It was unseasonably cold on Saturday night but it was kind of nice. Call me crazy but I love fall and winter up here in the Twin Cities and getting a look into what was to come as I stood outside at the beautiful Surly Festival Field on Saturday had me getting all ready for the impending switch into spooky season and then the inevitable snow that comes after it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I know it’s still August and we still have at least a few more weeks of summer but it was just nice to feel a cool breeze as I stood there and watched a truly beautiful show unfold in front of me.
Meshell Ndegeocello took the stage first and instantly won me and the rest of the crowd over. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the people around me who were asking nearby strangers who this beautiful soul on stage was only to get a response of a held-up phone just because of the last name but it meant that everyone was in love with this woman and for good reason. From funk to rock to rap to spoken word and everything in-between, the versatility of this woman and her band was absolutely breathtaking. This was my first introduction to Meshell but with twelve full-length albums spanning back to 1993, she is anything but new to the scene. I’ll admit, her calm and almost meditative sound is not my typical thing but something about how it mixed with the overall feeling floating through the quickly growing audience and how it swirled with the cool breeze just led to an absolutely stunning set and one that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Following Meshell’s dazzling set was a personal favorite of mine, Iron & Wine. Like Meshell, Iron & Wine’s sound isn’t my typical one but I think I fell into his music at just the right time where it made a lasting impression on me and has had me coming back for more from him for years. Sam Beam is Iron & Wine. Sometimes he tours with a band but on Saturday night he came in the form of a solo act and it made my heart absolutely swoon. Although he still did not play the one song I wanted to hear (I saw him back before the giant shut down of 2020 and he didn’t play it there either), each of the nine songs that he performed came with a sense of heart and fury that only Sam can pull off. One of the main things that keeps me coming back to Iron & Wine even though it’s much calmer than what I tend to go for is the storytelling. It comes through loud and clear in his songs when you’re just sitting at home listening to one of his amazing albums but, hearing and seeing him perform those stories live changes everything. His subtle faces that he makes and the banter with the crowd that had him straight-up laughing at points on Saturday night is part of the charm behind Iron & Wine and something that makes all of his shows feel just a wee bit different than the last.
I’m not going to try and hide the fact that I knew nothing about headlining act Andrew Bird as he took the stage. I know, I know, I’ve been living under a rock but I felt a bit redeemed as I stood there stunned throughout Andrew’s sixteen-song set. I’ll pretend like I’m not the only one who isn’t familiar with Andrew and give you a quick rundown. This guy is a straight-up genius. Since 1996, he has released sixteen albums and a smattering of live albums, EPs, and everything in between. His style has gone everywhere from folk to swing to indie and his amazing violin playing and jaw-dropping whistling skills are at the forefront of it all. Beyond that, his voice is silky smooth and his lyrics are just absolutely gorgeous. Andrew Bird is seriously a genius and that is not a word I use lightly but after seeing it all on stage on Saturday night, there’s no other word to use here. I wasn’t singing along like the rest of the huge crowd around me but I felt a connection to every song he performed. I was prepared to write about how my ears perked up when Sam (aka Iron & Wine) took the stage with Andrew but the truth is my ears were at attention throughout the set just waiting to hear what would happen next.
I was enamored by Andrew’s violin skills. Although not an instrument I would typically fall for, the sounds he had coming out of the small stringed instrument had me wondering how in the heck he was doing it all From plucking to strumming and even using a bow in a traditional sense, he had the violin making sounds that I didn’t know it could. Add to that his amazing voice and the occasional whistling that I would have sworn was recorded (but it wasn’t) and I was left with a set that had me feeling exhausted from just trying to catch it all. Of course, I loved the songs that Andrew did with Sam by his side but that wasn’t the highlight for me. The highlight was just having my eyes opened to Andrew’s genius and having a whole new rabbit hole that I plan on going down today.
Summer is fleeting for us Minnesotans and although Saturday night was a harsh reminder of that, the music kept things feeling warm and fuzzy for everyone in attendance and was truly an amazing way to spend a chilly late-summer night.
Venue: Surly Festival Field
Smell-O-Meter: Nothing Notable
Average Age of the Crowd: 40
Crowd Surfers- None
Mosh-ability- 1 out of 10
Sausage-Fest Meter- 5 out of 10
Amount of Beer Spilled On Me While Walking Around- $0
Broken Bones- None
Spotted Flying Through The Air- Nothing
Randomly Shirtless Men – 0
Passed Out Kids- None
Idiots Taken Out By Security – 0
How Many Times I’ve Seen These Bands Before (or at least how many times I can remember)-
Meshell Ndegeocello – 0
Iron & Wine – 10
Andrew Bird – 0
Celebrity Sightings – None
Overall Score- 8 out of 10
Show on Deck- Def Leppard / Motley Crue / Poison / Joan Jett
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