It was a night of many thanks as Minnesota musicians new and established paid homage to the Current, even singing the station “Happy Birthday” more than once in honor of the 8th anniversary of its launch.
The Chalice started the evening off on a dramatic note, singing “The time / Is here / The moment has arrived” a capella while marching out on stage and then launching into their Queen-sampling single, “Mama.” Their set was not without hiccups — an issue with their laptop had their DJ Spacebar scrambling to find another laptop in between songs — but the ladies overcame their technical challenges to deliver a set that eventually won over the sold-out crowd.
“At least we didn’t have a wardrobe malfunction,” Lizzo joked. The MC’s solo songs were especially magnetic, including a Lazerbeak-produced new track “Batches” and her track off the We Are the Chalice EP, “W.E.R.K.,” and they even got the crowd moving a little with their best-known single, “Push It.”
As soon as “Push It” was through the ladies announced that they were going to bring out some special guests, and as soon as Sophia Eris uttered the words “Hot Cheetos” the crowd started chattering in disbelief.
What happened next was explosive. The room burst open in stadium-sized cheers as all seven members of the Kids (formerly the Y.N.RichKids) bounded out to perform their viral YouTube hit, “Hot Cheetos and Takis.” Though they had never set foot in First Avenue before, the Kids handled the big stage like pros, nonchalantly passing their microphones back and forth between verses and even busting out a few synchronized dance moves at the song’s end.
“Do you have any idea how much it sucks going on after ‘Hot Cheetos and Takis’?,” said Now, Now frontwoman Cacie Dalager, pausing between songs during her band’s set. “We were just standing side stage going ‘Oh. My. God.’ That was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. When we found out they were here my heart started racing.”
Now, Now recovered smoothly, though, and delivered a mesmerizing set of songs off their breakout album, last year’s Threads. The band took a moment between almost every song to pile on additional thank-yous, starting with the Current and then moving on to their fans and even their cats. “Separate Rooms” burned especially bright on the Mainroom’s stage, as did “Roommates” and their most recognizable song to date, “Thread.”
Third on the bill was Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner, who brought new Soul Asylum guitarist Justin Sharbono along to play stripped-down versions of some of his best-known tunes and sprinkled in a heavy dose of witty stage banter. “Can I tell you how much it sucks to go on after Now, Now? They were awesome,” he commented at one point, while at another he introduced “Gravity” by saying “Here’s one we probably shouldn’t do acoustic.”
Pirner opened up his set to crowd suggestions, and winced as someone in the audience shouted out the all-to-predictable “Freebird.” Rather than shrugging it off, Pirner treated the crowd to the entire first portion of the song and chastised the person who yelled it out, saying “Don’t ever request that song again. I will play it.”
To end his set, Pirner shrugged and smirked. “So do you want to hear f***ing ‘Runaway Train’ or what?” The audience definitely did, and his final number turned into quite the unifying sing-along.
The momentum continued to build into Cloud Cult’s set as the sprawling band took the stage to roaring applause, opening the set with well-known hits “You’ll Be Bright” and “Everyone Here is a Cloud.” After the second song, frontman Craig Minowa announced that they were playing a set of tunes from throughout their eight-year-long relationship with the Current, and then launched into the first Cloud Cult song that the station ever played, “Transistor Radio.”
The set continued on in this Current-listener-pleasing fashion, with one radio single after another: “Running With the Wolves,” “The Arrival – There’s So Much Energy In Us,” and finally “1x1x1,” the band’s hard-charging new single that just debuted on the station last month.
As they played, Cloud Cult painter Connie Minowa created a bright image of a radio tower rising from the woods and radiating heart-shaped waves, a visual representation of the mutual appreciation that exists between Cloud Cult, the Current, and all the fans in the audience last night. It very much felt like being plugged into a circular transference of positive energy, and at several times in the set I caught audience members wiping tears from their eyes, transfixed.
For their finale, Cloud Cult kept the Current birthday party tradition alive by inviting all of the opening acts back up to the stage for a cover of Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” The band did such a spot-on job with the cover that I’m hoping a recorded version of that tribute will be the Cloud Cult song we’ll hear on the Current next.