Judah & the Lion Bring Summer Weather To First Avenue


The warm autumn evening seemed to urge folks to get out and enjoy Saturday night in downtown Minneapolis. As the sidewalks were full of people and venues across town had shows happening. After walking over to First Avenue from my preferred parking ramp I noticed that there was quite a lengthy line jetting out down the sidewalk on 7th Street. A line that stretched beyond the backstage door for the Pantages Theatre. While I’ve been to a number of sold out shows at First Avenue I’ve never seen such a long line with 30 minutes to go before the music started. At that moment I wondered if the people were trying to get the best spot they could for Judah & the Lion or maybe they were eager for The National Parks as they were scheduled to take the stage first at 8:30pm.

After checking the clock a number of times I was getting a bit anxious that we wouldn’t get inside in time for the start of the show. Fortunately, the line dwindled down and 20 minutes later I was at the normal line length that I’ve become accustomed to and got in with five minutes to spare. 

The venue was packed at this point with little room to maneuver through the masses. There were pops of green shirts, pants and suits. A color theme favored by both bands on tonight’s bill. The National Parks took to the stage to a raucous roar from the audience, clearly a number of them were thrilled to hear their music in person. 

Singer and guitarist, Brady Parks,  requested the crowd to help out and sing along after a brief lesson on the lyrics. The crowd responded with an emphatic shout of yes. The singer was slightly taken aback as he said normally he has to ask more than once but not here in Minnesota. The hope and excitement he exuded was palpable and was so infectious as the crowd shared that sentiment. He commented that this might be the best night of the tour. A few songs later he confirmed that indeed this has been the best night of their tour. 

This indie folk-pop group based out of Provo, Utah certainly must enjoy each other’s company as the interactions they shared on stage were full of joy and one could see that happiness resonate across their smiling faces. 

During the song “Angels” he sang out the lyrics “I’mma tell our kids about this someday” as he emphatically pointed to his feet upon the stage as if to exemplify this very moment and how great this Minnesota crowd was. That must have made for a memorable moment, a highlight for them to remember as the years go by. 

The band was very jovial and highly energetic from the moment they walked out to a dimly lit stage. Their gleeful demeanor lasted till the very end when Brian Macdonald from Judah & the Lion came out on stage with a banjo to play along. They requested everyone to get as low as they could and then jump up as high as possible as they played out the last remaking bars to their final song of this tour.

As the lights dimmed and the stage curtain/screen rose the crowd let out a hearty cheerful cry. The right side of the audience began chanting “Judah! Judah! Judah!” while the left side countered with “Brian! Brian! Brian!” The core group is down from a trio to a duo with Judah Akers and Brian Macdonald continuing to lead the way. 

The stage setup for Judah & the Lion was an interesting one. The drums and keyboards were set up high above a stack of amps with a five step staircase set in between them. Sure, five steps up doesn’t seem that high but it seemed like a steep incline that caused them to loom over the rest of the stage. 

As Akers sang out the lyrics he’d pause with an outstretched hand and pointed the microphone out to the audience as they took over. They belted out every word while Akers gleefully smiled back. Of course the crowd voraciously sang along whether or not they were being encouraged or not. The grinning smiles adorned folks from the front row to the back of the sold out venue. They happily sang their hearts out as they bounced along to the beat. 

The keyboard player would often glance down smiling as the band played below. Akers would run up the stairs and interact with them as well. Another group that played off each other’s merry moods from the band themselves and the fans as well. 

Much like the opener, the crowd was ecstatic for Judah & the Lion. They kept up the high level of enthusiasm as those on stage fed off the energy of the crowd and vice versa. This Happy Again tour is such an aptly titled one as I’ve never seen such a cheerful crowd. Whatever troubles that ailed them during the week had long been forgotten. They were indeed happy again.