I Was There: First Aid Kit Are Growing Up Fast

Posted on May 15, 2013

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ImageUpon seeing a line of people wrapped around the corner of 1st and Washington, waiting to enter the Blind Pig to see the band First Aid Kit, I have conflicted feelings. I’m happy and a bit stunned to see so many music lovers out on a Tuesday night, but, as a music snob, I’m saddened to learn that this niche Swedish folk band is no longer my little secret (if it ever was).

In 2008, the sister duo reached a wider audience through Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, who adored the cute cover of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” they posted on YouTube. They then made such an impression on Jack White that he invited them to open for him on the European leg of his tour. This young band has had to grow up fast, and I’m curious to see if they have the chops and stage presence their fast-expanding audiences will begin to demand.

Opener Dylan LeBlanc is a few songs into his set by the time I get in the building. His songs are a little dreary, his stage banter a bit heavy handed. “I added a happy song to my set, because the press kept calling me the saddest motherfucker on the planet,” he quips before diving into Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” He’s got a hell of a voice — like a drunk Ray LaMontagne — but this massive, chatty crowd is obviously just here for the main event.

A bespectacled gentleman informs me that he purchased both the last ticket and the last album at merch. The show is officially a sell out. At a quarter to 11, First Aid Kit comes on stage to wildly enthusiastic cheering. They are a perfect vision: long, pin-straight hair and patterned dresses (and a drummer who, fittingly, looks like Robin Pecknold).

And, well, they sound lovely! Two LPs in, they are plenty comfortable recreating their intricate harmonies live. Younger sister Klara is an accomplished finger picker with exceptional vocal command. Johanna’s harmonies are mostly spot-on, but, clearly the lesser musician, she largely ignores the beautiful Nord Electro in front of her.

No one seems to care or even notice, choosing instead to imitate Johanna’s folk-modified head banging. And while lacking the instrumentation to recreate their more recent album, The Lion’s Roar, their brassy, intertwining voices are the big draw. They forego microphones altogether for “Ghost Town,” inviting the audience to sing along, with mixed results (the girl behind me knows all of the words and some of the notes).

The band comes out for two well earned encores, first inviting legendary songwriter Ivan Kral to join them on “Dancing Barefoot,” which he co-wrote with Patti Smith, and then breaking into crowd-pleasing album closer “King of the World.”

By the last chord I’m at the door, eager to beat the line at Pizza Pino. The lone employee seems surprised to see me. “There was a show at Blind Pig?” he asks. “Was it a big one?” Indeed it was.

Featured in The Michigan Daily, 9/27/12

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Posted in: I Was There