“My new favorite town: Minneapolis.” So declared Julian Casablancas last night at First Avenue before his final song. The Strokes singer had good reason to love the surroundings, and not just because his old Twin Town-reared pal Har Mar Superstar showed up to the gig, nor was it the size of the audience for his first local solo outing (the club was only about half-full). The crowd that did show up was responsive and reverential, probably more so than was merited for a concert that barely clocked in at 60 minutes. Several times he praised us as the “best audience we’ve had yet.”
Despite the brevity -- not at all surprising, considering his one album only has eight songs -- it was indeed a performance worth cheering. Casablancas had a five-member band with him, with a few members trading off instruments, so that sometimes there were two drummers, and at one point four guitarists (“River of Brakelights”). The configuration was a bit messy in some songs, including “Ludlow Street” and “Left & Right in the Dark,” but so were the original tracks. However, the band brought more oomph to “River of Brakelights” and the weirdly included but thoroughly entertaining  “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.” Their daring handling of the Strokes' “Hard to Explain” paid off, too. Julian really sang his tail off in songs like the near-crooner-like “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” and the other, mellower Strokes nugget, “I’ll Try Anything Once.”
Here’s the whole set list:
new song  / Ludlow St. / River of Brakelights /  Hard To Explain / Glass / 11th Dimension / I’ll Try Anything Once / Left & Right in the Dark I Wish It Was Christmas Today    ENCORE: Out of the Blue / 4 Chords of the Apocalypse
Many fans streamed into the Entry after Casablancas to catch Surfer Blood. They had to wait nearly two hours, thanks to the main room’s early finish -- and then they nearly had to wait even longer, since Surfer Blood only just pulled into town following a 30-hour drive right at showtime. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge for the barely-of-drinking-age Florida quintet, one of its members was also reportedly suffering a 102-fever. “Everything is broken but our spirits,” bassist Brian Blake quipped.
The show was pretty good despite all that, although ‘twas another not-surprisingly short one (45 minutes). The band could probably do a noble job playing its one album in a hurricane at this point, and it especially soared with “Swim (to Reach the End)" and "Twin Peaks." Frontman JP Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz also did a noble job filling in for the rest of the worn-out band by encoring with a bare-bones medley that included Pavement’s “Summer Babe.” Pretty good for a bunch of babes.
Photos by Leslie Plesser for Vita.mn. Full Casablancas gallery here, and Surfer Blood here.