Jai Wolf Lights Up the Uptown Theater

Photo by Ben Allen

Last updated on September 21st, 2023 at 12:36 pm

Jai Wolf returned to Minneapolis for a stop at the newly remodeled Uptown Theater, delighting the near-capacity crowd with his uplifting beats.

In contrast to his last show at the Skyway Theater in 2019, Wolf scaled back his live production a bit to allow the music to take center stage rather than the lasers. Of course, there were still plenty of lasers to go around.

Photo by Ben Allen

Wolf is on the road on his Blue Babu Tour along with openers Myrne and EVAN GIIA. He’s spoken about his current music space as his “Blue Babu Era,” a somewhat heady thought experiment where he examines consciousness and how people approach processing emotions.

He certainly delivered emotions in this performance, leveraging a series of fluid rises and drops that elated his fans. He stayed within his usual musical sphere, and everybody seemed content to be there with him.

Photo by Ben Allen

Wolf isn’t flashy; he doesn’t get on top of the tables or yell at the crowd over his music. He took center stage, but the focus felt like it was on the music most of all.

Photo by Ben Allen

The crowd had decent energy throughout the set, but things definitely kicked up a notch or two when Wolf announced that he was “taking it back to 2016.” The room sustained that energy spike through his review of that era, and he ended very much on a high note.

Photo by Ben Allen

One thing I learned from this show is that EVAN GIIA has an absolutely infectious smile. If you showed up with a grumpy disposition, your frown would be firmly inverted by the end of her opening set.

Photo by Ben Allen

It was basically just her and a spotlight on the stage. No backing band, no DJ, just her bouncing back and forth across the stage, pulling the crowd along with her songs, with everybody skipping along.

Photo by Ben Allen

I didn’t catch the entire set from Myrne, but as I entered he was tackling a track by Fred Again, which is a good sign, even if it didn’t tell me much about Myrne’s music. But what I did hear made for a perfect complement to Jai Wolf’s soundscapes.

The renovated movie theater was a new venue for me, and overall I feel they did a nice job converting it into a clean and simple design.

There are a few basic decorations, but most of the brick walls are empty. One former wall was knocked down and replaced with a long bar close to the main floor rail. That was one of three bars in the venue, including one on the second floor. They also created a series of suites on the third floor, making the space seem much bigger than before.

Photo by Ben Allen

The trade-off for all of that space, with nice and clean bare walls, is that there is very little to absorb any of the sound. You can now see up to the bare rafters in the ceiling, the balcony was stripped down to the concrete, and it seems like everything that might have absorbed sound in the past was removed for the remodel.

For live performances, this translates to loud, with hard surfaces everywhere just bouncing the sound around until it decays enough to be inaudible. The higher frequencies dominated, which was tolerable with earplugs, but I shudder to think about being in that venue for extended periods without ear protection.

The Uptown Theater staff were all polite and reasonable, which is great for a venue in its infancy. I look forward to seeing how they deal with the sound in future shows. Hopefully, the theater will help resuscitate Uptown and turn things around in the neighborhood.

Written by Ben Allen

I tell the story of the energy transfer between people who play music and that music's listeners. I photograph and write about festivals and concerts, which I've attended for three decades. I'm also the tall guy you probably got stuck behind at a show. First concert: Nirvana at Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Dec 1993. Yes, I am old. Tall and old.


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