What started as a slow-burner of a night ended with an explosion of adoration and positive energy, serving as a perfect kick-off to the Current’s birthday parties in the First Avenue Mainroom. Now in its seventh year, the station expanded their popular all-local birthday bash into a two-night run, and judging from the celebratory spirit of last night’s show we’re in for a fantastic night again tonight.
The night began with an introduction from Morning Show hosts Jill Riley and Steve Seel, the latter of whom has been out on family leave for the entire month of January, and the crowd was clearly excited to see Seel back in action. He took the opportunity to show his love for the local scene, saying that “The tightest, most collaborative music community is right here in Minnesota,” and receiving hearty cheers from the room.
Night Moves eased the crowd into the musical portion of the evening with a focused, polished set. I had the chance to see Night Moves perform in the Mainroom twice this week (they also played the Best New Bands showcase on Wednesday night), and thought that their set Friday was much more relaxed and dynamic. Now that they’ve signed to Domino Records, they’ll surely have some touring ahead of them in support of their debut Colored Emotions, and it’ll be interesting to watch the band continue to hone in on their dreamy space-rock sound and become even tighter as a group.
As the Mainroom floor filled in the crowd got quite chatty, but seemed to recognize Night Moves’ single “Headlights” within the first few notes and stayed fairly attentive through the remainder of their set. Low, however, had a harder time overcoming the talkative nature of the audience, and it took them a few songs to really command the attention of the room. It was worth the wait, however; bolstered by members of Trampled by Turtles (and Dead Man Winter, who shares members with TBT), the group swelled to a four-piece and then an eight-piece for a stunning rendition of “When I Go Deaf” that climaxed into a roaring clatter, captivating even the farthest-back revelers in the room. The set stayed at that high energy for the rest of their performance, including the chilling “Murderer” and “Nothing But Heart,” and might still be my favorite part of the Current birthday celebrations so far.
With a few quick rearrangements, Dead Man Winter came back on stage for their set. They started off with a cover of Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” launched into a few of their slower originals, including the heartbreaking “A Long Cold Night in Minneapolis,” and then fell into a groove that continued to grow in intensity. I had previously thought of Dead Man Winter as a slower, sparser version of what frontman Dave Simonett does in Trampled by Turtles, but on Friday night they showed that the band is really a way for them to abandon the bluegrass genre all together and play some good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, with a few roots instruments (a fiddle, a banjo) thrown in for flavor. Their “cover” of Trampled by Turtles’ popular song “Victory” whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and they were able to harness that energy and ride it out for the rest of their raucous set.
By the time Tapes ‘n Tapes took the stage the room was party vibes had taken over the room, and the band seemed to feed on the celebratory air of the night by playing their songs twice as hard and fast as I’d ever heard them before. “Take a few months off from playing shows and you sweat so much that it burns,” frontman Josh Grier laughed, squinting and drenched, and it was clear that the punch they packed into their headlining set had been bottled up and waiting to burst forth for quite some time.
Rather than pause for an encore, Grier opted to stay on stage after “Insistor” and motioned for others to join him as he played the opening refrain of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” a bold move in such an iconic venue. But it was clear Grier had been rehearsing for this moment for a while, and, with the help of Alan Sparhawk of Low and Micky Alfano and John Pelant from Night Moves, he powered through the song and played the guitar solos note-for-note. I can’t pretend to be objective about that closing tune; against my better judgment, I let a coworker pull me up on stage and swayed along with the rest of the Current staff like an awkward, star-struck back-up dancer. But that closing tune and the opportunity to really take in the waves of appreciation from the crowd made for an overwhelming and surreal moment, and made me giddy once again about the potential power that can be harnessed by a group of people coming together for a common purpose. It made me proud to be a new member of the Current’s family, and it makes me antsy to get back to the club tonight for round two.
For more of Nate Ryan’s photos from Friday night and a collection of your #currentbday party tweets, click here.