Atmosphere Sells Out Post-Thanksgiving Celebration at First Avenue


Photos by Vito Ingerto; Words by Langen Goldstien

Atmosphere, it’s just a ten-letter word but here in the Twin Cities- it’s so much more than that.

I’ve been excited for Friday and Saturday night for a while but as I started getting ready to head out on Friday night, I started to get a bit nervous. The line-up for both Friday and Saturday was the same. The only thing that would change is the setting. I made the split-minute decision to cover the two shows completely differently. I won’t give away what I’ll be doing for the Saturday night show as I want you to come back and read my post (obviously!) but for Friday night I went into the show with my boyfriend, his sister, and a couple of drinks. Now, I don’t condone drinking. If you’re dry, stay dry, and know that I am so proud of you for staying dry in such a crazy world. For me, drinking loosens me up. Although I do a show nearly every night, I still get hit with waves of anxiety and nerves every time so I figured we could try out the first show a little bit looser and ready to party. This meant taking zero notes and trying to just be in the moment throughout the show. This is a hard thing for me to do as I feel like my brain is trained to always be watching and documenting things at concerts but here’s my stab at just talking about how the music and the Atmosphere made me feel on Friday night.

LA-based collective NOFUN! was up first. If I’m being honest, I feel like I always get a bit nervous when I see the word “collective” used to describe a group. Typically, to me, that means unorganized and confusing but those descriptive words are nowhere near my mind when thinking back on NOFUN!’s set on Friday. It was well-organized, perfect, and addicting. Although there were nine people on stage and probably about five microphones being passed between the performers, there was never a moment in their quick opening set where it felt as if it was a bit of a mess on stage. Instead, each of the members took their time in the spotlight while backing off and being in the background where it was necessary. This balance was insane but what was more insane was the fact that even when someone didn’t have a microphone in hand, they were still giving a performance.

There may have been nine people on stage but the stage and the sound would have been so different if even one member of this group hadn’t been there. From the style to the delivery to the word choice to the performance- each of these nine amazing humans had something to bring to the table. The way they were each doing their own thing yet came together as a group is something I don’t think I will ever quite understand but it made for a thrilling set that, by the end, had me thinking about buying all of their merchandise even though I promised myself that I would stop buying black t-shirts earlier this year because I am straight-up out of space for more of them.

Following NOFUN! was HEBL. In classic Girl at the Rock Shows fashion, I had done zero research into the two opening acts so was a bit confused and surprised when a DJ took over after the high-energy set from NOFUN!. It’s not that HEBL didn’t have energy behind their set, they did, it’s more that watching DJs perform has just never quite been my thing. There was a sense of depth and darkness in HEBL’s sound that vibrated throughout the sold-out venue in a perfect way (and shout out to the brand new state-of-the-art sound system that the venue just put in the other day– it sounded great!). There were moments in HEBL’s set where the sound had a very drum and bass inspiration behind it which definitely got me moving a little bit but, if I’m being honest, after the intensity and fun that was NOFUN!, I just feel like HEBL couldn’t quite catch my attention the way they would have had they opened up the show.

Oh Atmosphere. Where do I even begin? Atmosphere is a hip-hop duo from right here in the Twin Cities. I have written about them multiple times including just a couple of months ago when they opened for Slightly Stoopid out in Somerset, Wisconsin so I won’t bore you with the background right now. All you need to know is that rapper Slug (Sean Daley) and DJ/producer Ant (Anthony Davis) really put the Minnesota hip-hop scene on the map. Atmosphere is one of those groups that I listen to on a daily basis. Their music (and especially their lyrics) have always just hit me in a perfect way. Experiencing that connection while watching hundreds of other people around you have that shared connection is something that can’t quite be put into words but something that happens every time I see Atmosphere perform.

Atmosphere did an absolutely superb job playing through both old and new songs. Their twenty-six song had everyone, at one point, explaining to their friends that “This is my favorite song!” or “I can’t believe they’re playing this one!”. That’s the magic of Atmosphere. They have over a dozen full-length albums out there and fans of this group have heard them all yet everyone seems to have that one track that hit them at the right time. Whether it was the lyrics or the beat, Atmosphere’s songs just seem to hit a bit deeper than other acts and I think that goes beyond the hometown pride. For me, it’s “Trying To Find A Balance” (which they ended with on Friday night). That song hits me in ways that no other track has even come close to and although it came out twenty years ago, it still hits me just as hard and I find it just as relatable as I ever did.

As you can tell, not taking notes did not work to my benefit. This review is a bit all over the place but so was my head on Friday night. I was “trying to find the balance” (see what I did there?) between just being a fan and having my press hat on and it proved much more difficult than I thought. That being said, just being there with my boyfriend and his sister and letting the music take me over completely made for a great night that I worry will not be topped when I see the show again on Saturday. We shall see though!

I would say come on out to The Palace Theatre on Saturday night and join me but that show, like Friday night at First Avenue, is completely sold out. If you were one of the lucky ones to get a ticket, come find me and say hey!