My week has no lack of diversity. The friendly Satanists from the weekend, class rock at the Varsity and a rap show (if they can drop their mics long enough to get us approved). But tonight…well, how about an all ages show featuring an honest to God boy band with a strong local connection. I first saw Why Don’t We for a very brief set at the Jingle Ball and jumped at the chance to see them headlining a sold out First Avenue. The show was sponsored by KDWB, and was a homecoming for Stillwater native Jonah Marais.
There were lines up and down the block when I arrived. The lines moved swiftly but First Ave held the opening set for few minutes so everyone could get inside. The main floor had as many fans as I have ever seen there packed tightly together – I guess the smaller than average fan size played a roll. A surprisingly small number of parents fled upstairs or stood on the further reaches of the ground floor. The line to the merch booth was impressive. Why Don’t We is taking their Invitation Tour across the US before heading to Europe. Their latest single “Trust Fund Baby” was written by Ed Sheeran.
I have to be honest, First Avenue showed the opener on Facebook, I had an old man moment “Who the heck is Eben Franckewitz?” A brief search turned up a twitter account but no news stories since 2012. No web site, no Instagram, no Facebook. Did I stumble across a pop star in Witness Protection? Would I be hauled away by US Marshals for taking his picture?
Turns out he’s got quite the following since his first appearance on American Idol on 2012. But now goes by just Eben (@ebenofficial). Fortunately the crowd did not share my ignorance as loud screams of Eben! Eben! were heard every time the door to the green room opened. His set music was tracked, except the vocals, but then, no one in the audience was expecting a backing band. That left the whole stage for him to explore and he made the best use of it with fun dance moves getting the crowd ready for what was to come.
Since everyone was already inside (and most not old enough to smoke) Why Don’t We took the stage after a short intro by sponsoring radio station KDWB. I had thought the scream level for Eben was intense, well triple THAT.
The set started with the band lined up in front of lights introducing them and walking down to the front of the stage one by one. The rest of the set was text book boy band. A mix of of choreographed and impromptu dance moves, harmonies and featured solos. After a few songs the band gathered around a drum machine and sang one song a bit stripped down. That was followed by “Gucci Gang” in harmony and very loud audience participation. Fortunately for me it was only a snippet.
I rate shows not by how I liked them (unless I go for fun) but rather by the vibe coming from the audience. Judging by the exuberance and noise level at First Ave tonight, Why Don’t we hit a home run that where it not for First Ave’s walls would have landed somewhere at Target Field half a mile away.