Bad Suns introduced their impressive new album, Mystic Truth, to their Minneapolis fans for their first show in town in nearly two years. Frontman, Christo Bowman, spoke the truth when he told those at the jam-packed Varsity Theater, “This is the biggest show we’ve played here, and you sold it out!” The young band also showed how much they’ve grown and evolved since forming in 2012 and playing smaller local venues, the Cedar and the Fine Line. Mystic Truth, their first album with Epitaph Records, is sure to add new fans to their already rabid following.
MAPLE & BEECH
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, as the evening’s show opened with an impressive local band, Maple & Beech. With Carlie Hanson, the supporting musician on tour with Bad Suns, unable to be at the Minneapolis show, Maple & Beech got their chance. Quite simply, they were a perfect opening act, playing enjoyable music and getting the young crowd involved. They earned numerous supporting hoots and cheers from the already mostly full Varsity. The band started as project of friends Tyler Tholl (singer) and Pete James Johnson (drummer). It has now grown into a seven-piece (or did it grow again to eight) band with a horn section including trombone, tenor sax, and baritone sax.
The only disappointment was that Maple & Beech didn’t have a chance to play their final planned song as a 7:30 pm hard-stop was enforced. The final song they were allowed to play featured those supporting musicians in their horn-heavy song “Sand Sing.” Before that, a wonderful cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” featured their newest addition, singer Nicole Wilder, who adds a bit of a Roaring Twenties flavor to the band. Fitting the theme of the night, Maple & Beech appears to be getting bigger and better. Check out their latest song, “OK,” released just two weeks ago. Watch for a new full-length album coming this summer. You can catch them again very soon on May 10th at the Amsterdam opening for the Step Rockets or May 16th (as a duo) at the Icehouse opening for Kazyak.
After a 30-minute stage change-over, Bad Suns started promptly at 8 pm for this all-ages, school-night show. While the crowd in mid-to-back regions of the Varsity included many in their 20’s and 30’s, the shriek from closer to the stage indicated that the average age of attendees was south of that. They launched their performance with the strong opening song from Mystic Truth, “Away We Go.” Fans were clearly up to speed on this song which was released as a single in November 2018 before being included in the March 2019 album.
Drummer Miles Morris sat in front of a cool infinity tunnel backdrop that was illuminated in various spotlight colors throughout the night. His heavy drumming kicked off the second song of the evening, “Daft Pretty Boys,” from their second album, Disappear Here. Young fans immediately sang along as they did to all five songs played from this album or the five from the debut album Language & Perspective. Next was “Transpose,” which was also the name of the four-song EP of which three songs later migrated to that debut album. This song got the crowd clapping along as the band’s devoted following needed little encouragement to quickly clap, jump, sing, or dance along. This was truly one of the most participatory crowds I’ve seen at a concert.
“Welcome to the Mystic Truth Tour 2019,” exclaimed lead singer Christo Bowman before they played two more of the eight they would play from the new ten-song release. The heavy bass of Gavin Bennett was featured in the slower “A Miracle, A Mile Away.” Their music is refreshingly positive and uplifting and would work well in so many movie soundtracks. It’s a good listen on headphones but even better in concert with the thumping bass and live energy. Everyone clapped along to “The World and I” before Bowman asked, “How many of you have been listening to us since our first album?” With more than half cheering and raising hands, he continued. “Thanks for sticking with us on this wild ride. Who is ready to dance?” Their song “Rearview” was the perfect choice for that and Bowman got closer to the dancers by stepping out and balancing on the barricade rail with the helping hand of a fan. “Minneapolis, this feels like home. Everybody jump,” he commanded.
A cute moment was in a quiet moment at the end of the slow grooving “Swimming in the Moonlight,” a girl in the crowd could be heard blurting “I love you” to which the lead singer responded, “I love you too.” Speaking to the full room, he said, “Speaking of love, we put a new album out a month ago. This song from the album is about falling in love. It was the catchy, “Love By Mistake.” Bowman told the audience, “There’s no life without the bad times, or the good times. This song is about that. It’s called “Darkness Arrives (And Departs)”.” Guitarist Ray Libby played acoustic guitar to this Beatlesque song. After to pausing to re-tool, the LA-born band said “Outskirts of Paradise” is about where we are from. “Now is the time to sing along if you know it…. or learn the words,” Bowman suggested.
Just like in Name That Tune, this crowd could have named the next song, the band’s 2013 breakout “Cardiac Arrest,” in just two notes from the opening guitar tones. This produced the loudest reaction of the night and then fans proceeded to loudly sing every word of this well-known hit. Working up a sweat, the lead singer stripped down to a black A-shirt to the delight of the young girls. The cool song you won’t find on an album, “This Was a Home Once,” was next and Bowman informed us it’s about growing up and moving out.
Before my favorite song from Mystic Truth, the frontman told us, “We need your help singing three simple words, “Hold Your Fire.”‘ Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters have proven that simple, repeated lyrics combined to a catchy hook can be the formula for a hit-song and this fits the bill. The sing along continued to “We Move Like the Ocean” with Bowman each time allowing fans to sing the final line, “But I can’t swim!” He kept the energy up by getting the crowd jumping. For the final song of the main set, “Starjumper,” he instructed everyone with a cell phone to take it out and light up the place. He also got everyone to be completely quiet before the song that starts as a slower ballad and transforms into something more. After ditching his acoustic guitar and grabbing a mike he once again stepped out on the rail and then somehow stepped out to stand atop supporting fans. This wouldn’t work with a 300 lb singer but do-able with the thin Bowman who carefully climbed back to solid ground to exit with the rest of the band.
Quick chants of “Encore, encore” brought the solo-Bowman out for a brief acoustic rendering of the albumless “20 Years” before the rest of the band joined him to transition to “Off She Goes.” After the fun “Heartbreaker” had the band jumping around on stage, Bowman told the Varsity audience, “Thank you Minneapolis! We have one more song. We will see you next time. Until then we will leave you with “One Magic Moment”.” Following a stage bow, the all-ages show concluded at a responsible 9:20pm. Early enough for kids to get to sleep before school or for me to stop at Annie’s Parlor with my daughter like some other concert-goers. Chalk that up as a great night. Here’s to bigger and better things!
Away We Go / Daft Pretty Boys / Transpose / A Miracle, A Mile Away / The World and I / Rearview / Swimming in the Moonlight / Love by Mistake / Darkness Arrives ( And Departs) / Outskirts of Paradise / Cardiac Arrest / This Was a Home Once / Salt / Hold Your Fire / We Move Like the Ocean / Starjumper. Encore: 20 Years – Off She Goes / Heartbreaker / One Magic Moment.