Not that the Current (89.3 FM) doesn't deserve to be commended all on its own, but I thought last night's elbow-to-elbow fifth anniversary party at First Ave really came off as something grander -- namely, a celebration of the local music scene on the whole. It was what I imagine the Minnesota Music Awards were like back when they were relevant. Organizers did a great job lining up a good cross-section of innovative local acts, all of whom had a terrific 2009 (thanks in part to Current support), starting with newbies the Twilight Hours and Lookbook, ending with buzz kings Solid Gold, and peaking with Mason Jennings and P.O.S. and their passionate, road-tested acts in between.
Prince gracing us with his presence wasn't the only bit of support from our scene's previous generations (see the previous blog post). Bob Mould and Dan Wilson filmed videos praising the Current's five-year mark, which were shown between sets. Both of the Twin Town mayors hammed it up on stage to deliver a "Current Week" proclamation (R.T. Rybak pretty much gave the same speech he gave before the Hold Steady at the Basilica this summer). Suicide Commando and McNally Smith College of Music guru Chris Osgood, who was the station's first in-studio guest on its opening day, also returned to host the toast to the station, saying that back in the scene's '80s heyday, "We couldn't have imagined a day when we would have something like the Current."
To put it short and sweet, Friday's music sets confirmed we're in another heyday. Here are a few of the highlights...
Best original song: Mason Jennings' war epic "The Field," played with intense conviction and as powerful as it gets from one (soft-voiced) man and an acoustic guitar. A smattering of cheers and raised drink glasses followed the lines, "If I was the President, if I was that man / I would walk out with those kids, out across the sand / If I was the President, if I was that brave / I would take a shovel then dig each child their grave."
Best cover song: A steadily chugging version of the Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored," which opened Solid Gold's set. I always said they have a great Manchester thing going on. Jennings' opening version of Springsteen's "Atlantic City" was pretty terrific, too, although I thought it rather telling that more people sang along to the next tune, Mason's own "Crown."
Best crowd chant: "Every never is now," led by P.O.S. during his latest album's title track, "Never Better." An in-the-moment moment on several levels.
Best pre-show warmup: P.O.S. said he went snowboarding at Buck Hill.
Best sign the Current really does make a difference: Maybe the best bit of audience participation I saw was when Lookbook got to its very Prince-like synth-candy-coated ditty "The Only Ones," and a good chunk of the crowd sang along. I'm guessing 85 percent of the fans hadn't seen Lookbook before nor owns its album (but the song has been in heavy rotation at the Current).
Here are some of the full set lists:
SOLID GOLD: I Wanna Be Adored / Get Over It / Armoured Cars / Calm Down / One in a Million / Bible Thumper / Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins cover also featured on their new EP) / new song / Neon Rose / Minnesoter (Dandy Warhols)
P.O.S.: Stand Up (Let's Get Murdered) / Low Light Low Life / Goodbye / Terrorish / Optimist (We Are Not for Them) / Drumroll (We're All Thirsty) / Never Better / Purexed
MASON JENNINGS: Atlantic City / Crown / A Kiss to Build a Dream On (Louie Armstrong) / The Field / Pittsburgh / Be Here Now / Sunlight
(Photos by Leslie Plesser for Vita.mn; click here to see more)