Sunshine, lake breeze, cold drinks, gorgeous tunes, smiles– seriously, just an all-around perfect night.

Saturday’s show was at Charlie’s on Prior as part of their ‘Rock the Docks’ series. This super cute restaurant sits right on Prior Lake. When I say right on the lake, I mean it. One of the big things that really drew me to this show (other than the stellar performers), was the fact that the show was advertised as the bands playing on the “band barge”. Yeah, this was something I just had to see to believe and, although I didn’t quite believe this would be an actual stage on the water, as I walked around to the back of this beautiful restaurant, I realized it was 100% true and I was so excited to see what it was all about.

The audience trickled in as I just sat there letting the lake breeze whip at my face all with a smile on my face. Although things have been open for a couple of weeks here, I feel like there’s still this undeniable sense of excitement as people come out of quarantine hiding and that put a sense of electricity in the air that I found absolutely addicting and infectious. Look at me, clearly just still hung up on the fact that shows are back to being a thing. Let’s get into the music portion of the night, shall we?

Jake Nelson kicked off the night right at 5:30. Although his sound is way more country than I tend to go for, there was something so perfect about his opening set. With a twang in his voice and passion dripping from every word, Jake serenaded the audience with all of his heart. Joined by a backing band, these guys knew just how to capture the hearts of the nearly sold-out audience. A song dedicated to the military definitely seemed to get the loudest applause out of all of the tracks but there was always an airhorn to follow up every song. Their set was primarily original songs but they were able to slip in a couple of covers in there including “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp and a flawless cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”. As I mentioned, country music isn’t my typical thing but Jake and his band sliding in these more familiar tunes really made me feel more at home (well that and all of the Minnesota references he has in his music). Jake Nelson seemed to focus on a lot of song from his 2020 album ‘Worth It’ but also played some older tracks that had some of the audience singing along to every word. The night was off to a powerful start with Jake and his band but I was anxious to see the headliner of the night, Davina and the Vagabonds.

Where do I even start with Davina and the Vagabonds? When I first moved to the Twin Cities for college, this band came to my school and played for one of my classes (I went to a super cool music school and actually had a class that brought in performers every week and it was brilliant). I fell in love that day at the McNally Smith College of Music (RIP) auditorium. There was just something about them that really stuck with me. Now, years later (not putting a number then because it makes me really feel my age) I still search this band out and will never miss them if I can catch them live. This band has a super cool jazz-influenced old-school sound with a modern twist and a whole lot of attitude. I felt the butterflies as I saw the gorgeous Davina and her band set up on the barge. I tried hard not to concentrate because honestly the slight movement with the waves on the lake was making me seasick from the shore, but I was just so ready to see these guys for the umpteenth time.

Davina and the Vagabond’s set started with a soundcheck that absolutely set the tone for the rest of the night. Horns blaring, keys on fire, strong vocals- I was ready but was the rest of the audience ready? As the set started, conversations fell to the wayside. The bar I had been sitting at became hushed and, in one swift movement, everyone turned to face the barge. Loud, robust, and oh so fun, it didn’t take long to start seeing heads nodding and toes tapping. Although there wasn’t much room for anyone to get up and dance, there was a feeling in the air that made it feel like we were all dancing. It was just one of those perfect moments that I truly wish I could capture in a jar and save for a rainy and gloomy day. Although Davina and the Vagabonds never let me down, their setlist last night was the best I’ve ever seen them play. They played all of my favorites with some brilliant covers thrown in there and some unfamiliar originals. The icing on the cake for me was when they played “Black Cloud” from their 2011 album ‘Black Cloud’. There’s just something about that song that gets me every time because of the power that comes with it and seeing that power live is something I wish I could do on a daily basis. 

There was plenty of personality that came from the barge alongside the music. Davina was wearing a black and white striped shirt with a little sailor hat and went on to explain that she was trying to look the part since they were playing on a boat but she may have a gig as a mime or a referee after the show (it just depended on who called her first). Little moments like that were scattered throughout the night. It was clear to see that everyone on that barge took the music super seriously and have truly perfected their craft instrumentally but it was nice to see a more laidback side of the band as they joked amongst each other and with the audience.

Whether you were docked in a boat behind the stage or sitting on the beautiful patio of Charlie’s on Prior, you had a great view of everything going on and I’d be willing to bet that you went home with a giant smile on your face and an infectious beat in your heart. 

Line Up:

Jake Nelson

Davina and the Vagabonds

Venue: Charlie’s on Prior

Sausage Fest Meter- 5 out of 10

Smell-O-Meter – Sunshine

Average Age of the Crowd- 38

Crowd Surfers- None

Dance-ability- 9 out of 10

Stage Divers-  None

Broken Bones- None

Spotted Flying Through The Air- Nothing

Fights- None Witnessed

Pukers- None Witnessed

Passed Out People- None Witnessed

Idiots Taken Out By Security- None Witnessed

How Many Times I’ve Seen These Bands Before (or at least how many times I can remember)-

Jake Nelson- 0

Davina and the Vagabonds- 3

Celebrity Sightings- None

Overall Score- 9.6 out of 10

Show on Deck- TBA

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