The sky was looking a bit ominous as I drove from Saint Paul to Minneapolis for last night’s concert. With the weather warnings cutting into the stories I was listening to on Minnesota Public Radio, I was more than relieved when I got my car in the parking lot and found myself inside The Turf Club. Although the winds were howling outside and there was a bit of a sense of danger in the air, everything was nice and calm as soon as I stepped foot inside. I didn’t know anything about last night’s Okkervil River show but I was instantly in love with the vibe of the crowded venue.
Kicking off the night was Star Rover from Brooklyn, New York. This duo, consisting of Will Graefe and Jeremy Gustin, had me falling head over heels for them before they even started playing. “We’re a very efficient band,” stated Will Graefe. “We’re going to play music for thirty minutes. Merch is over there. There will be images projected onto the bass drum. Thank you.” And, with that, they were off whisking the packed Turf Club into a dreamland of fantasy and calmness. Now, it being a Monday night and me still recovering from a sort of bender of a weekend, hearing that they were going to be an ‘efficient band’ was like music to my ears but as they started playing, the only music I heard were the waves of sound the duo was creating and I honestly didn’t want it to end.
I really don’t know how to describe the music that Star Rover plays. It’s a bit electronic, a bit punk, a bit folk, and a whole lot of whimsical is some way. Honestly, the images being projected onto the bass drum (which was a super super cool element but hard to see at times due to the sheer amount of people who were there) said everything that needed to be said. The images reminded me of a fairy tale but not your typical one. Nothing seemed to make sense but it worked– much like the music. There were moments when you heard chaos and complete loss of control (or so it seemed) followed by some of the most beautiful drone-like sounds with an almost choir like voice on top. The amount of layers created by these two men truly had me on my toes throughout their thirty minute set. When it was all said and done, not only did I want more from them, but I was also left feeling a bit exhausted. I wasn’t moving around and was honestly being a bum by leaning against the wall but trying to catch everything and watch the images playing on the drum while not missing a single facial expression truly had me exhausted.
Headlining the bustling Monday night show was Texas based Okkervil River. I have seen their name multiple times and I feel like they’re constantly touring. That being said, I have never looked them up, listened to them or seen them so I honestly had no clue what to expect. As I saw the two members of Star Rover take the stage with the rest of Okkervil River, I felt a sense of excitement. My wish of more Star Rover was coming true! At least that’s what I thought until Okkervil jumped into their set of a completely different music. Although I was bummed that it wasn’t more Star Rover-type tunes, I was instantly captivated as I watched Okkervil play through a lengthy set as the audience smiled, laughed, and sang along.
Since 1998, Okkervil has been releasing music that truly stands out from other groups. Although I would classify them as indie-rock, there’s clear elements of pop, rock, psychedelic, stoner rock, straight up 70’s revivalist sounds– good lord these guys were all over the place but it all of the sounds blended together to form a truly flawless sound that stands out. With nine albums out and far too many singles, splits, and various other releases to count, Okkervil is not knew to this whole performing thing and you could tell. I watched in awe as the members seamlessly switched between instruments and played every single note with an undeniable sense of precision and passion.
The audience wasn’t super thrilling to watch but that was a blessing in disguise. I was so busy watching everything going on on the stage that I wouldn’t have had time to pay attention to the audience had they been doing much. I found myself to be one with the masses as I stood there swaying along to the beat with my eyes glued to the stage. I always talk about how exciting being in the middle or on the edge of a mosh pit is– I love the energy and feeling of it. That being said, standing there with my drink in hand while leaning on the wall had it’s own sense of energy. Sure, exciting isn’t quite the word I would use but I was energized as I watched Okkervil River play through their set and as I watch the audience just take it all in while having a truly enjoyable night.
Is there a name that you’ve seen on flyers a million times but have never check them out? Change that. If a band is doing the grind of constantly touring and putting their name out there, I promise that they are worth your attention. Even if you don’t like their music, supporting a group with that kind of drive is absolutely everything. I’m glad I finally took a change on Okkervil River and I’m already anxiously waiting for them to announce another show here so I can do it all over again.