05/14/08 First Ave Minneapolis, MN
05/30/08 Upfront & Company Marquette, MI
05/31/08 Upfront & Company Marquette, MI
06/07/08 Fine Line Music Minneapolis, MN
06/14/08 UW Terrace Madison, WI
06/28/08 Triple Rock Minneapolis, MN
07/05/08 Summerfest Milwaukee, WI
07/12/08 St. John Center Rochester, MN
Just two weeks short of 13 years since I'd first seen Polara, I visited Minneapolis' Varsity Theater to see if they were still the band I remembered so fondly.
Their first opener, Mercurial Rage, performed an entertaining, if not amazing, electro-rock set. Being the fashionably late sort, I actually missed most of it, so it wouldn't be fair to judge them entirely, but I did see some potential there and certainly didn't dislike what I saw. The Faint meets INXS, perhaps. They seemed a bit like a work in progress. I'll definitely have to check them out again down the line.
Thoroughly exploiting my weakness for co-ed punk were the Mood Swings. The Mood Swings are what I would call no-scream girl-punk. Sometimes I forget that female-vocalized punk can still have an edge and an energy without being angry or harsh (Though in all honesty: the good stuff is often both). This narrow-mindedness is no doubt due to stubborn attachment to my Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland and Muffs collections. But anyway The Mood Swings were lovely. Check out myspace.com/themoodswings and listen to No Limit, my personal favorite. I think you'll find "Lovely" is an apt descriptor).
Polara chose not to play last, instead allowing the Alarmists to take that spot, saying they would be able to more enjoy their release show that way. It had been over two years since their last live show, and I was impressed at how effortlessly they hit the stage running. No sign of rust whatsoever. Lead singer/guitarist Ed Ackerson took to the stage looking - with his disheveled hair and trademark clunky glasses - less like a rock star and more like someone at the IT desk who would help you reset your password. As a whole, the band looked both very natural on stage and very much as if they enjoyed themselves, soaking in the attention with humble professionalism. And why not? There were enough photographers darting back and forth in front of the stage to make me wonder when Posh Spice would make her appearance. It was a good set, actually even better than I remembered them and certainly well worth the hype.
Then, at exactly midnight, it was time for my first glimpse of the Alarmists. I soon became aware that, like Cinderellas in reverse, dozens of 18 to 25-year old women had appeared as if from nowhere to join the ball, flooding forward in order to gaze in rapt attention at the poster-ready boys who took the stage. I thought their set was good, indie, post-punk hard rock - not typically conducive to legions of screaming girls, on the face of it - but as I attempted to peer over the impenetrable wall of Scandinavian female flesh, I could only arrive at one conclusion: these boys must be dreamy hot. The highlight of their set - the highlight for me anyway, and likely also for the male hipsters who had largely by this point retreated to a safe distance - was when they called Ed Ackerson back to the stage in an old(er) meets young(er) set evoking Neil Young with Pearl Jam. Don't roll your eyes at me. The song was Cinnamon Girl, OK? Alright then.
The Mood Swings ♥ photo by andrew
Polara ♥ photo by andrew
The Alarmists ♥ photo by andrew