Concert Review: First Aid Kit

July 29, 2015: Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit

It was very strange this year not to be at the place that I have spent my last 8 birthdays at but going to the Traverse City Film Festival just didn’t work out for us this year what with our upcoming wedding and spending in Christmas in Florida with family. Thankfully a few months ago First Aid Kit announced tour dates in support of their new album, Stay Gold, and they just happened to be coming to Detroit on my birthday. The minutes of my day seemed to tick by slower than usual but finally the time arrived and my fiancé and I were on our way downtown.

With how busy I’ve been, I hadn’t had time to listen to opener Andy Shauf before the show so I was excited to possibly find a new artist to fall in love with. Unfortunately the atmosphere at Saint Andrew’s Hall did not make the experience a very good one. The show was sold out and I was surprised at how many people had shown up for the opening act to begin with as usually the venue doesn’t begin to fill up until right before the headliner goes on. This had me excited at first, surely there were at least a few people that had shown up early because they were excited to see Shauf. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I’m about to on a bit of a rant so if you don’t want to read my complaint I suggest you scroll on. The venue was so loud due to people talking that I could not really hear poor Andy Shauf as he played. A concert is not really a place to socialize. First, it’s usually too loud to do so other than between sets. Second, you go to a concert to hear the music so to show up and blabber on with your friends while someone is trying to play is rude. There isn’t just one person to blame here obviously, the reason it was so loud was because there were a lot of people carrying on conversations and I can’t imagine that it was a good experience for Shauf. Please, if you are just going to talk through the opening act, try and show up as late as possible so you don’t ruin the experience for someone else. The opening act probably will not go on for at least a half hour after doors are open, they then get a set of about 30 – 45 minutes. If you want to socialize with your friends, go out to dinner and show up later. / rant

I will say, the few songs that I could hear of Shauf’s I really did enjoy. It was just him and his guitar up there and it’s clear that he’s got a lot of talent. His sound ranges from rock to folk and his voice reminds me a bit of Elliott Smith with small glimpses of Thom Yorke. I have been listening to him over on Bandcamp, and after actually being able to hear him, I hope he doesn’t let this experience sour him on returning to Detroit to perform again.

Thankfully aside from the raucous applause that First Aid Kit got throughout their set, the crowd seemed to stay pretty quiet so that I could enjoy a band that I was very much excited to see. It was a small set up, just the Söderberg sisters, a drummer, and a guitarist / multi-instrumentalist. Even with the small setup, their sound was just as full as I had hoped it would be live. The girls kicked off their set with “The Lion’s Roar” before going right into one of my personal favorite songs, “Stay Gold.” Watching the sisters rock out and toss their hair like the all the best rock stars, making me, just for a moment, want to grow my hair out so I can do the same.

What truly made the night a memorable one was how much stage presence Klara and Johanna have. Aside from being able to rock out pretty hard even on their folksy Americana tunes, they seemed generally excited to be there and to be having a lot of fun. At one point Johanna asked the crowd what night it was and when we answered she asked “And what do we do on Wednesdays?” before she and Klara responded in unison “We PARTY!” Klara continued “We have so many party anthems. Like this next one which is about a middle-aged depressed woman called “Blue.”

I was very happy to hear just about all my favorite tracks through the hour and a half set and the packed crowd at Saint Andrew’s seemed just as excited and into the set as I felt. The venue went completely quiet when Johanna and Klara did an unplugged version of “Ghost Town,” further showcasing their amazing vocals. It then exploded with excitement a few songs later when the band launched into an amazing cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” proving that a folk / country duo from Stockholm can rock with the best of them. Before I knew it, the band was walking off stage before their encore and my amazing evening was coming to a close. We were treated to a 3 song encore which included their beautiful cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” and closing out with the song that made them a household name, “Emmylou.”

I may not have been on a much needed vacation for my birthday but getting to see First Aid Kit perform live definitely made up for it.