Lookbook leads a strong contingent of local bands into First Avenue

Lookbook at First Ave. w/ Zoo Animal, BIGHT CLUB, & Slapping Purses from MPLS.TV on Vimeo.

A diverse array of local bands descended upon First Avenue on Friday night, with Lookbook leading the way during their first headlining show in the Mainroom. It was a wide-ranging evening featuring performances by four disparate Minneapolis bands, and even though some sets were much more engaging and distinctive than others, it ultimately was a night to celebrate the music scene in the Twin Cities, one that quite clearly is flourishing and as vital as ever.

Photos by Bre Mcgee
Zoo Animal kicked the night off strongly, with the spirited three-piece filling up the venerable club with their saturnine sounds as the audience slowly filtered in. Holly Newsom's voice was strong and true throughout their brief set, adding extra resonance to their already passionate songs. Thom Burton steadily lead the numbers forward with his dexterous drumming, while forming a locked-in rhythm with bassist Tim Abramson that allowed Newsom the freedom to continually lose herself in the mood of the music and solo away with confidence and fire. The band simply keeps getting better and better every time I see them, and they seemed more than comfortable on the larger stage, especially during a feisty rendition of "Folded Hands" that was one of the highlights of the night. Their simmering songs have started to gradually find a larger audience in the Cities, but it's seriously time that more people start paying attention to a band that clearly deserves to be heard.

After such a positive and authentic start to the night, it was quite disorienting to hear the artificial beats and jocular rhymes of Bight Club. Seeing two of the band members dance and flail about wildly as they simply hit buttons on their computers or keyboards didn't resonate with me at all, nor did the simple, childish flow of Nutz. Their entire set just seemed like too much of a contrivance after the genuine performance Zoo Animal put on, and really brought an end to any sort of momentum the openers had generated.

Slapping Purses got the fuse lit again, as mastermind Jason Power set up his decks in the middle of the growing crowd, drawing energy from those dancing along with his frantic beats while providing a spark that the evening clearly needed after Bight Club's disappointing set. Power seemed to be producing sounds from whatever happened to be within arm's reach, delivering twisted vocal experiments over his already turbulent rhythms. It was an experimental, inventive set that was so loud that you were forced to react to the music in some way; and while some streamed outside to kill time before the headliners, far more joined in the mayhem around Power's setup and danced along to his maniacal music. The evening was finally back on track as the audience swelled for the headliners.

Lookbook clearly knew that this was their show and the night belonged to them. They not only waited until after midnight to finally take the stage, but they also brought along a smoke machine that worked hard throughout their set, adding quite a bit of mystique and atmosphere to their stirring performance. Grant Cutler and Maggie Morrison were clearly in good spirits as they bounded about the stage throughout their set, overjoyed to finally be headlining First Avenue. Opener "Over And Over" was simply enormous, as the bass shook both the crowd and the walls, while "Yesterday's Company" got everyone moving and dancing along to the infectious melody and Morrison's irresistible chorus. The duo has sharpened their songs on the road, and this homecoming performance quickly turned into a celebration of the band coming into their own.

And while it was great to hear older songs like "Wild At Heart," "Way Beyond," and "The Only Ones," all of which had an added dynamic pulse and intensity to them, this performance ultimately proved to be a showcase for a riveting and energetic trio of brand new songs which the band debuted during the middle of their set. The new tracks bristled with a buoyancy and liveliness that is reminiscent of the new Goldfrapp with more depth and soul. They soared effortlessly and immediately won the audience over. And the fact that the band was clearly as excited to play them for us as we were to hear them only added to their magnetic appeal.

As they came out for an encore Maggie exclaimed "I fucking love Minneapolis so much" (endearingly explaining that the emphatic curse word was required even though her dad was in the audience), it was clear by both the turnout and the warm reception that Minneapolis loves Lookbook right back. They closed their triumphant 50-minute set with a stellar version of "True To Form" that sent everyone dancing out into the night, assured that the Twin City music scene is indeed alive and well.

For more photos, see Bre McGee's full slideshow from Friday night.

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