It was nice to finally be back at the venue formerly known as Mill City Nights. Although the name of the venue has changed to Music Hall MPLS, some things will never change including the organization of the venue. I got downtown a little bit after door time but about ten minutes before show time knowing I would have to stand in line for a wee bit but I was not expecting to have to stand in the sub-zero temperatures for nearly thirty minutes. With a sold out show at an over 1,000 capacity venue, the layout of the venue with only a single door has always been and issue, and was again. Unfortunately I missed opening band Kirra due to the whole one entrance door thing but I did make it inside just in time to catch Dallas, TX based Big Story. (Our photographer did catch their set)
There was a sense of charm swirling around stage as Big Story performed. You could tell they were a newer band to the national scene and were just doing their best to do the grind and get their name out there. Although their music was a bit too plain for my tasting, I could feel the passion as the singer powered through their quick set and sometimes that undeniable sense of passion is more than enough to make me ignore the fact that I don’t like the music. Their sound resembled that of bands like Seether and Blue October but there was still a small hint of individuality about it. It was amusing to watch the singer as he would stick his tongue out while singing some of the words. Was it necessary? Who knows but it gave me something to watch and added a personality to a band that I would have probably just written off at first listen.
After Big Story’s quick set, the stage was turned over for The Contortionist and I was excited to see what was to come. The Contortionist is a metal (but not metal) band that I have now seen more times than I’d like to admit. Their unique brand of music may not be my favorite thing to listen to at work but it’s something that I find intriguing and they have always impressed me with their live shows. Something has changed with this band and although change is like a breath of fresh air, it’s not always the best thing. My friend Brian put it best when he described their new sound as “an acid fusion prog band”, and although that may be great for some people, it’s not for me. I didn’t feel the passion I had in the past with this group and it could be due to the bigger venue, bigger crowd but, regardless, The Contortionist is a band that will always be evolving but this newest change has me wondering personally but it went over well with the crowd.
Closing out the night was Nothing More. A band that seems to have a cult-like following that, although I don’t worship them like many do, I always find exciting to see live. Thankfully, after the let down that was The Contortionist, Nothing More came up on stage and did exactly what I’ve seen them do numerous times before and completely killed it. They blasted onto stage with “Christ Copyright” as their opening song. From the second the the San Antonio based group took the stage and until the final note rang out through the speakers, there was a sense of excitement on the stage and in the crowd.
The audience was rowdy. Maybe it was because they realized that if they didn’t start moving around, they would never warm up or maybe it’s because of that cult-like following but, regardless, I was into it and found myself watching the crowd almost as much as I was watching the stage. Not only was the crowd moving around to the music, they were also screaming along to every single word that singer Jonny Hawkins was belting into the microphone. I definitely felt like a lone wolf as I stood there in wonderment with everyone around me apparently having a religious experience as they sang along but, as usual, I loved being the fly on the wall and watching everything unfold around me.
Nothing More is known for their live shows and having only seen them in giant outdoor festival settings before last night, I was excited to see how that energy was going to translate to a more intimate indoor venue. Honestly, I didn’t have my hopes up too high but the men of Nothing More absolutely brought it and, even though the sold-out audience was stuffed into the venue like a bunch of sardines, their set still had the feeling it did when I saw them outside at the giant festivals. There’s something to be said about that and that’s something that, although not a die-hard fan, will keep me coming back for more.
This group does not just stand there and play their music. There’s theatrics to their live shows but nothing over the top. A couple of songs in, there was an impressive bass solo where the band members circled around the electric bass that was set up on a stand and three people simultaneously plucked away at the strings creating a unique soundscape unlike anything I had ever heard before. My jaw was on the ground (along with the jaw of majority of the rest of the crowd) as the band members started spinning the bass in circles while still keeping the sounds coming. The impressive show of talent was, well, it was impressive. Another jaw-on-the-ground moment was when Jonny took his place atop the ‘Scorpion’. I mean, there’s really no good way for me to explain this contraption but basically it’s a machine with a bunch of different doo-dads on it that make noise that resembles the shape of a scorpion tail. It’s truly an impressive piece of functional artwork and the way Jonny navigates it with a sense of mastery is, again, impressive. It not only makes for a great visual that you will always associate with Nothing More, but also creative more of those creative sounds that only Nothing More can pull off.