Whereas Friday night’s birthday bash featured several somewhat similar rock acts building up the momentum until the night’s end, Saturday was a more mixed-bag affair that placed a heavy emphasis on musical discovery. It ended up giving the night a different kind of forward push, as the crowd giddily anticipated what would come next.
The evening started out slow and sweet with a solo performance by Haley Bonar, who sat down behind a Rhodes piano to deliver a few of her earlier tunes. Bonar didn’t have any trouble captivating the room, which was nearly full by the time she stood up and grabbed her acoustic guitar, and with her enveloping voice extending back to the far corners of the room it was hard to look away. She brought out Linnea Mohn of Rogue Valley for the delicate “Moon Die” before building into some of her more sprightly tunes from her latest, Golder, including “Candy Machine Gun” and “Raggedy Man.”
The crowd was clearly looking forward to Sims, and roared in appreciation when Steve Seel explained that the Doomtree MC had flown over a thousand miles just to perform at the show (he’s in the middle of a two-month tour with Doomtree in support of No Kings). Though Sims joked several times throughout the set that he was deliriously tired, at one time almost referring to his group as No Kings instead of Doomtree, you’d never have known it from his performance. Sims won over any fans unfamiliar with his solo material by playing the crew’s new hit, “Bangarang,” and whipped the crowd into a furor with a version of his own song “Burn it Down” that found him abandoning the stage all together to crawl over the security barricade and into the crowd. One particular fan was so energized by the display that she danced out on stage during the next song, and the way she was politely escorted off the stage by Conrad only added to the positive party-time energy of Sims’s set.
Next up were punk pioneers the Suicide Commandos, who won over throngs of new fans with their chugging and, well, commanding performance of classic songs like the opening “Burn it Down” (yep, they have a track called that too). Before they went on, Current staffer Lindsay Kimball told me that the Commandos started out playing punk music before people in the Twin Cities even knew what that meant, leading to them being described as simply a “New York Rock” when they started out back in 1975. The fact that such an influential and forward-thinking band was on the same bill as young bucks like Sims, Haley, and Polica made their performance all the more impactful. “We’re so thankful to be a part of the continuum,” Chris Osgood said mid-set, and he was clearly impressed by the caliber of musicians he shared the stage with that night. They further hammered home their place in the “continuum” by inviting Hugo Klaers of the Suburbs out for “Baby Heartbeat.”
And then there was Poliça. Though the rest of the night carried an air of celebration, including an impromptu crowd singalong of “Happy Birthday” while Mark Wheat was introducing the Current staff to the crowd, once Poliça started into their first song the energy shifted and the rest of the night belonged completely to them. Poliça’s stage set-up is simple: drummers Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson play side by side on a riser to the left while bassist Chris Bierden stands to the left, leaving plenty of space in the middle of the stage for entrancing lead singer Channy Leaneagh to prowl, strut, writhe, and wail. Dressed in tailored cargo pants, combat boots and a black tank top, Leaneagh seemed to channel Sade’s Soldier of Love, especially on the drumline-heavy tracks “Form” and “Dark Star.” She’s come a long way since fronting Roma di Luna, and Saturday night’s show was easily the most confident I’d ever seen her; it’s going to be a thrill watching her adapt to the stage even more when Poliça returns for their Valentine’s Day CD-release gig.
The crowd ate up Poliça’s biggest radio single to date, “Wandering Star,” but wouldn’t let the band off the hook without an encore, and you could tell the band wasn’t quite used to receiving that kind of reception just yet. They returned to play one more track off their forthcoming Give You the Ghost, album opener “Amongster,” and the force of the dual drums left many toward the front of the crowd with mouths agape. The demand for more from Poliça isn’t going to die down anytime soon — good thing Leaneagh announced from stage that their already at work on a sophomore release.
For more from Saturday night, you can see a slideshow of photos and read all your #currentbday tweets from the night here. Read Friday night’s recap here.