March Madness has descended upon Minneapolis. Attracting thousands of people from all over the country to downtown, the Final Four is a premier sporting and cultural event, bringing with it several interesting experiences.
One of the most anticipated events of the weekend, of course, is the “March Madness Music Series,” held at the Minneapolis Armory. On Friday night, the series opened with performances from EDM-Pop Favorites The Chainsmokers and Nashville pop-folk act Judah and the Lion.
The performances themselves were, for the most part, solid. Unfortunately, accessing the venue was not. The lines to get inside the Armory Friday night were too long. Waiting two and a half hours to attend the first night of the series (dubbed the “AT&T Block Party”) was excessive and threatened to overshadow what was an otherwise successful opening night to the series.
Though many were able to get in (eventually) and take in the concert, others weren’t so fortunate, getting turned back after waiting just as long. It’s hard to say, from an outsider’s vantage point, what exactly went wrong, but people were frustrated, and the ticketing/line systems left much to be desired.
When I finally made it into the near-capacity venue, openers Judah & the Lion were about halfway through their set. Though they described their style as folk-rock at one point, their big sound and singalong choruses leaned towards pop more than anything.
It was an interesting mix, combining elements of folk rock with pop and even a little bit of hip hop. Mumford comparisons are perhaps inevitable when talking about this band (how many other pop acts successfully integrate banjos and mandolins?), but they did enough on this night to distinguish themselves as their own unique thing.
On top of that, the sound and visuals were both great. I enjoyed their set more than I expected to. After the long wait to get in, it was nice to enjoy such a pleasant vibe.
The Chainsmokers brought a very different energy to the (relatively) intimate venue. Known for their EDM-based pop hits, the duo DJ’d a mix of said hits, songs from their catalog, and other pop, rock, and hip-hop songs.
In many ways, the set was what you’d expect, lots of drops, remixes, and stunning visuals (read: Lots of Pyro). Adhering to what worked was both a blessing and a curse in this context — it made for a show that was largely successful, but one that also dragged a bit as it went on. With that said, to their credit, the show had its high points. Some of these were cleverly remixed songs (“Bodak Yellow,” “Mr. Brightside”), and others were their own.
The original songs would be some of the most straightforward of the night. This was good in that it gave the audience a chance to sing along with some of the hits they came to see (“Roses,” and “Closer” among them), but Singer/DJ Andrew Taggart’s vocals didn’t always hit the mark as well as some of the duo’s collaborators did on the original studio recordings. Still, hits are a valuable commodity in the music industry, and having as many in your arsenal as The Chainsmokers do is undoubtedly a useful tool in the live setting.
While there were frustrations in the night, the payoff of live music proved to be worth the wait. With two more shows lined up in the series, it’ll be interesting to see how everybody adjusts. The Armory, on this night, proved yet again to be a great venue to see a show, and the audiences (at least those who get in) for the rest of the weekend should be in for a treat.