Lions, Tigers, and Bears? X Ambassadors Turned The Varsity Into Their Own “Jungle”


It had to have been the winter of 2015; I was getting ready for one of those cliché high school formal dances that we thought were cool, but were really just a bunch of us awkward kids getting together in borrowed suits and dresses we wore for 4 hours about 3 times a year. Pregaming at that age for me wasn’t about drinks or anything of that matter – it was pure hype that got me through those uncomfortable ass nights. At that age, hype to me primarily came through caffeine and absolute bangers – so without a doubt, you know I was blasting “Jungle” as I get prettied up that evening; I was ready to rage.  Flash forward to a chilly night in November, 2021 – and here I was walking into The Varsity to finally catch these guys in person. 

The Varsity hits home for me as I spent about 4 years walking the streets of Dinkytown as a college student. I found myself revisiting so many memories as I made my way to the line outside of the venue; With my high school nostalgia and campus memories merging in front of me that night – I found a spot to get ready for the show. 

Up first we had an artist that had heads turning throughout their entire set; Taylor Janzen. Janzen was happy to be in town with us as she is from Manitoba, Canada and even pointed out that this was her closest show to home, including the band she had playing with her on stage for a handful of songs. Taylor’s indie-rock spirit would be a hit to anyone, and while her genre is quite popular in the Cities she stands out in her own unique way. I was personally blown away by her ability to command the microphone with grace, but also electrify the audience with her killer vocals at the perfect times. I saved “What I Do…” as she was playing it – and that’s just one of the many hits we heard that night, not to mention a sneak-peak for a song she’s dropping soon 👀. I will honor the element of surprise here, but truly keep an eye on Taylor as she not only is an amazing musician – her lyrics and narrative don’t shy away from her heart. This will not be the last time TCM talks about her, I bet. 

Following Janzen we had Scarypoolparty, otherwise known as Alejandro Aranda (yes, THAT runner-up from the 7th season of American Idol). There’s no hiding it that Alejandro had the most unique sounds on stage that night, but also one of the most unique sounds I have ever heard to date; Ranging from “experimental rock” to “alternative R&B” – we got a special experience as Aranda lead a band with his cryptic, beautiful melodies. At times I thought I was witnessing punk-jams, but then we’d segue into a more dream-like ambience, then to a sound that I can’t even describe decently with words. The artistry of this music is undeniable; Every single note seemed intentional and it created one of the most psychedelic experiences I have had in a very, very long time. 

Scarypoolparty left the stage, giving us enough time to run to the bathroom and refresh ourselves accordingly before X Ambassadors took to the stage. We were in intermission, and so is this article briefly as I am using this opportunity to give a public service announcement: If you are at The Varsity, the bathroom sinks have pedals underneath them to activate – the was the show behind the show for most of the night; Watching people try to figure that out.  Carrying on!

X Ambassadors came out as I came down the stairs from the top floor, erupting with – you guessed it – “Jungle.” The venue roared; A packed scene, no doubt, and within a matter of seconds this band commanded the full attention of the entire room. 

Follow me… Into the jungle” – The crowd knew every word. 

After a few moments, the scene was full of people with raised hands, phones, and drinks – bobbing along with the music with absolute passion. “BOOM” came on soon after, and again – that song was immediately saved to my playlists as it was just another jam on the list these guys already have. Some time passed and the show was stopped; Lead singer Sam Nelson cut the music off due to some rowdy individuals that were having trouble finding the nearest exit, to say the least. After calling the trouble out, Sean turned back to the crowd, asking “you guys wanna just hear this one again?” and we cheered; Give us MORE, X Ambassadors! The night carried on with a blur, as our favorite anthems continued to roar and shake the entire Dinkytown area. The Ambassadors gave us an absolute treat, reminding us of the power of pop-rock and true American Anthems along the way. We were happy to hear hits from their entire career, but if you haven’t checked out their most recent album The Beautiful Liar – please, do it! I have spent so much time living in the past with these guys, but the hits we heard on the radio back-when can never give any artist true justice. These guys are still absolutely rocking in 2021. 

I consider myself so blessed to do what I do here with the concert reviews, but it’s not just the music – the stories we can get from these shows are a big part of it too. For me, starting my journey with the X Ambassadors way back in 2015, and to have it come back full circle now in 2021 is truly something beautiful. These guys haven’t missed a beat, and much like an aged whiskey – they’ll always hit hard in the best way possible. 

We won’t be missing any of these artists the next time they come around, if we can help it, and we truly hope you’ll join us when they do!