7th Street Entry is one of the best places to see a show in Minneapolis. Small and dark, it’s got that warm, cozy feeling you get when putting on an old, worn-in pair of leather boots. That smallness and familiarity are what makes it so appealing. It’s a grungy basement that happens to have an awesome sound system and none of the requisite empty beer cans and black mold. On Saturday night, Aaron Maine, aka Porches, perfectly applied his dark, danceable energy to the space. Playing in support of his recently released third record, The House, Porches flooded a sold-out Entry with wave after wave of their signature synth-pop.
On his three studio albums, Maine creates songs that borrow elements from a wide canon of danceable music. House drums, pop bass, new wave synths, and autotune are layered over each other in myriad ways. However, they rarely add up to full-on dance songs. His apprehensive vocals and anxious lyrics never fully allow you to escape the uneasy ether where his songs reside. And that’s part of what makes Porches so unique– that exact combination of pleading lyrics and pulsing melodies. You want to let go and get lost in the rhythm, but the emotional impact of his songs will pull you back in.
Despite the lyrical introspection and sensitivity of the music, it’s hard not to move when the weight of the bass is in your chest and the strobing melodies are ringing over your head. So I found myself, on a snowy Saturday night in February, watching Minnesotans (you know, the people who go to concerts and stand rigid through the grooviest of basslines) actually move their bodies to music at 7th Street Entry. Porches show was high energy from start to finish. Weaving slick guitar riffs over pulsing keys and jumping bass, Maine and his band delivered an incredible performance, and one that the crowd didn’t hesitate to get down to.
Early in the set, the band performed “Be Apart”, one of Porches’ biggest hits from 2016’s Pool. The song’s dark, electro-pop synths provided the perfect canvass for Maine’s restless voice. Written about the anxiety of wanting to go out and enjoy yourself while feeling trapped at home, Maine got the crowd moving with this brooding sleeper dance hit. Not long after, “Ono”, from his newest record The House, delivered some of the strongest and most sustained bass I’ve ever felt at the Entry. My god. It was the kind of bass that makes you wish you had eaten a handful of ecstasy instead of just drinking a single gin and tonic. Most of the crowd seemed to share that sentiment, as people jumped around and howled in glee every time the bass hit.
On “Underwater,” the tumbling melody waxed and waned, threatening to never come back. Written to complement the Frankie Cosmos song “Hi There Ronnie Underwater,” Maine channeled singer Greta Cline’s warbling high notes as the bass recklessly slid and popped. Water makes appearances in many of Porches’ songs, whether it be the central theme, metaphor, or useful prop. In this case, the song itself– every layered sound emanating from the speakers –consumed the entire room in a swirling, oceanic aura.
Maine easily interacted with the crowd all night, despite his quiet and slightly reserved way of speaking. Like the shy kid who’s had a few drinks at a high school party, he seemed to come out of his shell as the night progressed, and the humor came naturally. He mentioned the snow emergency– “I crashed my car when I was 18 in the snow“, asked for crowd participation– “the chorus to this song goes ‘Oooooo’, you can sing along if you want”, and jokingly asked everyone to guess what song he was playing as he hit a cowbell thirteen times in a row.
As a band, you’ve got to know you’re doing a good job when you get an encore-worthy applause after every song you play. And that’s the way it was Saturday night. Porches flooded 7th Street Entry with textured dance vibes, good energy, and fun stage talk. The throbbing synths hypnotized the crowd, and rarely was the glow of a phone screen visible. Despite the snowstorm outside dropping an inch an hour, people showed up for the music. And the music certainly showed up for them.