The Twin Cities are a lot of things right now – and one of those things in of course host to the 52nd Annual Super Bowl. With the national spotlight suddenly shining upon our modest corner of Midwest, the vibe around town is interesting to say the least. A place known for “Minnesota nice” is suddenly playing host to things that feel so, well, un-Minnesotan. Maxim Parties, Rolling Stones Parties, something called the NFL Experience? The excitement is palpable around the cities right now, but again, it all feels rather un-Minnesotan. We’re not typically a city known for for big gaudy parties and bending over backwards for millionaire athletes and celebrities. But on Tuesday night at the Palace Theater, things felt right. Things felt like how they should on a week night in the Twin Cities. We found ourselves back at what have become one of our usual haunts at TCM – The Palace Theater, for a night of great music. The Palace Theater played host to First Aid Kit and Van William – and though neither acts hail from the Twin Cities, they seemed right at home on Tuesday night. First Aid Kit’s stop in St. Paul was a much needed breath of fresh air in the midst of Super Bowl pandemonium.
Opening up the evening was California-native Van William. With unusual traffic in St. Paul due to the Winter Carnival and the longer than usual security lines at Palace, I only caught the tail end of Van Williams set but from what I saw, I was instantly hooked. Though Van William seems to be a bit of an “up and comer,” him and his band had no problem commanding the Palace with ease. And though this month saw the release of Van William’s debut album Countries, Van William’s energy and stage presence felt much more like “seasoned pro” than “up and comer.” They even got the crowd clapping and stomping along to Before I Found You, the first track off the debut album. The highly sold out crowd was eating up every moment of Van William’s feel-good, folk-inspired tunes. The raw yet breezy, shimmery folk-rock gold that is Van William was the perfect start to the evening. It seems like just a matter of time before Van William is back in St. Paul headlining a tour of his own.
Headlining the night was of course Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. As many know – First Aid Kit is made up of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg. Though relatively young in age – the two have been making music for over a decade and have become one of the biggest names in indie folk. After seeing their set at The Palace Theater, it’s clear what that well, the hype is real. First Aid Kit’s genre-bending sounds seamlessly combines elements of folk, rock, blues, country, old-school Nashville, radio pop and more. The Söderberg sisters hauntingly chilling harmonies are enough to stop anyone dead in their tracks. From top to bottom of their set, eyes (and ears) were glued on First Aid Kit. As someone who gets to cover a myriad of shows, I find myself hyper aware of little things at shows that others might not notice, and one of those things has become the diversity of the crowd. Looking around the Palace Theater, the crowd was a mix of ages, from kids with parents to older couples to college friends and everything in between. The beautifully eclectic crowd on Tuesday really spoke to the depth and breadth of First Aid Kit as a band. There’s truly a little something in their sound for everyone.
There was one particular moment from First Aid Kit’s set that was incredibly powerful and what I felt (and hope) is worthy of a call out. This moment was the song You Are the Problem Here. “I’m so sick and tired of this world. All these women with their dreams shattered from some man’s sweaty, desperate touch. Goddamnit I’ve had enough,” Johanna Söderberg sings. Though the duo released this song in 2017, unfortunately it’s as relevant as ever today. “This song was written out of a place of anger and frustration at the state of our world,” Johanna went on after the song, which was greeted with cheers and claps of affirmation from around the Palace. This track so poignantly and directly speaks to the cultural reckoning we are experiencing as a society. “We just want to let you know we got your back. We’re all sisters, you know?” Klara went on, picking up Johanna’s train of thought.The Söderberg sisters reiterated the importance of putting the blame back on the perpetrators of these offenses rather than the victims. This is still unfortunately a message that is worthy of repeating over and over again until it sticks and I’m grateful for people like the Söderberg sisters who are willing to do so.
First Aid Kit’s set was grounded, candid, fun, feel good and poignant when it needed to be. The set was back-t0-basics, folk-rock. It again, felt like what a night in the Twin Cities should feel like. The stop in St. Paul was just one of many for First Aid Kit and Van William, and we hope to see them both back in our little corner of the Midwest very soon.
Set List: Rebel Heart / It’s a Shame / King of the World / Postcard Stay Gold / The Lion’s Roar / You Are the Problem Here / To Live a Life / Ruins / Wolf / Crazy on You (Heart cover) / Fireworks / Emmylou / Nothing Has to Be True / Encore: Hem of Her Dress / Revolution (Van William cover) (with Van William) / Master Pretender / My Silver Lining