Rock n' runway stroll at Voltage: Fashion Amplified

Categories: Concert Review

Voltage: Fashion Amplified
First Avenue, April 16
Review by Andrea Myers
Photos by Daniel Corrigan

Minneapolis is no epicenter for cosmopolitanism—for the most part, we leave the posh fashion decisions up to the coasts and stick to our own style of sly, nonchalant hipness. Especially in the rock and roll world, where skinny jeans and slightly fitted t-shirts are almost unanimously preferred to anything more risque, there are few times when a Twin Cities showgoer can look around a club and think Damn, these locals sure are swanky.

Which isn't to say that the city is totally lacking in stylish people; the local fashion scene seems to grow exponentially each year to include more and more homespun boutiques and design collectives. And once a year, at a sold-out show at First Avenue, the trend setters invite the rock scene to come out and play at one of the biggest local events of the year, Voltage: Fashion Amplified, bridging the gap between the fashion-forward and the fashionably ironic.

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Someone call PETA, I think they killed an aviary. More photos by Daniel Corrigan.

It always surprises me how many people manage to show up for Voltage before the start time. Seriously, when was the last time you caught an opener at a rock show at a venue that was more than half full? By the time the first band, Zibra Zibra, launched into their set, the Main Room at First Avenue was packed to the gills with every scenester, hipster, indie rock kid and fashionista in the city.

I've always found Zibra Zibra to be delightfully terrible, and their set at Voltage only furthered my opinion that they walk a thin line between amusingly tongue-and-cheek and just flat-out bad. The music and lyrics jump around frenetically and are pieced together with the agonizing and often out of tune vocals of lead singer Z, who seems more intent on showing the crowd how wacky and zany he can be than holding down any kind of real melody. As the models started filing down the runway, it was obvious that many of them had trouble finding a good stride against Zibra Zibra's off-kilter sound, making for an awkward start to the evening.

It's interesting watching amateur models walk the runway, especially since none of the participants at Voltage could agree on what kind of face to make. There were the proudly grinning models; the cool, sultry models; the militant marching models; and my personal favorite, the deadpan models with vacant stares whose bored expressions contrasted sharply with the pulsating energy of the room around them.

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She's a model. Yeah, you know what I mean. More photos.

The smell of spearmint gum and gin and tonics filled the air as the Haves Have It played, accompanying a slew of drapey dresses that ballooned around the models' tiny size 2 frames. I remember once hearing someone describe the Haves Have It as a female-fronted version of the Pixies, and that description was partly right; much like the indie rock legends, the Haves enjoy falling in and out of time and toying with the listener's sense of reality, and lead singer Portia Richardson has perfected her rock yelp.

The Haves set led nicely into the other female-fronted group of the evening, bohemian gypsy-trance band Bella Koshka. The moody, subtle nature of their music was the perfect backdrop for watching the especially vacant-looking models glide down the runway, and the second half of the set showcased one of my favorite collections of the evening: George Moskal's line of delicate, Victorian-inspired creations.

White Light Riot got off to a shaky start as lead singer Mike Schwandt slipped on a guitar cord and fell flat on his back not five seconds into their first song. Always a showman, Schwandt continued playing while he wriggled around the floor on his back, jumping back to his feet and hardly missing a beat. WLR were dressed regally in tailored military jackets and billowing scarves, giving their aesthetic a Sgt. Pepper's vibe.

As the night wore on the crowd started to thin out, making it easier to approach the edge of the runway and move about the room. MC/VL dominated the runway for their first song, running up and down the length of the catwalk as they rapped to samples of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." Dressed appropriately in member's-only jackets and gold cassette tape and microphone necklaces, both their style and sound spoke to their Beastie Boys and early rap influences.

As I expected, the Birthday Suits cleared the room with their screeching, breakneck punk, and it was amusing to note that the Suits were able to squeeze nine songs into their 25-minute time slot where other bands had only played four or five. By the end of the show only a row of diligent photographers and a small throng of straggling concertgoers were left to wander out into the night, drunk from the free-flowing cocktails and the idea that maybe we, too, will someday be chic. Or maybe not. We're no Manhattan, but the Twin Cities definitely has its own sense of style, and as I hobbled back to the car in my highly uncomfortable pink pumps I decided that I was ok with us not being posh—it's hard on the feet, anyway.



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