Some performers don’t need an introduction or explanation. Sometimes you go to a show and you are able to just let loose and have the complete time of your life whether you’re by yourself or with friends. There are some shows that even the pictures don’t do the amount of fun you had justice. Last night’s show was exactly one of those nights.
Kicking the night off was New Orleans based (well, everyone on the bill is from New Orleans) Naughty Professor. This six pieces group wasted no time in getting the crowd going for the night. Their classic New Orleans brass band sound was mixed with a more modern vibe giving the audience a beat they could not only dance to, but also smile along with. Although their set seemed shorter than short (or maybe it was the fact I could have watched these guys for hours on end), they packed a punch and as the band was loading off stage, they were constantly being stopped by people heading to the bar with the usual “Great show guys!”. The difference was you could feel the love that the new fans had for this band. There was no denying their talent or the fun they provided the crowd on a sleepy Sunday night and that made them the perfect opener for the two high energy acts to follow.
Second to take the stage was the one and only Queen Diva herself- Big Freedia. If you don’t know the name, I’m not surprised but it’s a name you should get to know. Born Freddie Ross, Big Freedia is one of the main names behind the New Orleans dance music phenomena called “bounce”. Bounce music forces you to move. It’s infectious beats mixed with the chaos of everything else going on in the music is something that really can’t even be put into words. Add the larger than life personality of Big Freedia and her amazing dances and you are left with a show that will keep you coming back time and time again. I fell into Big Freedia’s world a couple of years ago when she played a little festival in Minneapolis. I remember my shock and awe as I watched her and her dancers twerk through an entire set without breaking a sweat (okay, they were probably sweating but they made it look so easy). Since then it has become nearly a dozen shows, an obsession with her reality TV show and a couple of reads through her biography. I’ve fallen in love with Big Freedia and to see her perform last night was definitely a treat.
With five full length albums out, I knew there was no way I was going to hear every single song I wanted to hear but that’s the magic behind bounce music. You may not hear the exact song you want to but every song performed makes you feel this sense of unwavering joy. It didn’t matter how bad your day was or how much you were dreading this work week, if you were in the audience during Big Freedia’s set you had a hell of a time and were left with a giant grin on your face. Although she didn’t address the crowd much, when she did you could feel that she was appreciative of all of the support from The Twin Cities. It’s pretty crazy to think that the first time I saw her she was a tiny speck on a local festival headlined by P.O.S and now she’s headlining the First Avenue Mainroom but I couldn’t be happier for such a deserving performer who always gives her all.
I honestly could have gone home after Big Freedia’s set. My face hurt so freaking bad from smiling so much and if I danced anymore I didn’t think I’d make it to my spin class this morning. That being said, there was still one band left on the bill and after a drunken stumble down the Youtube rabbithole with a friend on Friday, I was not going to miss them. Tank & The Bangas won the 2017 NPR Tiny Desk Contest and, after watching that video on Friday, it was clear why. The massive band took the stage a little bit after 10PM on Sunday and kicked right into an up beat and fun set that had the energy in First Avenue feeling more like a Friday than a Sunday.
Vocalist Tarriona “Tank” Ball has the voice of a damn angel. It’s calming and sweet sounding but there’s this power and almost child-like sense of fun behind it. Add the lyrics that are so honest they hurt, a funky mix of jazz, soul, funk, hip hop, spoken word, and rock and tie it all together with a bow of endless energy from every band member on stage and you are left with a hell of a show. Although they only have one full length album out from 2013, there was no shortage of material. Being unfamiliar with the group, I couldn’t tell you if they played new, unreleased tracks or if they just stuck to the old favorites that made them worthy of a headlining First Avenue show but I can tell you that every song was better than the rest. Tank had a very infectious energy about her that just made every bone in your body happy to be where you were with who you were with. The band matched that energy creating this swell of just fun-loving vibes that you could not escape from. What I’m trying to say is that the feeling in First Avenue was one of those feelings that I wish I could trap in a jar and open up when I was having the worst day ever. It was seriously that good.
How did you kick off your week? I kicked mine off with a smile on my face and a pep in my step.