Like so many other nights, I walked into the First Avenue main room without knowing quite what I was walking into. All I knew is that the headliner was married to Kacey Musgraves at one point which, although intriguing, kind of led me to believe that his style may not be quite my normal thing. Even with that in mind, I walked into First Avenue bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready for whatever the night would bring.
Kicking the night off was Austin, TN-based Briscoe and, as soon as they started playing, I felt drawn to everything about this band. There was just something so fresh and free about their sound and their performance. I was instantly intrigued by the saxophone in this band. I know, a saxophone is nothing new but, when it comes to a more southern-indie-rock band, it’s something that you don’t see often. Instead of using the horn as a gimmick, Briscoe had the saxophone featured in an absolutely perfect way throughout the set and it truly enhanced their sound while giving me an edge over other bands in the scene.
Beyond the comforting and uplifting sounds of this band was their overall stage presence. Much like what I would get from the headliner of the Sunday night show, there was something so approachable and sincere about Briscoe’s performance. All of the band members on stage were clearly up there doing what they love and obviously just wanted the people in the audience to enjoy their evening whether or not they knew what they were getting into with this opening act. Briscoe’s flawless cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a really perfect way for this band to imprint their name and style on those in the audience who had never heard of them before. After the flawless performance on Sunday, I think it’s safe to assume that Briscoe will be a name etched into the memory of everyone who was in attendance on Sunday.
I was already more than content with my show choice for Sunday night by the time Briscoe wrapped up their quick thirty-minute opening set on Sunday night. I felt like, although I had no clue what I was going to get from the show, I was beyond enamored by their sound. That vibe continued through the night was Ruston Kelly took over the stage and played through his twenty-song set. As mentioned, really all I knew about Ruston Kelly when walking into the show on Sunday night was the fact that he was once married to Kacey Musgraves. That has nothing to do with Ruston’s music or reputation but it was something of note and seemed to be a bit buzzy when looking him up online. Being that I have no strong opinions on Kacey Musgraves one way or another, I was excited to see what Ruston Kelly was all about.
Much like when Briscoe took the stage, I was instantly hooked by Ruston Kelly. Again, there was something perfectly accessible about Ruston and his entire band. I’ll be the first to admit that his southern-soul singer-songwriter style is a far cry from my normal nostalgia-seeking pop-punk vibe but the amount of heart that came with each song was more than enough to have me sold on this man. I found his lyrics relatable and extremely honest which is something that has always drawn me to the pop-punk scene. Although his style may have been leaning a bit more southern twang than I typically go for, I found myself falling for every word he was singing and saying between songs.
One of my favorite moments of the performance was when Ruston first addressed the crowd. It was just a couple of songs in and he started thanking the audience with all of his heart. He explained that he didn’t care why you were at the show or if you wanted to dance or just stand there as he performed, he was just beyond happy that the audience members had made the commitment to come out and see him perform on Sunday. I know that bands say this kind of thing all of the time and a speech like this is nothing new but there was just something so honest and real about the way that Ruston delivered it that it was hard to not feel truly appreciated.
Another favorite moment of the set was Ruston Kelly’s rendition of “Teenage Dirtbag” from Wheatus. After the first line of the track, Ruston said, “Yeah, we’re doing this!” with a chuckle. “Teenage Dirtbag” has always been an anthem for me and a whole generation but it has become a bit overdone these days. Somehow, Ruston’s acknowledgment of this, again, just showed a very personal and real side of this huge talent which is the reason why I found myself completely enamored throughout his set.
There was a little bit of everything during Ruston’s set. There were powerful and anthemic rock songs and then more sweet and tender love songs. Regardless of the style that Ruston and his band were playing, there was an undeniable sense of passion and heart which is the reason that I can say this with certainty– When Ruston Kelly comes back, I will be there. The feeling that I got in my heart and soul from his performance on Sunday night is something that I always look for and he gave it to me so effortlessly and flawlessly.
Venue: First Avenue
Smell-O-Meter: Nothing Notable
Average Age of the Crowd: 42
Crowd Surfers- None
Stage Divers- None
Mosh-ability- 0 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
Fights- None Witnessed
Passed Out Kids- 0
Idiots Taken Out By Security – 1
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)-
Briscoe – 0
Ruston Kelly – 0
Celebrity Sightings – None
Overall Score – 8 out of 10
Show on Deck — Finch!
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