Echo & The Bunnymen Treat A Sold-Out First Avenue To A Nostalgic And Perfect Night


Photos by Laura Buhman

Well, I survived Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas, and it’s back to my everyday life– or at least as usual as my life gets. Honestly, I would have loved to sit at home on Wednesday night and continue to recover from the insanity and amazingness that was Punk Rock Bowling but the concert Gods had something else in store for me. Instead of binging Indian food and terrible TV, I hopped in the car and weaved through traffic to get to First Avenue. Although it felt good to get home on Tuesday, it felt better to enter my home away from home on Wednesday night. There is something so inviting about a venue, and First Avenue is one of the most inviting ones we have; regardless of the show, I was so happy to be there.

Kicking the night off was the gorgeous Via Mardot. Although vaguely familiar with Via Mardot’s (born Olivia Mainville) music, I was not quite ready for what she and the band gave the sold-out First Avenue mainroom on Wednesday night. The comments happening around me during the group’s first song ranged from “It sounds like Beetlejuice” to “It’s not supposed to make sense, it’s alternative… I think,” and all the way to “This sounds like something I heard in one of my nightmares.” Honestly, all of those statements made sense to me, but the statement I wish I had heard more of is, “This is truly and utterly eerily beautiful,” because that would have been the truth.

Sonically, the best way to describe the music of Via Mardot is Space Odyssey meets Danny Elfman. The beginning of the set screamed extraterrestrial with the prominent use of a theremin and a slight sense of ambiance among the power. As the set moved on, we were treated with something a bit more accessible and mainstream, but it’s still far from your average sound. Via Mardot kept the audience on their toes with her unique sound, and the band behind her only enhanced that with the wall of sonic pleasure that they brought to the room. All in all, it was definitely an exciting way to kick off the night, and I understand how it may not have been for some people in the audience, but for me, Via Mardot’s set was pure bliss.

Although I felt like people had absolutely gotten their money’s worth when it came to this show strictly based on the opening act, nobody was ready to leave and, instead, stood their ground as they waited for the headlining act. I took this time to survey the audience. It was an older crowd… much older crowd… and was predominantly male. This doesn’t change anything about the night but is more just an observation. There was something snobby about the people in attendance. The room wasn’t filled with people who go to shows often; more people do this once a year, and I was just lucky enough to be out with them on their one night out for this year. I feel like this doesn’t quite make you understand the snobby vibe I was getting, but it was just one of those things that you had to be there and notice to really understand it. Honestly, as the music started playing, it made sense, but before the music started and without knowing much about the headliner’s sound other than their name, I was a bit bewildered just because it was such a different crowd than what I’m used to.

Echo & The Bunnymen was formed back in 1978. That, right there, would explain the older audience. I mean, let’s be honest; this band was alive and thriving before I was even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes. Over the years, this influential and iconic band has released thirteen albums but hasn’t been super active since their last release in 2018. I’m not sure what made this band come back from the dead per se, but I do know that everyone who was at the show on Wednesday night had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. That being said, it took me a while to really see that.

For the first couple of songs, the audience seemed relatively uninterested. The roar of conversations overpowered the alternative indie rock band. I took this to mean that people were bored, and I could see that. I felt that the band really didn’t have much of a stage presence, so unless you loved every song that they were playing, I get how you could quickly be distracted by a conversation, but about five songs in, all of that changed. I couldn’t tell you exactly what song it was, but, out of nowhere, mid-song, vocalist Ian McCulloch stepped away from the microphone, allowing the audience to take over, and it gave me chills. The audience, who had just been chattering through the previous songs, had clearly stopped mid-conversation just to sing the iconic song playing in front of them. It was one of those moments that caught me off guard but was also so dang beautiful. It was also when the night seemed to take a turn. From there on out, I didn’t hear the roar of conversations that had been so prevalent earlier in the evening. The show quickly became about what it was supposed to be about from the first downbeat– the music.

Echo & The Bunnymen played late into the night, giving the sold-out crowd two sets followed by a couple of encore songs. It was a trip down nostalgia lane for so many people in attendance, and although it wasn’t my lane to get nostalgic too, it was hard not to get too wrapped up in the passion and excitement those around me were clearly feeling. Sometimes, it’s nice to step back and see how music affects people around you the way it affects you without having to feel it. Okay, that’s weird wording, but I think you get what I am trying to say. I was just a spectator on Wednesday night, and I was truly honored to be there and witness the sights and sounds of an older generation.