Karmin at Varsity Theater, 2/11/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

They came from YouTube and gained recognition with a Chris Brown cover. At that phase, we looked on Karmin as something fun, cute, and capable of harmlessly killing three minutes. It was contained to its new media celebrity, and we could all walk away knowing it stayed there as a sideshow parable.

Early 2012 changed that, though, when Karmin released "Brokenhearted," an original Top 40 smash of their own making. With it, the bubble burst, and this niche internet meme went headhunting for anyone within reach of a car radio. How successful have they become? Let's measure that one in 20 years. All I know is that I watched a Gawker headline perform live last night, and I'm left dealing with it.

See Also: Slideshow: Karmin at Varsity Theater, 2/11/14

Karmin are on the road to hype their coming album, Pulses. They made sure to plug it several times at the Varsity Theater with shouts to iTunes, water bottle commercials, hand gestures I swear they've trademarked, and all else. Towing along with them was Bryce Vine, a young MC/rapper/hype man who knows a little something about parties and probably Florida, a place I feel he's visited often.

Photo by Tony Nelson

He seemed to fit that nerdy hip-hop type guys like Childish Gambino propagate, and his performance of "Thug Song," a track poking fun at typical Waka Flocka Flames, provided further evidence. He served the usual opener role, instructing his audience when to wave their hands, but his numbers wore themselves thin with the repeated "la la la's" and "oh oh oh's." Common content can be overlooked, but Vine just never brought it in the performance. He sank to those depths difficult to avoid for any live rap show. It was all summed up in an overheard conversation as a random bystander shared words with the sound engineer:

"How are you working the backing track? I notice it's there."

"We give him the verses, but on the chorus we bump it up. Helps things out."

The backing track would be our best friend this evening. And not just with Vine.
Though to give Vine some credit, he instigated one moment of glee. He handed the spotlight to his DJ and asked the audience if they wanted to see him play the trumpet. They did, and he yanked it out. His notes weren't the greatest, but watching him sputter on the brass, forcing out what he could, made me smile.

The set ended with a group selfie. Vine leaned back, hoisting his camera phone before him and the audience. The flash lit. "Gotta put this on Instagram," he said. I wonder if I'm in that shot somewhere, looking like I would rather not be in the shot.

Photo by Tony Nelson

Karmin went on soon after. I'll admit, I enjoyed their little YouTube covers. They weren't anything fantastic, but they had a charm about them -- white kids from the suburbs somehow reaching out to Top 40 radio -- and I found something American in it. Like their videos were the realization of the YouTube Dream.

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