Voltage 2010 music highlights: Mayda, Red Pens, more

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Emily Utne
Voltage: Fashion Amplified filled up First Avenue once again Friday night, giving the local trendsetters a chance to check out five great Twin Cities bands in addition to the usual fashion show fare. I'm not going to pretend that I had the slightest clue which designers had the best clothing on display -- luckily we have our fashion blog, the Dressing Room, to handle such things -- but what I do know is bands. And there were a few definite standouts at Friday's show.

Mayda was by far the most well-received performer this year, and it was easy to see why the fashion crowd ate her up: Simply put, Mayda is a badass. Her funk-pop jams came to life on that giant black stage better than at any show I had seen by Mayda in the past, and she prowled around the stage with a confidence and attitude rarely seen in an up-and-coming act. At one point she even bounded off stage and onto the runway, commanding the room to wild cheers.

Photo by Ben Clark
Another musical highlight was Red Pens, which also proved to be one of the crowd's most distracted points of the night. Voltage requires attendees to multi-task (This band sounds great, but look! Models!) and the audience seemed less attentive during Red Pens' and openers Blue Sky Blackout's sets than at other points in the evening. Which was a shame, because while most on the Mainroom floor were ogling the models and barely managing a golf clap between songs, Red Pens were killing it. I've said this before, but the rock duo has a deceptively gigantic sound that is perfect for these larger stages, and they were spot-on during their Voltage set. Laura Bennett's powerhouse drumming was complemented especially well by a billowing, 15-foot black ruffling train that made her look like a rock 'n' roll bride.

Photo by Ben Clark
The quietest points of the evening, relatively, came with Britpop-loving rockers Blue Sky Blackout, who crammed six dudes on stage for their set of melodic pop that reminded me of fellow locals like Faux Jean, and Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps, whose shuffling folk gave the runway presentation a dreamlike quality, with the models floating down the catwalk to Smith's airy, warbling voice.

Photo by Ben Clark
If Mayda was the surprise hit of the night, Mark Mallman and Dan Gellar of Ruby Isle were the shoo-ins. The guys know how to throw a party and get people riled up, and I was glad to see most of the crowd stick around for the final set of the evening (in previous years, it seems like the crowd empties out by the end). The duo upped the ante by throwing in some Guns 'n Roses covers, which Mallman joked they were going to murder as he climbed a tiny stepladder and cranked up the next dancey jam.

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