Heartless Bastards and Old 97’s at First Avenue 5/22/2016


2 bands co headlining a tour stopped at First Avenue Sunday night for a great show. The Heartless Bastards and Old 97’s.

The evening started of with a solo set by BJ Barham of American Aquarium. “Shit’s gonna be real sad, but the Heartless Bastards, will pull you out”, he announced at the beginning of his set. Shit got sad including references to the terror attacks in Paris, Barham’s grandfather spending his life watching cigarettes rolling on a conveyor belt and lyrics about farmers. But at the same time there was a beauty in those lyrics, they were for lack of a better word – deep. The faces of the fans in the front row showed them paying attention. There was no glitter, no confetti. Barham is a thinking man/woman’s song writer.

The Heartless Bastards took the stage next. Founded in Ohio in 2003 they have released 5 albums and been quite active touring. In that time they have transformed into a seasoned band with a very active fan base. Lead singer Erika Wennerstrom’s unique voice and her stage presence set the tone for the set. The band and their songs are rooted in blue collar work ethics and there is simple, honest and heartfelt vibe to their show. It is lively and gets the crowd moving, it’s traditional rock with some twist and it’s quite enjoyable.

Set List: Gates of Dawn / Gotta / Black Cloud / Into the Light / Blue Day / Hold your Head Down / Canyon / Gray / Only for You / Parted Ways / Nothing seems the Same

While from Texas and an alt-country band the Old 97’s share their blue collar roots with the Heartless Bastards. 20+ years on the road have not slowed them down one bit. Things got of to a fast start with “Nashville” and never really slowed down. Singer Rhett Miller’s energy on stage is impressive and the rest of the band is not lacking either. Things got a bit rowdy in the crowd but were quickly and professionally handled the First Avenue staff. If the band greets their fans with “F… Yeah, First Avenue” be ready for some shenanigans. Overall a good, high energy set and everyone walked out of First Avenue in good spirits.

Set List: Nashville / Rollerskate Skinny / Melt Show / Stoned / Wasted / Crash on the Barrelhead / Big Brown Eyes / Won’t Be Home / Longer Than You’ve Been Alive / Buick City Complex / The New Kid / Barrier Reef / Valentine / Nineteen / Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You) / Most Messed Up Encore: Question / Let’s Get Drunk & Get It On / Timebomb