It is a warmer night here in Minnesota compared to what temperatures have been in the last few weeks. I soak in the ability to enjoy the walk from the parking lot to the Fitzgerald theater without the need to hunch over with hands clenched tightly in my pockets.
I’m on my way to catch a band I have been a fan of since I was a teenager yet have never seen perform live– The Weepies.
I’ve been to more shows than I can count, however, tonight is my first time at this particular venue. The entrance to Fitzgerald is boxed in with clear glass doors and windows lit up with a warm glow from the lighting. An exceptionally polite staff greets me as I make my way inside.
I’m a bit late. The opener, Gia Margaret, just finishes up her set and people pour out the auditorium doors with beverage refills in mind.
I get in line.
It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to notice I am most likely the youngest person in attendance. Many faces appear to be middle-aged. This is a show for love birds, and this happens to be one of the only shows I’ve gone to alone. Let’s make the best of it!
I see a policewoman standing on guard nearby. I make a slight lean toward her without losing my place in line and say “Good thing you’re here. Looks like this crowd could snap at any minute.” She lights up and jokes back and forth a bit.
Their beer choices are limited, but, lo and behold, they have Castle Danger Cream Ale on tap. My favorite. I’ve got my drink and away I go to find my assigned seat.
Walking into the auditorium, four elegant balconies protrude outward over the main level seating area on each side of the room, fitted with golden accent designs that make one feel they’ve stepped back in time. It is, in fact, the oldest theater in St Paul.
The stage set up is simple. Black, T-Bar lights stands stand naked with a set of string lights draped across the tops, mimicking romantic power lines. An outline of a large whale and two birds is projected onto the backdrop, signifying their album art from two of their records, Say I Am You and Hideaway.
I take a seat and immediately introduce myself to the gentleman I’m now rubbing shoulders with. He and his wife were invited out by another couple. They’re going into the experience blind, with no expectations. Small talk turns into an interesting conversation.
His 17-year-old son, who calls himself KC Audio, makes electronic remixes and even hit a million plays on one of his Chainsmokers YouTube mashups. I give him my business card as the lights dim, followed by accelerated involuntary excitement from the crowd.
The singer-songwriting couple, Steve and Debra, casually walk on stage. Their demeanor is no different than if they were fetching a glass of water from the kitchen sink. Their hired guns, a bassist and drummer, follow not far behind.
Steve is sporting a brown corduroy suit jacket, faded black pants and a grey shirt you might imagine him wearing around the house. Debra wears a loose, marooned floral pattern kimono, a yellow undershirt and green wide-legged flowy pants. Their clothing style matches their music—practical and grounded to the earth.
The Weepies give a soft hello, but no time is wasted as they open with one of many well-known tunes from their collection, “Hideaway”. I’m grinning ear to ear. Their voices are just as wonderful live as they are on the record, navigating nearly perfect harmonies. The room bursts into cheer after the strum of the last chord.
I’m wishing I’d had brought my camera along, yet at the same time I feel like it would ruin the mood. Instagram friends will due.
They proceed to serenade the crowd with another great one from their 2008 record, “Can’t Go Back Now”. During a small break in the set, Steve & Debra display humor with playful back and forth bickering, followed by Steve’s wise comment “Welcome to our marriage”. The crowd relates and giggles as they look at the loving partners.
We soon realize we aren’t just receiving a musical experience. This performance is paired with an organic two-hour romantic comedy.
The two make a new selection of acoustic guitars– one of many options ready at will on the sprawling stage, and begin “Crooked Smile”. Cheering again, then dead silence as they prepare for the next. These are the most well-behaved and respectful concertgoers I’ve witnessed.
Steve steps up to the mic while tuning up and says, “We aren’t very chatty because we have like 100 songs to get through”. It seems attendees are very familiar with their extensive collection of tunes and, with all eyes fixed on the stage, attendees do not appear to be bothered by any lack of crowd interaction.
Debra appreciates the quiet moments between songs and explains that quiet moments in their life are rare and cherished, referencing to the chaos of raising three boys in their home.
Laughter, then silence.
Debra whispers “Ah one, two–ah one, two, three, four” effortlessly starting off on another 2008 memory, “Takes So Long”. Their songs feel like 30-second commercials, but rather 30-second warm hugs that I wish would last just a little longer.
Steve mentions their family now lives in the Midwest and makes a necessary joke about the cold weather. This Minnesota’s audience relates all too well. They jump right into “Old Coyote”. Steve’s delicate guitar-plucking accents mixed with just the right amount of drum brushes and light bass put me in a state of total relaxation.
I’m mesmerized by the smooth finish of their instruments flashing in my eyes, catching stage lights as Steve and Debra rock back and forth to the rhythm of my all-time favorite, “Gotta have you”.
Steve then shares with the crowd that years ago, Debra started a fight with him over the phone and hung up on him. She came back to him with the beginnings of lyrics to that song. He said, “Having the fight was so worth it for this song to be created!” The crowd laughs again.
The Weepies crank up the tempo with “Red Red Rose”. Steve changes from acoustic to electric in order to appropriately accompany each song.
A male voice from the crowd yells “Happy ten-year anniversary!” It is followed by cheering from others. Steve responds, “You know how people say, ‘That was quick?'” as he refers to time passing by, “Yeah, that wasn’t quick. We’ve been through a lot.” The crowd laughs again.
While raising their three boys, Debra fought and beat breast cancer, not to mention all other trials and tribulations that challenge a marriage. They then give respect to the musicians who are on stage with them. Steve calls them “big rock stars who were generous enough to say yes when we asked them to come on the road with us for 2 weeks.”
Their set continues and I immediately recognize the intro to “I was made for sunny days”. A favorite of mine from their 2010 album Be My Thrill.
“Humming Bird” is next. I imagine the crowd is now reaching for their partner’s hand if not already firmly holding their lover tight. The crowd erupts again. Debra puts down her guitar and shakes out her arms after a highly-capoed performance on the neck of her instrument calls for a brief break.
Opener Gia Margaret makes an appearance on stage to support The Weepies by adding an extra hue of vocal harmony. I spoke with her after the show and she said The Weepies found one of her cover songs on YouTube and asked her to perform for 6 dates of their tour.
She stands with her arms at her side in front of a mic. I sense a slight discomfort, (most likely due to the fact she’s out of her element without an instrument in hand) but her talent is apparent to all.
Before they start their next song, Steve admits “This song I was supposed to sing.” Finishing his sentence, Debra modestly speaks up, “But I sounded better singing it.” Laughter fills the theater once again.
A crowd favorite, “World Spins Madly On” comes upon us. I’m sipping on my beverage and swaying in my seat, quietly singing the lyrics under my breath.
I get up to use the restroom and before I know it, I find myself 30 minutes into a more in-depth conversation with the St. Paul policewoman, Deanna. I learn she is one year away from retirement at fifty-five, and an incredibly caring soul.
She explained working the events at Fitzgerald theater are her favorite nights because it allows her the opportunity of being introduced to the music she’d otherwise never hear. She gave me her card and said if there’s anything I need, call her.
The concert is over, and I have yet to use the restroom. People begin to rush out, buy merch, and head to their vehicles as the room empties.
I stuck around a bit longer in hopes to meet Steve and Debra in the common room, but their merch woman says with regret they were most likely not going to make an appearance.
Either way, It was a night that filled my soul in many ways, plus, I made a friend in the St. Paul Police Department!
Check out my conversation with Steve where we talk about all things including their kids, the journey battling breast cancer with the help of medicinal marijuana, the struggle and success of being full-time musicians, and more!