Low, Ambassadors, Hippo Campus, Haley Bonar, and Erik Berry Ring In the Holidays at First Avenue


As most of Minneapolis area was under a nice blanket of the season’s first big snowfall, many braved the weather, making their way to First Avenue on Saturday night. The buzz and excitement was in the air for the Low & Friends Christmas Bazaar. The proceeds for the evening’s event were going to Second Harvest Heartland.

With the liquid refreshments flowing, Erik Berry kicked off the evening’s performance. Erik’s down home sound had a definite bluegrass feel. Many were well familiar with Erik from the band Trampled by Turtles, so there was no surprise in the crowds response. With Erik on the mandolin and accompanied only by a bass player, he played through a short set of originals that kept with his ever popular Celtic and bluegrass sound.

An unexpected travel delay that prevented Gaelynn Lea from the night’s performance, Haley Bonar took the stage next filling the spot. I’d heard some of Haley’s recent songs off her website, so I sort of knew what to expect. However, I was blown away by her heartfelt sound and performance. Bonar’s folky songs struck an attention chord with the crowd and all eyes were focused on her during the set. Her vocals were very reminiscent of old school folk with a low, breathy sound, and beautifully delivered.

Hippo Campus took command of the stage next. This Minnesotan four-piece started their performance off strong and never looked back. Their tight set was comprised of perfectly selected tracks that really characterizes the band’s pop-infused guitar riff sound, catchy lyrics, and flowing energy which forced the crowd start moving about. Hippo Campus are obviously a little different from the evening’s line-up though. They stood out as a self-contained rock group with serious chops and knotty indie rock songs full of crescendos, tempo switch-ups, and full band fills.

After a short break to change the stage set-up, Ambassadors hit the stage. The cross-cultural collaboration between veteran musicians Dalmar Yare and Holly Mūnoz added a extra holiday flare to the evening. Supported by Martin Dosh, Al Church, Zach Brose, Steve Schwartz and Kyle Burbey, the group’s set was rich in traditional and modern stories with a sound of Somali music mixed with a dash of reggae, pop, and rock.

As the night’s outside temperature was dropping to an appropriately cold, holiday season level, it was time for Low to take the stage. Singer Alan Sparhawk set an immediate tone as the band opened with ‘Long Way Around The Sea’. It was a breathtaking experience. The melodic nature of the song and the way it was delivered was incredible. This truly kicked the evening into overdrive and captured the minds (and emotions) of all who were in the venue. However, it did not stop there. Low immediately jumped into an amazing rendition of ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. This lifted the holiday spirit and also entranced the audience for the remainder of the performance. Low continued to bring their ‘A’ game with several selected fan favorites and then wrapped up their set with ‘Just Like Christmas’. This was an incredible closing to a great evening of performances … all for a great cause.