Rogue Wave, Midlake, and Peter Wolf Crier at First Avenue, 9/20/10

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Rogue Wave/Midlake/Peter Wolf Crier
September 20, 2010
First Avenue, Minneapolis


Three varied but passionate bands played to a small but devoted crowd at First Avenue on Monday night, and each group took their time finding their footing before delivering stirring sets that clearly resonated with their ardent fans.

Minneapolis's own Peter Wolf Crier, Denton, Texas's Midlake, and Oakland's Rogue Wave each brought their own particular variety and style of modern American music to the Mainroom, and rather than clashing, their contrasting sounds (and the obvious respect each band has for their tourmates) seemed to inspire both the bands and the audience, all adding up to enjoyable performances from all three groups.

Local two-piece Peter Wolf Crier kicked the night off strongly, with vocalist Peter Pisano stating early on in their 30-minute set that "I love Minneapolis because I feel like I know all of you on a first name basis." They opened with a somewhat tentative version of "Crutch & Crane," as the duo seemed to be settling back into a room they are surely growing quite accustomed to by now. But it wasn't until a slow, simmering version of "Down Down Down," before their set truly ignited. It proved to be my favorite song of the night.

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Before a moving version of "Untitled 101," Pisano gave a shout-out to Stacy Schwartz, who took the picture that adorns the cover of Inter-Be, and was celebrating her birthday that evening while photographing their show. "You're So High" and "Lion" soared, as Pisano and drummer Brian Moen were both locked in at this point, expanding on the texture and moods of their music, while adding a welcome level of intensity to their subtle songs. Moen joked that "if anyone was late to the show because you were watching Chuck, you might have heard this song," before the band delivered a lovely version of "In Response."

I was hoping to hear them cover Nick Drake during this show (which I've yet to see performed at any of their shows I've attended), and when Pisano took out his electric guitar and strummed the first few chords of "Place To Be," I was thrilled, and the stirring song proved to be a perfect way to end their rousing but all-too-brief set.

Midlake suffered more of a lasting lull at the start of their hour-long set, with their performance failing to find a spark until five songs in, with a rousing, impassioned version of "Core Of Nature" catching fire during the extended guitar solo that finished the song. It just seemed that the seven-piece group should be making more of a pronounced racket with all of the people on stage, especially after seeing PWC generate so much sound with just a two-piece.  But their set was far more subdued and muted in comparison, and their delicately subtle songs had a hard time resonating with the slowly swelling crowd.

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
The group built on the momentum of "Nature" by delivering a gentle version of "Van Occupanther," that segued nicely into "Roscoe," which the band claimed was "the biggest hit we'll ever have." "Acts Of Man" seemed a bit tame by comparison, but the band ended their set with a rousing version of "Head Home" that finished their uneven performance strongly.

Headliners Rogue Wave also took a while to really hit their stride, with the brief intro of "All That Remains" flowing a bit awkwardly into "Stars And Stripes," which got the set off to a bit of a choppy start. Frontman Zach Rogue stated emphatically that: "We love Minneapolis, and can't believe we're playing First Ave. We played here on our first tour ever, opening for the Shins, and we've spent the rest of our career clawing our way back to playing this venue." Those warm sentiments, and the blissful pop songs the band were generating, ultimately proved irresistible, as the five-piece (featuring brothers Ken (keys) & Mark (bass-wearing a sweet Liftr Pullr tee) from Minneapolis) gradually settled in and easily won over their adoring audience. "Publish My Love" and "Chicago X 12" both were invigorating, and with the arrival of "We Will Make A Song Destroy" the set was truly in full bloom, with the crowd dancing and clapping along in complete abandon.

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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Zach asked if the crowd wanted to hear some old songs towards the end of the performance, and satisfied all of the screaming crowd by playing a trio of older numbers that finished the main set on a high. "Bird On A Wire" was stellar, and featured a group drum jam that actually was a lot cooler than it sounds. "Lake Michigan" was quite moving, and flowed nicely into a rousing version of "Harmonium," which really set the place off.

After a brief break, the band returned for a strong three-song encore, kicked off by an impassioned version of "California," which the band extended into a prolonged coda that only added weight to the already emotional number. Zach dug back to his first LP on a lively version of "Kicking The Heart Out," which featured a lengthy, jazzy intro that was a welcome addition to a song he's been playing for years. The 80-minute set ended with a lively rendition of "Permalight" that sent everyone home happy. And who wouldn't be satisfied after seeing three disparate but talented bands perform, even with a few brief lulls along the way.

Critic's Bias: The band I was least familiar with, Rogue Wave, ended up delivering the best set of the night, although I'll always have a special fondness for Peter Wolf Crier.
The Crowd: Small but committed, skewing a bit younger than most audiences.
Overheard In The Crowd: While Midlake was playing "Acts Of Man," "I don't think I could listen to this if I were driving a long distance."
Random Notebook Dump: It was a late show for a Monday night, with Rogue Wave wrapping up right at midnight.
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.
Rogue Wave set list:
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