Har Mar Superstar and The Afghan Whigs Take Over First Avenue For A Beautiful Thursday Night Show


Photos by David Rubene


My dad and step-mom were in town on Wednesday night for a jazz show. Sure, I could have gone to see Insane Clown Posse or Gene Simmons but, family comes first, and I found myself at a dark and calm jazz club for the night. Not quite my type of tea but I would be lying if I said I hated it. I loved being able to sit and people serving me food and drinks instead of waiting in lines for it. The calmness of the jazz show was refreshing too and, after an insane weekend and week, it was absolutely perfect. Wait, what was happening to me? Was I about to turn into The Girl At The Jazz Shows? Hell no. I had to get to a rock show fast and that’s how I found myself at The Afghan Whigs show on Thursday night.

As soon as opener Har Mar Superstar took the stage, any fear of turning into The Girl at The Jazz Shows fell to the wayside and I instantly felt at home. I have written about Har Mar multiple times now but, if you’re just joining in on my adventures, let me set the scene for you: Sweaty, balding middle aged white guy with a protruding beer gut who has an apparent aversion to shirts (it used to be pants too but he seems to have calmed down a bit over the past couple of years). Got it? Good!

Even though Har Mar (born Sean Tillmann) comes off as a bit of a jokester and someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously, his voice is anything but a joke. He has power behind his voice and the soulfulness of it is more than enough to give you goosebumps. Mix that incredible voice with his dorky yet somehow awkwardly sexy dance moves and you have a true homegrown superstar. Beyond his voice, Sean’s personality has always been a huge selling point for me. He may be a famous singer and even been featured in a couple of movies but he still comes off as this genuine guy who just screams Minnesota Nice.

From the first note of Har Mar’s set to the very bitter end, Sean and his incredible band had the growing audience moving and grooving along with the music. I didn’t see a single frown in the place and you could just feel the positive energy in the atmosphere. Whether he had his shirt on and button, unbuttoned, or completely off, Har Mar Superstar entertained the crowd the way only he can and it was the perfect opening set for The Afghan Whigs.

The Afghan Whigs are one of those legendary groups that I never actually thought I’d get to see live. They formed back in the mid 1980’s in Cincinnati and instantly made waves in the ever-growing grunge scene of the time. That being said, their sound doesn’t stick to just the grunge scene. There are elements of punk, garage rock, and even R&B swirling around in The Afghan Whigs’ sound leaving you with a truly unique sound and experience.

Throughout their staggering 20+ song set, The Afghan Whigs thrilled the crowd with hit after hit. Original singer Greg Dulli made it seem like this band had started just a couple of years ago. His energy was on point and his almost relaxed demeanor gave the music a whole other dimension that is lost on the recordings. Although he is clearly a seasoned vet when it comes to playing live shows, Greg didn’t seem like he was taking himself too seriously or just going through the motions. He truly had a passion for the lyrics he was singing that came through as clear as day. The same could be said with the talented musicians behind him. Regardless of what era the song they were playing at the time came from, there was a passion behind that music that made it feel like this was their first time playing the song and they were excited to share it with the crowd.

The Afghan Whigs have always been a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to their style of music. It’s almost like they can predict what’s going to happen or it could just be that they are the definition of trailblazers and are quietly steering the future of music. They did this back in the 80’s and, as they played through some songs off their newest release “In Spades”, it’s easy to tell that they are doing it again. Although the new music blends into the uniqueness of the old music, there is this new sense of layers that seems to highlight the music. Sure, there were always layers in the music of The Afghan Whigs but something was different about these new songs. There were enough layers to have my mind blown by the fact that you could still hear everything clearly and there was no blur between the layers. Could this be the new way of writing music? With too many layers to count yet still keeping a sense of crispness to the music? Since history tends to repeat itself, I’m going to go with yes.

The older crowd was extremely polite throughout the extensive set. Outside of the roars of applause in between songs, there was very little noise coming from the audience. People seemed to be completely immersed in the music and, although the music of The Afghan Whigs is a bit calmer than I’m used to, I couldn’t help but find myself lost in the music as well.

I haven’t had a night off in over a week. I’m just about concerted out (if that’s even possible) and I’m ready for a night in. This lifestyle is exhausting. I miss my friends and my cats refuse to let me sleep since I’ve barely been home and they want to hang out. That being said, I’ve seen a little bit of everything during this bender. A little metal, Wu Tang Clan, a little pop-punk, a little jazz, and now The Afghan Whigs. I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything else on the planet.