far the best hype man I have seen. Between high jumps and bending over backwards, he is always pumping up the crowd with getting them to dance, clap or sway. Last time I saw them at The Garage, Whosah covered All-Star by Smash Mouth and I was eager to see what song, if any, they had planned to cover. “We have been joking about it for a while, but I think it’s time we cover Yam Haus. What do you think?” If you have any interest in local music the only way you don’t know about Yam Haus is if you are living under a rock. With the crowd screaming for reassurance, Whosah broke out into Yam Haus’s “Get Somewhere”. The best part of this cover was the attendance of the whole Yam Haus band. The only thing better than a group covering someone else’s song is watching the original performers listening.
I had a chance to sit down with the band between the outdoor pre-performance and the doors at Frank’s pizza. We talked about all sorts of things from family to being in your “Late twenties/early thirties” or “Early late twenties”. Between bites of chicken Alfredo pizza and fountain Mountain Dew we chatted about life and being happy. Their song “Ghost Town” stems from being in nine to five jobs that you’re not happy in. Spencer recalls a guy he worked with called Joel who absolutely loved his job, always in a great mood. He talked about while he worked in a corporate job he remembers thinking how there were no ”Joel’s” in his workplace. I thought that was a great way to wrap up a performance in your hometown with fans who appreciate what you stand for. That message has the possibility to resonate with someone and change the way they live their life.
Set List: Oxygen, Make a Move, Bad Guy, Forget, Something More, Perhaps, Home, Yam Haus Cover, Let’s Not, Ghost Town, and Here.