For the grand finale of #Current10, which came at the end of an action-packed 10-day run of events, hometown heroes Atmosphere, Virginia blues-rockers J. Roddy Walston and the Business, legendary surf quartet the Trashmen, and burgeoning soul artist PaviElle pulled out all the stops to give the First Avenue crowd an unforgettable evening.
PaviElle and her eight-piece band–which includes her brother Ahanti Young and cousin O. Tiyo Siyolo singing back-up vocals, a full horn section, the prodigious jazz keyboardist Ted Godbout, and the producer of her debut album, Casey O’Brien, on bass—came out of the gate swinging, first with a scintillating cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and then her bouncy, funky “Runnin.'” From the moment PaviElle’s booming, commanding, and acrobatic voice rang out into the room she had the audience in the palm of her hand, and the crowd’s astonishment and adoration was palpable.
“Audience, prepare thyselves. Pavielle ’bout to blow your socks off,” I tweeted as the singer took the stage. A few songs later, a fan replied: “Yeah, I think my socks ended up on the balcony.”
PaviElle puts in work up on that stage, and she kept a towel within reach to dab the sweat off her brow as she dug deeper into each new groove and compelled the audience to move along with her. Anytime PaviElle wasn’t singing her heart out she was scanning the audience with a look of utter disbelief, at one point confessing, “I’m feeding off of you guys, you know that right? Let me feel your energy!”
One of the best things about the Current’s anniversary parties is seeing disparate acts smashed together back-to-back, and you couldn’t ask for two less similar bands than PaviElle’s R&B and soul revue and the Trashmen’s ’60s surf rock. But that was precisely what made the evening so captivating, and the Trashmen had no problem keeping the crowd’s curiosity piqued.
The band filed out on stage behind Current host Steve Seel as Seel read a proclamation from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges proclaiming it Current Day in the city, and with Atmosphere’s unlit “Southsiders” sign hanging over their heads they introduced the crowd to their unique spin on south Minneapolis garage rock that they cultivated in the early 1960s. As they performed songs like “Bird Dance Beat” and “King of the Surf,” which was the B-side to their breakout 1963 hit “Surfin’ Bird,” it was hard not to get caught up in the simple fact that this band has been around and active for over 50 years now—a fact they pointed out themselves mid-set.
“How many bands can say they’ve been together since 1962?” asked the band’s only non-original member, bassist Bob Reed’s son Rob, who fills in for the late drummer and vocalist Steve Wahrer. “Who was even alive in 1962?” Only about 10 hands shot up out of the hundreds packed onto the Mainroom floor.
The Trashmen clearly knew the song that everyone wanted to hear, and they expertly built up the momentum by working in covers of Link Wray and Dick Dale before blasting off with the bopping “Surfin’ Bird.” The audience got such a kick out of the song that the band came back with a rare feat—having their mics turned back on and First Avenue’s screen pulled back up so they could play an impromptu encore, “Shakin’ at the High School Hop.”
With everyone still catching their breaths from busting a move to “Surfin’ Bird,” J. Roddy Walston and the Business cranked the PAs up to 11 for a bass-rattling, hair-raising set. With the smell of sweat and leather lingering in the air and the sight of Walston and his bandmates’ hair flying through the air, it was impossible not to be drawn into the Business’s business of grimy, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll. Part Black Diamond Heavies and part Andrew W.K., Walston worked his vintage Yamaha electric piano with a gusto and taunted the crowd to come along for the ride.
“Are you guys in it yet? Are you guys involved?” he asked between songs. “I wasn’t sure, so I’m gonna turn up the reverb.”
After breaking apart his mic stand during “Take it as it Comes” (which actually didn’t slow him down one bit) and cranking the reverb and volume higher and higher, Walston set the room ablaze with a joyous, pummeling version of “Heavy Bells” that had the entire room screaming along.
By the time Atmosphere took the stage the crowd was so well-primed that they seemed up for just about anything. As many predicted, Slug kicked off his set by revisiting the now-infamous song that the Current played when it launched exactly 10 years ago, and before he played it he told a little story to the crowd.
“So here’s an idea I had today,” Slug said. “What if I pledged this song to the Current? What if I said, hey, ‘Say Shh’—you can have this song?” As the audience roared its approval, he explained that he asked his cohorts at Rhymesayers if it was possible and they only had one response: “Shhhh.”
With that, Atmosphere launched into the song and led the crowd in a bouncing sing-along of all the local landmarks shouted out in the song, with an extra couple of lines about St. Paul, the Current, and Mark Wheat. Once the song was finished, Slug paused for a few seconds and then launched into a string of obscenities, rejoicing over the fact that he made it through the one song of his set that would be broadcast live on the Current without dropping any f-bombs.
Now that he had the room to himself, Slug and his DJs Ant and Plain Ole Bill wound through some of the more danceable material from his catalog, relying heavily on the 2008 album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that S*** Gold. And although they were only scheduled to perform until midnight, Atmosphere kept the party going with the addition of the emotional “Yesterday” and the poignant tribute to Eyedea, “Flicker,” which Slug rapped to a sea of iPhones and lighters held high.
Atmosphere set list:
Smart Went Crazy
Modern Man’s Hustle
Prelude to Hell