The second night of the The Current’s 12th Birthday Party was greeted by a crowd buzzing with anticipation. Fresh off a successful first night of the birthday celebration, First Avenue concertgoers were excited to see what the sold-out Saturday show would bring, and it did not disappoint. The lineup included three local acts — Monica LaPlante, ZULUZULUU, and headliner Haley Bonar — along with the Lemon Twigs, who hail from New York, and Montreal’s Sam Roberts Band.
First on the docket was Monica LaPlante, an up-and-coming rock act who set a righteous mood with an all-black wardrobe and cool, collected confidence. LaPlante and her band played fast-paced songs from their newest album, Noir, including “Hope You’re Alone” and “Can’t Stop.” Their focused concentration during each song was broken between numbers by grins of pure joy. At one point, lead singer Monica LaPlante took a break from gripping her pink electric guitar and exclaimed into the microphone: “We’re really happy to be here!”
The moment that the Sam Roberts Band took the stage, the crowd was in an immediate uproar of excitement. The band’s signature brand of accessible rock is well-known in Minnesota, and they made themselves right at home in the Mainroom, placing themselves at the front of the stage and commanding the room with songs like “We’re All In This Together” and “Shapeshifters” from their Lo-Fantasy album as well as songs such as “If You Want It” off of their newest album TerraForm, all the while radiating a contagious energy.
At the midway point of the night, ZULUZULUU took the stage. This local band are experiencing a surge in popularity and acclaim, becoming only the second-ever act (after Lizzo) to win both City Pages Picked to Click and the Star Tribune’s Twin Cities Critics Tally in the same year. Their music has a hypnotic quality to it, and as they dived into their set, the crowd was immediately entranced. Songs such as “On Our Way,” “Stakes Is High,” and “Back Stabbers” came from their new mixtape, The Cover Up. The members of the Afro-Future collective had the audience in the palms of their hands, and when they called for everyone to put their hands in the air, nearly everyone in the crowd obliged. This moment was one of the most magical of the night; feeling an entire group of music listeners come together to let loose and celebrate great music.
Next up were the Lemon Twigs, whose complex but catchy melodic rock brought an air of lighthearted goofiness that added a whole new layer to the atmosphere of the night. After opening with “I Wanna Prove to You” off their Do Hollywood album, they announced that they had broken their bass drum pedal. They even asked if anyone in the audience had a pedal they could borrow, to which the crowd responded with encouraging laughter and cheers, and the band remained comfortable onstage until the pedal was replaced. As if nothing had happened, they jumped right back into their high-energy set. Twins Michael and Brian D’Addario were constantly moving; whether it was jumping, doing the splits, or switching instruments, the two were rarely in any one spot for long. As they sang “These Words,” it became clear that the crowd was completely taken by this band — and how could we not be? Their quirky nature is fun and infectious, and made it sad to see them leave the stage for the night.
Closing out the night was headliner Haley Bonar, a singer-songwriter returning to play a set of her solo material after playing last year’s birthday party with her band Gramma’s Boyfriend. Before she even came onstage, I heard murmurs from the crowdgoers around me about how enchanting Bonar’s performances are. She did not disappoint. Armed with an arsenal of guitars, Bonar entranced the crowd with songs off of her newest album, Impossible Dream, including opener “Hometown,” “Kismet Kill,” and “I Can Change.” Returning for an encore and grinning from ear to ear, Bonar performed “Down Sunny Roads” and “Called You Queen” to close out the night.
Before playing her last song, Bonar said, “Be kind to each other.” It was simple but beautiful reminder after a long and moving night of music.
Hanna Bubser is a student at Hamline University.
The Sam Roberts Band
The Lemon Twigs