Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Jeremy messersmith brings optimistic playfulness to First Avenue

Jeremy messersmith. Photos by Maddy Fox for MPR.

Weather-wise, March is going out like a lion, but jeremy messersmith’s Friday night performance at First Avenue showed that when it comes to music, the lion and the lamb can be one and the same.

Monica LaPlante kicked things off in her signature cool-girl style. LaPlante and her band spew a palpable energy that radiates into the audience every time they perform, and they sent the main room buzzing with a crunchy rock sound that boomeranged from one wall to the next. LaPlante carried herself confidently in an all-black ensemble while gripping her light pink guitar, a true lioness.

Highlights from their set included some of their more well-known songs like “Can’t Stop” and the headbanger “Hope You’re Alone,” but they kept their high-octane energy level consistent the entire time they were onstage. LaPlante succeeded in waking up the crowd on a cold Minnesota night, and the Mainroom felt strangely quiet after she left the stage.

Jeremy messersmith appeared shortly after ten o’clock in a snappy suit jacket and bow tie. His band sported similar looks, and everyone, including messersmith’s many loyal fans in the audience, had a huge smile. A real sense of love and happiness suffused the Mainroom as he jumped into his first song, “Happy,” straight off of his new album Late Stage Capitalism. (The album name acted as a stage decoration, adorning the back wall spelled out in gold balloons).

Messersmith’s set included songs such as “It’s Only Dancing” (during which he donned a plaid blazer) from Heart Murmurs, “Welcome to Suburbia” from The Silver City, and “Day Job” from The Alcatraz Kid. In addition to some of his classics, he gave a little extra love to the songs on his newest release.

“I pride myself on being one the worst musicians on stage,” he joked when performing “Fast Times in Minnesota.” He talked some of his bandmates into playing instruments on that song that they don’t usually play, making it experimental but easy to love.

Midway into his performance, messersmith revealed that he’d had a pretty rough week. His beloved cat died (he dedicated his last song of the night, “Everybody Gets a Kitten,” to this departed pet), and his partner was at home bedridden with a broken ankle. Usually she attends his concerts, but since she couldn’t on Friday, he brought it to her. During his performance of “Everything is Magical,” he FaceTimed her, parading his phone around the stage and including the audience in a few shots. It was a sweet, intimate moment that messersmith later admitted was a little “cheesy” —  but he made it work.

The Laurels String Quartet, who have collaborated with messersmith, joined him onstage for a stretch of songs. Hearing all of them perform live together with messersmith gave the audience time to settle back in the midst of a mostly playful, toe-tapping set. Another deviation from the norm included a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “High By the Beach,” which messsersmith admitted he had always wanted to perform.

At the end of the night, messersmith explained to the audience how he looked at his last two album releases as bookends. “Maybe some of the questions raised in Late Stage Capitalism are answered simply in 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for the Ukulele,” messersmith proposed, leaving the audience with some food for thought as they headed out into a Minneapolis cityscape coated with fluffy flakes of snow.

Monica LaPlante

Jeremy messersmith