Photos by Vito Ingerto; Words by Langen Goldstien
I was wearing my party hat at the Atmosphere, HEBL, NOFUN! show on Friday night at First Avenue. When it came to the same show on Saturday at The Palace Theatre in Saint Paul, I decided to only wear my writing hat. Whereas my hand was clutching a drink all Friday night, my hand on Saturday was firmly attached to my phone as I wrote notes about what I was seeing. Although the shows were nearly the exact same (more on this later), this shift in the focal point for me changed everything.
Kicking off Saturday night at The Palace Theatre was my new favorite group– NOFUN!. Being that I just posted about all three of the acts that played the other day, I will spare you the background of this group. What I won’t spare is me absolutely gushing about how I adore NOFUN! and how they are definitely my new favorite group after seeing them the past two nights and may even be in the running for the best set of the year for me.
Although I wasn’t quick enough on my notes to jot down the names of all nine members of this group on Saturday, I was able to focus in a bit more on their performance that had left me so stunned on Friday night. From members carrying other members across the stage to the way you always saw two members hugging throughout the set yet it was never the same two members, I have come to the conclusion that the reason this group is so fun and dynamic to see live is due to the friendship that you see unfold on the stage in front of you. Looking at this group of people, you may not see many common threads but when they perform their music, you realize that music is the common thread and is what truly brings them all together.
When I wrote about NOFUN!’s performance from Friday night, I mentioned the way that even when a certain member didn’t have a microphone in their hand, they were still giving the sold-out audience a performance. That was still true on Saturday night but I realized as I stood there actually paying close attention to the set that not only were they still giving a performance, they were still singing. Every one of the nine members of this group believes in their music, feels their music, and that came through with the way that each human in this group was constantly involved in each song even if it wasn’t in an obvious way. I’m not sure when NOFUN! will come back to the Twin Cities or if they ever even will but I know that all of my fingers and toes are crossed for a return from this group and that I will be in the front row when it happens surrounded by all of my friends that missed out on tickets for their two-night sold-out visit.
One of the biggest changes outside of the bass was the fact that I could actually see what was happening on stage. Instead of straining to see from the side of the stage at First Avenue on Friday night, I was watching the set happen from the front and I was captivated by watching the magic being streamed onto a screen behind the turntable set-up. I’ll never understand how DJs do what they do but being able to see HEBL flip switches, turn knobs, and scratch on a record while he was making his songs definitely added what I needed to really get into what they were doing and their overall sound.
Another thing about HEBL that I didn’t notice on Friday night but quickly caught on to on Saturday was the fact that he was the new addition to the headlining act Atmosphere. I honestly don’t know how I didn’t catch onto it on Friday night but as Atmosphere took the stage to close out Saturday night, it clicked and the whole world made sense. My apologies to HEBL for not realizing this sooner and making note of it on Friday!
The music hit the same way on Saturday as it had on Friday. Sharp and straight to the heart. That’s the magic of Atmosphere. They have songs that relate to real life. It’s not about going to the club and getting lit, it’s about being a dad, the struggles of just living, being hungover, trying to find a balance– relatable, everyday things. It’s not just the lyrics when it comes to this group though, it’s the delivery at a live show. There’s just something about the way that Slug banters with the audience that feels a bit dorky, a bit silly, yet so stinking perfect. It makes you feel like he’s talking just to you and the songs were made just for you until you realize that everyone around you is having the same slightly-religious experience to the sound. Then it just feels like, even if only for the set, you aren’t alone in this wickedly odd and confusing world.
Both Friday and Saturday night’s shows were amazing but I do have one complaint– Atmosphere played the same set. I really thought that they would come to the table on Saturday with something different. Not only do they have plenty of material to pull from, but these shows were back-to-back hometown celebrations. There were surely a lot of people that had tickets to both shows thinking it would be two different sets. It was definitely a bit bummed and disappointed that the majority of the set on Saturday seemed to be a carbon copy of what I got on Friday. That being said, I still loved every moment of the evening.