I kept telling myself that there was no way we were really going to get a blizzard on Friday night. It wasn’t super cold during the day and the rain was just that, rain, as I picked my friend up and headed towards downtown Saint Paul. As we made the drive downtown, that rain started turning to sleet. It was fine. Just a little sleet and it seemed to be melting on impact. I wasn’t worried and, more importantly, I wasn’t missing the celebration that was Nur-D’s release party for his new album ‘Crush’.
We were a little late just due to poor planning on my part but entered Amsterdam Bar & Hill in the middle of The Other Jeannie Rettelle’s performance. The Other Jeannie Rettelle is a local drag queen with an interesting take on drag and a huge personality that hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as we walked into the venue. She has been called “your mom with a mustache” and “the Norman Bates of Minneapolis drag”. Both of these statements are true but what was truer was the amount of heart that she brought to the stage. The audience was still growing as she was warming everyone up but the audience that was there was clearly eating it up. I loved watching people get inside and, instead of going straight to the bar as most do when first getting to a show, head straight to the stage. Her lip syncing abilities were on point and the quick-witted yet genuine banter she had with the audience was just the cherry on top. The Other Jeannie Rettelle continued to grace the stage between all of the acts and although she was just introducing everyone as they took the stage, she was able to instantly steal the spotlight and hearts of everyone in the audience.
Xina came on stage after The Other Jeannie Rettelle’s explosive opening performance and, sadly, just couldn’t measure up to the fun that had just been had. Before you come at me for bashing an amazing local artist, let me explain myself. Xina took the stage in an almost sluggish manner and instantly addressed the audience. She admitted that she had been fighting a nasty case of food poisoning all week and still was feeling super out of it. This was such a bummer for me as throughout her set, I was intrigued by her soulful sound and beautiful vocals but the energy just didn’t do it for me. Xina is truly a trooper for powering through the set even though she clearly felt like complete crap and I give this woman huge props for that. I obviously will not sit here and say anything bad about her performance but I will say that I hope to have another chance to check out this songstress when she is feeling better.
Following Xina was Essjay The Afrocentric Ratchet. Essjay absolutely picked the energy back up and had the entire audience dancing along to her tunes almost instantly. Essjay’s story is a complicated but beautiful one. I won’t get into her backstory as you can easily look it up for yourself but I feel like after reading up on her this morning, her set hit me even harder than it did when I was standing there on Friday night. There were moments in her set that were brash and brimming with attitude. There were other moments where I got a sense of pure bliss from her sultry smooth vocals and the delivery of her songs. Joined on stage by two dancers, I found myself constantly wanting to get closer to the stage so as to be able to feed off of every beat of dance and music but I was torn. It was right when Essjay took the stage that the sleet had finally turned to snow and, being the driver of the night, I was starting to go into panic mode.
Unfortunately, this is where my night took a turn because of that panic mode. I’m sure you’ve caught on by now but I can be a super anxious person and I was triggered as I saw the snow start to accumulate on the street. We stayed put for the time being but I have to apologize to Essjay. My mind was flying and I feel like although I was absolutely into her set, my notes about her songs fell to the wayside as I found my hands better preoccupied with picking at my cuticles and nails.
The snow wasn’t stopping and as headliner Nur-D took the stage, I started planning my exit strategy. That’s when it happened. Nur-D’s massive band took the stage and jumped into an instrumental cover of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”. After this quick intro, Nur-D took the stage and something magical happened. All of a sudden there wasn’t a blizzard outside, I didn’t owe the government a crap ton in taxes because apparently being self-employed is a stupid thing to do, and I was all caught up on work for the first time in years. As soon as Nur-D took the stage my life disappeared and I was only left with the friends around me, the music, and the positive energy that is Nur-D.
I’ve written about Nur-D before and this will surely not be the last time so I won’t bore you with the details of who Nur-D is but I will say that he is a bright spot in an otherwise dark world. I know this can be said about so many people and musicians in particular but something is different about Nur-D. For him, it’s genuine. He truly cares that you enjoy yourself at his shows and he writes music for the people. Again, cliche statement, but it’s true. From songs about social issues to Harry Potter to body image to Dungeons & Dragons… it’s really all over the place but, wherever Nur-D takes his music, it’s a positive place and it makes you smile, dance, and forget everything.
Friday night’s show was a celebration of his brand new album ‘Crush’. Although this album, as the title may indicate, is about love, it’s not just about loving another person. The songs from this album range from songs about loving that special someone to just straight-up loving yourself which is something that I think is beyond important in this day and age. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all of the problems in your life and in the world in general and I think every once in a while we just need to remember that this is all you have– be good to yourself– love yourself. In love, out of love, or just crushing on someone, this album and the songs Nur-D performed at the beginning of his set on Friday pulled at the heartstrings in all of the right ways while making you want to dance around like nobody was watching (which is what we all ended up doing).’
Unfortunately, about three songs in, the slush that had been accumulating on the streets were turning into straight-up snow and I had a call to make. I drive a tic-tac of a car. Go ahead and laugh but it’s true. It’s seriously about the size of a go-kart and although she (her name is Orange Peel) is a trooper and is surprisingly good in snowy and icy conditions, I know that she has her limits. Seeing the snow pile up on the street quicker than expected, I realized that I had to make the call and get everyone home safely before the streets were impassable for me purely because the snow was higher than the bottom of my car. I was reluctant but I knew it was the right decision so, sadly, we had to bail early.
My apologies to Nur-D and his entire band. The few songs I was able to stick around for were flawless and, any other night, I would have been stuck in the audience pleading for more at the very end of things. Regardless, congratulations to the entire Nur-D family for a stunning album and a larger-than-life performance on Friday night. Nur-D has always claimed to be everyone’s 7th favorite hip-hop artist but, I think with his album, we can at least consider him number six.
EssJay The Afrocentric Ratchet
Venue: Amsterdam Bar & Hall
Smell-O-Meter: At one point, there was a super strong sweet smell of the devil’s lettuce
Average Age of the Crowd: 30– but it was seriously all over the place
Crowd Surfers- 0
Dance-ability- 13 out of 10
Amount of Beer Spilled On Me While Walking Around- $0
Broken Bones- None spotted
Spotted Flying Through The Air- Nothing
Fights- None Witnessed
Passed Out Kids- 0
Idiots Taken Out By Security – None Spotted
How Irritated I Was With The Audience – 0 out of 10
How Many Times I’ve Seen These Bands Before (or at least how many times I can remember)-
The Other Jeannie Retelle – 0
Xina – 0
EssJay The Afrocentric Ratchet – 0
Nur-D – 7
Celebrity Sightings – Sean Anonymous
Overall Score- 11 out of 10
Show on Deck —King Tuff / Tchotchke
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