I never thought I would be the type to be into bluegrass and folk music but, alas, here we are. My metalhead self just can’t resist a good bluegrassy folk show and that’s how I ended up at First Avenue on Friday night completely lost in a beyond sold out crowd.
The crowd was rowdier than the usual First Avenue crowd. I blame the weather. Minnesota has been mostly closed for the past couple of days due to the extreme cold. Everything was closed from work to bars to bars. Did I mention that it was so cold that BARS WERE CLOSING. It was a rough couple of days and although I still went to work in the hell that was the cold, I had this undeniable sense of being cooped up. The temperature on Friday finally hit a positive number and people were ready to go out and enjoy it. The conversations around me were deafening and before opener Lost Dog Street Band took the stage I had already found myself drenched in spilled drinks from the sloppy drunks all around me. I honestly didn’t care. I too was ready to be out of the house and back at a show after not making it to my scheduled shows the past couple of days due to the cold and my exhaustion of dealing with it.
Lost Dog Street Band took the stage promptly at 9PM and jumped into the sweet sounds of classic bluegrass music. The trio had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the moment they took the stage and until the bitter end of their forty-five minute set. It was nothing short of captivating to watch the trio as they plucked and strummed their way through song after song. Their music definitely had a very classic bluegrassy-folk feel to it but there were moments throughout their set where you could pick up on hints of punk influence and a bit of a dirty country vibe.
I loved the way that singer Benjamin Flippo had a sense of power in his voice without trying. He wasn’t a loud front-man and at times he was almost hard to hear but there was still this undeniable sense of power that you felt as he stepped closer to the microphone. Because of this softness, it was hard to catch some of the lyrics but the ones I did catch were heart-breakingly beautiful. There’s clearly a deep and almost dark side to this band when it comes to the words which matches up perfectly with the precision and care that each note is played with when it comes to the guitar, upright bass, and fiddle. All in all, this opening set from Lost Dog Street Band was the perfect set to get me in the mood for what’s to come.
With over six albums out, the band had plenty of material to choose from. Although I’ve listened to them in the past, I’ve never really dug into their material so truly didn’t care what they played. That being said, the songs that they picked flowed perfectly and every song was obviously everyone’s favorite song (or at least that’s what the conversations around me would lead you to believe). Their covers of Peggy Lee’s “I’m a Woman” and Tom Waits’ “Tango Till They’re Sore” were just kind of slipped into the set and, if you weren’t paying attention, I could see people thinking they were just originals because they fit so perfectly into the rest of the set.
After twenty one songs with very few breaks in between, the crowd was left pleading to the concert Gods for more as the band disappeared from the stage. It wasn’t a surprise to me when the group came out and played another two songs to wrap up the night but the deafening cheer and applause from the audience would have you think it was a surprise to 99% of the audience. I loved that about this show. The audience was truly just absolutely stoked to be at this show with the people they were with. I’m pretty sure at one point a hoe-down had kicked off in the center of the audience. Sure, rowdy would be a good word to describe the night and I’m sure security had their hands full with people who had had one too many but it left First Avenue feeling electric in a way I hadn’t felt in a bit. Instead of just standing there and listening to the beautiful music, the crowd was moving and grooving to the beat.
Friday night’s show was just one of those shows that, even though the week has been a bit odd with the weather, as soon as you walked in, a smile crept across your face and it didn’t leave until well after you left.