Saint Motel’s cinematic First Avenue homecoming

Saint Motel, Minneapolis, Dylan Novacek
Saint Motel, Photography by Dylan Novacek

Last updated on March 4th, 2020 at 10:01 am

Shows at First Avenue have this unique quality to them. I’ve never been to a bad show at the iconic venue, and this continues to be true after seeing Saint Motel make their Main Room return. Led by Minneapolis native A.J. Jackson, the alternative hit makers brought their tour, The Motion Picture Show, to a sold out crowd of friends, family, and super fans. 

Saint Motel Minneapolis
Acting as a traveler, A.J. Jackson takes the stage at First Avenue. Photography by Dylan Novacek.

Touring behind their excellent EP, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Part 1, the night was framed as a cinematic experience. Beginning with a bombastic overture and an omnipresent narrator, Jackson became our actor and main character. Starting out as an explorer with a lantern, a dictator, and later becoming an astronaut, his charm and high energy were captivating. 

Opening with fan favorite “Cold Cold Man” and transitioning into one their latest tracks, “Diane Mozart,” the energy of the room would only continue to rise. Fans sang along to the piano progressions, and horn sections. The catchy arrangements were infectious. 

Photography by Dylan Novacek

The six-piece band had excellent chemistry, each member having a chance to shine. The stand-out performers were the horn section, who took on several breathtaking solos throughout the night. 

Aesthetically, I loved the vibe of their “motion picture show”. Their set design and overall stage presence reminded me of Panic! At The Disco during their Vices and Virtues era. Which makes sense considering that their last major tour was supporting the pop/rock band in 2017. 

A.J. Jackson riding above his hometown crowd. Photography by Dylan Novacek.

The night was full of highlights. Jackson constantly got up close and personal with fans, both by going through the crowd on foot and in a giant inflatable. My favorite moments came from hearing my favorite tracks like “Born Again” and “Van Horn.” 

Another memorable moment was during their new song “Sisters,” where Jackson name drops First Avenue. I love that he wears his Minnesota roots on his sleeve, and the fans loved it too. 

More local name drops continued via a prerecorded conversation before the encore, as the band “rehearsed” for a show at the Kitty Cat Club.

“No driver education. I’d hitch a ride to First Avenue. Don’t need no invitation. ‘Cause all the bouncers let you through…”

-“Sisters,” Saint Motel

Saint Motel Minnesota
Photography by Dylan Novacek

Supporting Saint Motel was KOLARS. This duo, consisting of Rob Kolar and Lauren Brown, were the perfect opening act.

KOLARS First Avenue
KOLARS, Photography by Dylan Novacek

Lauren Brown took on her drumming duties in an incredibly unique way. Standing on a kick drum and tap dancing while she played made for some jaw-dropping moments. Meanwhile, Rob Kolar acted as an incredible frontman. At one point he jumped right into the audience. 

KOLARS would later return to the stage to do a cover with Saint Motel. The night ended with a three-song encore, with fan favorite “My Type” acting as the finale. 

Rob Kolar, Photography by Dylan Novacek

As I said earlier, shows at First Avenue have this unique quality to them, thanks to acts like Saint Motel and KOLARS. So many bands dream of performing to a sold out show at this venue. When this moment comes for a musician, they leave it all on the stage. 

It has been a long time since I’ve seen a show as good as this one. I was on my feet the entire night. Even when I didn’t know the song, the band found a way to keep me entertained. This was my second time seeing Saint Motel, and it will absolutely not be my last.

Saint Motel
A.J. Jackson connecting with his fans. Photography by Dylan Novacek


  1. Cold Cold Man
  2. Diane Mozart
  3. For Elise
  4. Sweet Talk
  5. Sisters
  6. Dear Dictator
  7. Destroyer
  8. Puzzle Pieces
  9. Right Back Where We Started From
  10. Move
  11. Save Me
  12. Old Soul
  13. Chicago (Performed with KOLARS)
  14. Born Again
  15. Butch
  16. Van Horn
  17. My Type

Written by Dylan Novacek

Photographer, graphic designer, and multimedia storyteller from St. Paul. Most likely listening to CHVRCHES, Of Monsters and Men or Fall Out Boy. Once featured in the New York Times for using the bathroom during Avengers: Endgame.


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