Following a decidedly spunky first night of The Current’s 13th Birthday Party on Friday, a First Avenue Mainroom crowd gathered on Saturday to keep the party going. With a lineup that included local acts Reina del Cid and Lady Lark, as well as Ron Gallo and headliner JD McPherson, it is safe to say that the energy level did not falter. These artists weren’t messing around — they were ready to party.
At precisely eight o’clock (as noted onstage by The Current’s Mac Wilson), Reina del Cid took the stage, and the night couldn’t have started out on a brighter note. From the moment they played the first note to the very last second of their set, this band were grinning from ear to ear. Part of it probably had to do with the fact that it was their First Avenue Mainroom debut. “It’s so awesome to see friendly faces out there,” said del Cid.
The easiest way to describe the band’s attitude is infectious. They breezed through songs off their newest album Rerun City, including “Let’s Begin” and “Where There’s No You,” with an ease and unadulterated joy that made the audience immediately fall in love with them. You could tell by the way the bandmates looked at one another, or even in the way that they cheered each other on during their respective solos (notably, some of guitarist Toni Lindgren’s impressive riffs) that they truly care about one another and enjoy what they are producing.
Del Cid wasn’t afraid to get a little vulnerable, either. “One of my favorite memories of the [First Avenue] Mainroom was the celebration they had after Prince died,” she said. “It was one of the best but saddest days.” With that, they played their own rendition of Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” drenched in purple stage lights.
Lady Lark was next on the docket, but for some audience members who weren’t paying attention, it may have not been obvious. This is because Lady Lark herself did not start out onstage. Instead, she let her band and backup singers, all wearing sunglasses and black jackets with “Lady Lark” and a lipstick mark stamped on the back, jam out for a few moments before appearing in a stunning, glittery silver dress. Sporting her own pair of shades and hoop earrings that would have made Apollonia proud, Lady Lark brought dance into the Mainroom.
Almost immediately, she starting encouraging the audience to move their feet, which wasn’t difficult to do considering her catchy set of R&B tunes including “The Rhythm,” “Love (Is Just a Game),” and “Move Your Body.” Ripples spread throughout the crowd until everyone was indeed moving their body in some way shape or form. “C’mon First Ave, don’t be shy!” Lady Lark cried, never missing a beat. Her music brought a fun and funky mood to the party, with each song transitioning smoothly into the next. By the end of her set, it felt as though you had made a new friend. A new friend that you’d definitely want to take dancing.
With only a single spotlight cast on the stage, Ron Gallo stepped into it, announcing his presence by playing a few short notes on the trumpet. What followed next should not have come as a surprise for those familiar with Ron Gallo and his amusingly odd tendencies. He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and began to read it, starting with the line: “Hello everybody that is here tonight.” In a robotic monotone, the Philadelphia-based rocker went on to introduce himself and his band. This persona was short-lived, however, because once the note was finished, Ron Gallo and his band jumped into their set with reckless abandon. Their songs were explosive in the best way possible.
They ripped through tracks off their 2017 album Heavy Meta, including “Put the Kids to Bed” and “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me,” as well as some songs from their newest album Really Nice Guys, including the title track. Each of the rockers filled the Mainroom with a wall of sound, making the whole building feel like it had a beating heart. Throughout the audience, people were banging their heads to the thumping beat, getting lost in the music. The band were commanding, but Gallo’s loopy stage presence was also consistently engaging. Gallo left a buzzing in your ears that you couldn’t complain about, because he and his band delivered some earth-shattering rock and roll.
Oklahoma native JD McPherson was the last performer of the night, and he made absolutely certain that everyone got their money’s worth of entertainment. Since McPherson’s first release Signs & Signifiers in 2011 to 2015’s Let The Good Times Roll and 2017’s Undivided Heart & Soul, tracks such as “North Side Gal,” “Head Over Heels,” and “Crying’s Just a Thing That You Do” have all found their way into the ears of regular listeners of The Current.
McPherson has a wide appeal; it seems like everyone knows at least one of his rockabilly-flavored songs, no matter what type of music they listen to. As McPherson and his band jammed, everyone in the crowd was dancing to their heart’s content. Some were simply tapping their toes, while others were full-on swing dancing across the floor. As he sang, McPherson would raise his hands in the air, signaling the crowd to join him in clapping. Everyone obliged.
After his set, McPherson would come back on stage for a well-deserved encore. But before he did that, he played one of his newer songs: “Lucky Penny.” This song, in particular, really got the crowd cheering and singing. Maybe this reaction was due to the fact that The Current turned “lucky 13” this year, or maybe it was sheer elation from an audience excited to celebrate another year of great music. Either way, it was definitely a lucky night for everyone involved.
Reina del Cid