There was a feeling of excitement that came over me as soon as I walked into First Avenue on Thursday night. I know I say that a lot but there was something about the mood at Thursday’s sold-out show that really just had a sense of electricity floating through the air. People were ready to party, ready to sing, and ready for whatever the night would bring.
Local heroes Atmosphere was the only act listed on the night but, as soon as I got settled into my normal spot in the legendary venue, I saw a tweet that mentioned there would be three special guests that would be getting the night started. This just added to the excitement and, as the lights went down, I found myself anxiously waiting to see who these special guests would be.
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name of the first special guest but his music spoke volumes. The DJ took the stage and gave the audience a great chance to warm up with his ambient and atmospheric yet powerful tracks. There was a sense of darkness that not only came from his music but also the lack of lights on stage. Moody and powerful, it clearly took the audience a little bit of time to warm up to the idea that this was the opening act and I noticed the majority of the excited crowd talking through his quick thirty-minute opening set. A DJ opening a show like this was definitely a bold move and although I fear his music was lost on the majority of the audience, it wasn’t lost on me.
The transition between the first DJ and the second special guest was next to seamless and there was a slight roar of applause as the audience realized that Sa-Roc was going to be the next person to take the stage. Joined by DJ/ producer Sol Messiah, Sa-Roc jumped into her quick set and gave it her all while fighting with some sound issues that seemed to plague her set. Although I knew her name prior to catching her on Thursday, I had never really taken the time to dig into her music. What a mistake. I instantly fell in love with her positive energy and messages about staying true to yourself and just being authentic in all facets of life. There were a few people in the audience who were singing along to her inspirational and heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics while everyone else seemed to be just standing there and taking it all in. This versatile songstress has a voice that spans all sorts of genres and moods. There were certain songs that had a very retro vibe to them and others with a more sultry jazz club feeling to them. I could have watched her for hours and not gotten bored with this amazing woman but all good things must come to an end and, sadly, that included her set. I just want to give a huge shout-out to Sa-Roc before moving on to the other two acts. As she was performing her last track, she noticed someone in the audience who was struggling so Sa-Roc stopped her song to make sure security could get this person the help that they needed. I’m sure that’s not the way that Sa-Roc wanted her set to end but it was the way it needed to end and it just truly solidified how amazing of a person this woman is.
I wasn’t surprised as DJ Abilities took the stage as the third and final special guest of the evening but also wasn’t disappointed. Unlike the first DJ, DJ Abilities spent his set doing mash-ups of familiar tracks spanning all sorts of genres and that really got the audience moving. I won’t go into the history of DJ Abilities because it’s vast and, well, you should just know who he is, but he was one half of Eyedea & Abilities. Unfortunately, Eyedea tragically passed away in 2010 but that hasn’t stopped Abilities from both honoring the legend that was Eyedea and continuing on with his amazing music. I loved the way that DJ Abilities threw in some tracks from Eyedea & Abilities throughout his set and loved the way the crowd reacted to it. Beyond those nods to his past, Abilities also had everything from Jay-Z to Black Sabbath wrapped up in his set. It was fun and absolutely prepped the stage for the headliner of the night.
I remember when I moved to the Twin Cities for college. I was a brat and swore off all rap and hip-hop music. I mean, I was a metal kid with a hidden love for pop-punk music. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was just a stupid notion. I’ve said it before and I will say it again– the Twin Cities have an amazing hip-hop and rap scene and Atmosphere is one of the major players in the scene. Featuring rapper Sean Daley (aka Slug) and DJ/ Producer Anthony Davis (aka Ant), Atmosphere has been around for decades and has a dozen albums to back that up. Beyond their extensive discography is their exhausting touring schedule that they have kept up with over the years. Even with all of the success and touring that Atmosphere does, they have never forgotten where home is for them and that was put in the spotlight on Thursday night.
Although I wish I could see a concert where Atmosphere literally played through every song on every album they have ever put out, they did a great job curating a setlist on Thursday night that hit a little bit of everything. From the intensity of “Fuck You Lucy” to the optimism that comes with “Sunshine”, I felt like Atmosphere really acknowledged that they were on their home turf by playing many old-school tracks. I started taking notes of tracks that stood out to me while I stood there singing my heart out along to his relatable lyrical content but, by the eighth track, I realized I had written down every song title thus far and gave up. What I’m trying to say is that each of the twenty-three songs that they performed hit in a special way and brought such a sense of energy and power to the entire audience that it would be impossible to wrap all of those feelings up in words for you.
There was dancing, there was singing, there was drinking (oh lord was there drinking– I feel like I haven’t seen a crowd that drunk in quite a while), there was smiling, and there was the sense that everything is going to be okay. Dramatic? Yeah, just a bit, but it’s true. There was just something so satisfying and comforting about seeing Atmosphere at First Avenue for the first time in years and I plan on staying lost in that feeling for as long as I possibly can.
Venue: First Avenue
Average Age of the Crowd: 35
Crowd Surfers- None
Mosh-ability- 5 out of 10
Sausage-Fest Meter- 7 out of 10
Stage Divers- None
Amount of Beer Spilled On Me While Walking Around- $36
Broken Bones- None Noticed
Spotted Flying Through The Air- Nothing
Fights- None Witnessed
Idiots Taken Out By Security- 3
How Many Times I’ve Seen These Bands Before (or at least how many times I can remember)-
Sa-Roc – 0
DJ Abilities – 4
Atmosphere – 8
Celebrity Sightings- None
Overall Score- 9.5 out of 10
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