Have you ever howled and danced around with a pack of 700 strangers? Perhaps canoed down the Mississippi River? Enjoyed the brisk cold of a northern Minnesota winter? Hiked the Appalachian Trail? Well if you were at The Okee Dokee Brothers show at the Ordway Theater this Sunday, you may just feel like you have.
Performing right in their hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, The Okee Dokee Brothers played two electrifying shows bringing the folk fun to kids and adults alike.
These shows were part of the Ordway Theater’s “Family Series”. As guests walked in, they were encouraged to walk around and explore the Play and Learn lobbies set up on the second and third floor of the Ordway before taking their seats. The Play and Learn lobbies offer fun, interactive activities for kids and families to enjoy before most family programing events at the Ordway. Some of the activities included art making, camping, screen printing, and information booths from Healing Place Collaborative and the Voyageur Outward Bound School. Dozens of kids were running around, smiling and having fun engaging with the activities before the show.
As the crowd moved from the hallways and into the theater, it was clear that the fun and excitement was only just beginning. There was a shared delight among the crowd, the squealing sound of kids exclaiming “Okee Dokee!” filled the room before the folk duo even took the stage. When the band came out, kids started cheering and bouncing up and down in their seats. The Okee Dokee Brothers were here to rock!
Accompanied by a violinist, a drummer and a stand up bassist, it didn’t take the full band long to immediately win the crowd over. Creating a rich and warm sound, everyone in the audience began to clap and sing along to the tune of The Okee Dokee Brothers banjo and guitar. The duo’s second song, “Slumberjack” got the crowd moving and grooving, as everyone began stomping their feet to the rhythm of the great Canadian slumberjack.
Not only were The Okee Dokee Brothers delivering incredible music, but the two were extremely interactive and personable. “This is a great concert for singing along.” guitarist Joe Mailander said to the crowd. Everyone was more than happy to oblige.
It was hard for me not to immediately sink into the show and feel like a kid again. The whimsical lyrics, fun tales of wilderness exploration and nature, and homemade videos playing in the background offered this fun and pure innocence. I had a smile on my face the entire time watching the excitement and delight among the kids. Their faces would light up when they recognized a song, and were keen to dance and sing along throughout the entire show.
One of the best moments of the afternoon happened when the band left the stage and it was just Mailander and Joe Lansing on stage. They called upon volunteers from the audience to help them complete a new song they shared hasn’t fully been written yet. The two would alternate shouting place names and calling upon kids to come up with a rhyming word to finish the lyrics. “What rhymes with Minnesota?” Mailander asked. A youngster down in front enthusiastically belted “YODA!” With a pause and a laugh, Mailander sang, “I’m going to Minnesota with Luke Skywalker and Yoda!” Everyone laughed and cheered.
When the fun of coming up with clever rhymes came to a close, the band went back to playing their familiar tunes. The Brothers dived into their Grammy winning hit “Can You Canoe?” and introduced a canoe paddling dance for the audience to emulate during the song. “We call this the ‘paddle dance’, the unofficial state dance of Minnesota!” Mailander joked. Kids and parents all throughout the theater laughed and tried their attempt at the dance.
After some vibrant storytelling and wholesome songs about canoeing and hiking in the Application mountains, it was time to celebrate winter with songs from the bands latest release, Winterland. They sang about blankets of snow, snowshoeing, staying warm by the fire with some hot cocoa, and dog sledding in northern Minnesota. Their song “Howl” described the adventures Mailander and Lansing had with the “dogs in the north”, and sparked a new life into the audience. Everyone took a deep breath and howled along with the band, creating a 700 person wolfpack.
The Okee Dokee Brothers performance was brilliant, feel good folk and its finest. Everyone at the Ordway Theater walked out of the show feeling good with smiles on their faces. It was truly the perfect St. Paul Sunday afternoon.