“You guys know this came together in a matter of minutes, right?” P.O.S. marveled, shaking his head as he looked out at the sea of attendees at Tuesday night’s Love is the Law concert in St. Paul. “This is better than some of the well-planned festivals I’ve played.”
Indeed, the most impressive aspect of the high-profile event was just how successfully it was executed on such a tight turnaround. Announced a mere 26 hours before it began, the free event drew 7,000 people and flooded the EcoLab Plaza, the Amsterdam Bar and Hall, and the section of Wabasha that divides the two locales.
Yes, 7,000 people—just 3,000 fewer than the attendance of Rock the Garden each year, and they planned the whole thing in under a week.
Of course, it helps when you have the city’s mayor on your side, and Tuesday night St. Paul’s Mayor Chris Coleman was so supportive of the event that he not only introduced headlining act the Suburbs with an impassioned speech, but picked up a guitar and joined the ‘Burbs and the 100-member Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus for an emotional performance of the concert’s namesake song, “Love is the Law.”
It was the first of two times “Love is the Law” would be performed, and it bookended a short, energetic set by the Suburbs, who played classics like “Life Is Like,” “Music for Boys,” and “Rattle My Bones” with additional support from Chris Osgood of the Suicide Commandos on guitar.
“It happened. It really happened!” frontman Chan Poling proclaimed, clearly pleased with the same-sex marriage bill that moved swiftly through the House and Senate over the past week and was signed into law by Governor Dayton just prior to the show. Poling seemed hesitant to leave the stage, threatening to leave after only 15 minutes but then sticking around to play a total of five songs and reprising their hit.
Likewise, P.O.S. declared that he was invited to play three songs for the event and wound up playing seven, clearly reveling in the rare chance to play his hometown. He also admitted that he had to take it easy—he’s still waiting on that kidney transplant, and clearly wasn’t feeling 100%—but proceeded to pour everything he had onto the stage with songs like “F Your Stuff,” “Optimist,” the searing “Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks & Bats,” and insta-dance party starter “Get Down.”
“I haven’t played a show in a lot of months,” he said at one point, later adding that “This was the best part of my year so far.”
Earlier in the evening, Adam Levy’s Hookers $ Blow blasted through a set of love-themed covers that kept the crowd bouncing, kicking off the night with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” As strong gusts whipped through EcoLab Plaza, guitarist George Scot McKelvey joked that it was the “winds of change,” setting the tone for the rest of the show.
Zoo Animal followed with a heavier and more challenging set—the band’s new lineup is perfect for rattling the walls of a dark club late at night, and provided the biggest contrast to the lighthearted, celebratory spirit of the day—and frontwoman Holly Hansen gave the crowd plenty to chew on between songs.
“This song is about how sometimes you try to dig up gold and you end up burying someone else. I think that’s relevant here. Be aware of what your actions do,” she remarked thoughtfully before ripping into a heady, re-imagined version of early Zoo Animal song “Black and Gold.” At another point, bassist Noah Paster turned up the fuzz for a Black Sabbath-channeling version of “Folded Hands,” a song whose lyrics focus on grappling with societal norms.
And rounding out the lineup was a brief performance by the Jack Brass Band and a two-song offering by the Gay Men’s Chorus, who had some attendees fighting back tears with their moving rendition of “Marry Us.”
All told, it was a joyful evening that allowed the heated politics of the previous week to fade into the background and the prevailing themes—of love, of acceptance, and of coming to peace with one another and ourselves—to ring through EcoLab Plaza. That’s the kind of solace that can only come from music.