The Arcs at First Avenue 12/1/2015


The Arcs kicked off the American half of their world tour in Minneapolis last night. The much-anticipated group released “Yours, Dreamily” in September and are nearly done with their next album as well. The power group includes Richard Swift of the Shins on drums, producer Nick Movshon on bass, (another) producer Leon Michels on guitar and keyboard, (another) drummer Homer Steinweiss of the Dap-Kings and guitarist Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys . It is no surprise First Ave was nearly at full capacity long before Mariachi Flor De Toloache even took the stage. There was an excited chatter among the crowd; the choking down laughter type of chatter that is heard among children discussing a sleepover. The makeup of the crowd was a smattering of hippies, hipsters and clean-cut older folks that probably love Eric Clapton. More excitement swelled around the side stage equipment pile where much of the cases were labeled “The Black Keys”. It was a reminder of whom we were dealing with – Dan Auerbach, owner of the all analogue Easy Eye Sound Studios, and most of all, guitar extraordinaire.

Mariachi Flor De Toloache
Whoever had the idea of having an all female Mariachi band opening for The Arcs is a freaking genius! Founded in New York City in 2008 the group has been nominated for a Latin Grammy and just released their self titled album. They mix classic Mariachi music with modern influences. Their first song “Guadalajara” was well recieved but the crowd went nuts for their rendition of Nirvana’s “Come as you are” which was up next. There were tons of smiling faces in the audience and the set was very well received.


The Arcs
The super group was accompanied onstage by a handful of potted ferns that cast an exotic shadow behind the band. They opened the night with “Stay In My Corner”. Openers Mariachi Flor De Toloache’s backup vocals paired with plinky piano licks elevated the mood in an otherwise melancholy song. That melancholy mood continued into “Bad Girl” that opened up a psychedelic jam that was backlit by morphing shapes that would be found in the opener to a James Bond movie. “Pistol Made of Bones” introduced the first many country-western influenced songs. If it were a movie it would be the point where our hero is endlessly walking in the desert and reminiscing on their mistakes. There was a sense of demise in the music, but it wasn’t killing the enthusiastic mood because the music also let you know your heroes were going to prevail, just not without hardship. Long pauses in the vocals let you drift away in guitar-guided thought.

The band then launched into “The Arc”, a CCR kind of song where the reverb of the guitars rattled each note the way light refracts on a hot highway. The double drum kits drove the songs relentless rhythm. Many bands would have used a drum machine to keep such an aggressive and romping beat, but The Arcs have an unmatched attention to detail. The organ straddled the line between spooky and bluesy and the mariachi backup singers only solidified the south of the border theme that was heard in Yours, Dreamily. They ended their main set with “Outta My Mind”. The crowd sang along to a song that tied the whole show together. It had the melancholy theme, but this time it had more purpose and motivation. This only fed the audience; the encore-hungry crowd begged for more with whistles and other sorts of birdcalls. The band came out for one more South American song that included a wailing trumpet that had been peppered in throughout the show. It wasn’t enough. Fans waited, but the light flicked on and people shuffled out. There wasn’t a disappointed soul in the crowd. The same buzz before the show had carried out into the cold streets of downtown Minneapolis, but the short and sweet solos of Dan Auerbach had already warmed our blood. This group of talented musicians set a new standard at First Ave. But we shouldn’t be surprised one bit; we knew who we were dealing with.

Set List:
Stay In My Corner
Bad Girl
Pistol Made of Bones
Put a Flower in Your Pocket
The Arc
Nature’s Child
Little Baby (The Blue Rondos cover)
Cold Companion
My Mind
Chains of Love
Everything You Do (You Do For You)
Too Young to Burn (Sonny & The Sunsets cover)
I Want a Holler
Outta My Mind
Velvet Ditch