Judah & The Lion Bring Fun And Explosive Set To Sold Out First Avenue


There’s no rest for the wicked. I’ll sleep when I’m dead– any other cliches I should throw out there? Yes, my bender continued last night. It seems like every band I’ve ever listened to is coming to the Twin Cities in order to fit one more show in before the snow hits (which, for Minnesota, could be any day now *knock on wood*). With so many shows and my bi-polar taste in music, it’s like I’m walking into a different world every night I go to a show. So what world did I find myself in Friday night?

Singer/songwriter Tyson Motsenbocker opened up Friday night’s show with a very calm and soothing set. His soft and relaxing voice didn’t quite match the high energy acts that were to come but it made sense why he was on this line-up. The amount of beauty that was in Tyson’s voice and the passion in the lyrics was more than enough to justify him as an opener for such a heavy hitting tour package. Tyson may be a fairly new face to the scene and a brand new face to Minnesota but it definitely won’t be the last time you hear his name.

Exploding onto the set after Tyson Motsenbocker was The Academic. I was instantly struck by how young the members of this band looked. Hailing from Ireland, this tour is The Academic’s first time in the United States and obviously won’t be their last. The amount of power this band had live was absolutely astonishing. Lead singer Craig Fitzgerald had a very innocent sense about him but that didn’t stop him from coming off as a rock star either. Their lyrics and chord progressions seemed a bit typical but the execution of the music is what set them apart from the rest. Their quick forty-five minute set was full of cheers from the crowd. I was surprised to see how many people were singing along but, with music so upbeat and catchy, how can you not sing along. The intensity that this band gives off at lives shows is going to be what catapults them to the top. This may have been their first tour through the United States but I am going to go ahead and say that it won’t be their last and they will be back very soon.

The stage was quickly turned over for headliner Judah & The Lion. As the lights went down, a song from the hit movie “Interstellar” started playing and seemed to never end. You could feel the crowd growing a bit impatient as the lights had gone down nearly ten minutes ago. It was like a tease and, with such a tease, I was worried that Judah & The Lion wouldn’t have the entrance to make this long wait worth it. I was wrong. The six members of J&TL stormed the stage and instantly broke into a synchronized dance that belonged back in the age of the boy bands. Along with the dancing, four of the six members had microphones and instantly broke into a beautiful A Capella cover of T-Pain’s “Booty Wurk”. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that J&TL’s music isn’t what I typically listen to but, when I stumbled into one of their shows over a year ago, I struck by their style and the vocal talent of this band. We were only a couple seconds into their set last night and I was already struck by the vocal talent yet again. Sure, the intro was a bit cheesy with the synchro dance moves, but it caught you, it grabbed you, and it made you want more.

Singer Judah Akers commanded the crowd’s attention from note one and until the bitter end. Throughout the nearly hour and a half long set, Judah had a smile on his face that was more the infectious. It was hard to watch anything other than him as he danced his away from side to side of the set in his bright white suit that seemed to always catch the light. The other band members didn’t seem to mind all eyes being on Judah. That being said, without the other band members, this group would be nothing. Not only is it the vocal talent that sets these guys apart, it’s also the instrumentation. It’s heavy on the mandolin and banjo which gives them a sound that most pop songs don’t typically have. Sure, there are bands like Mumford and Sons but they tend to air on the side of folk music. J&TL is more than just a folk-pop band. They are an classifiable blend of folk, hip-hop, and rock music and it is beyond perfect.

With two full length albums out, J&TL did a great job of mixing up their set list and playing a little bit of everything. Their flawless cover of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” was only the icing on the cake when it came to their beautifully curated set. Their radio hit “Take It All Back” was clearly the favorite throughout the crowd but, unlike other radio breakout stars that I’ve seen live, that was not the only reason people came to the show. People seemed genuinely excited to see this high energy band as a whole, not just see the one song they knew, and that led to an extremely fun atmosphere. Judah started the set informing the sold out crowd that “I don’t care how you move– just move!” and that’s exactly what the crowd was doing. There wasn’t a single person standing still and there wasn’t a person without a smile on their face throughout the night.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was in a world full of sweaty mosh pits and drunken idiots. Thursday night I was in a world of indie music and soothing sounds with a laid back atmosphere. Friday night I found myself in a world  run by pop kings that are making waves with their unique music and explosive live show. Yeah, this never gets old.