If it seemed unbelievable that I was walking home on yet another snowy night in this endless winter, it was just as unbelievable—though much more happily so—that I was walking home from a Gayngs show. The sprawling supergroup united by Ryan Olson for last year’s blissful but complex disc Relayted are miraculously somehow still together; on Sunday night they played in Minneapolis for the first time since the epic Last Prom on Earth in May 2010, headlining First Avenue for a three-room mini-festival of acts who are, er, affiliyated with Gayngs members.
I arrived around 8 p.m. and—knowing I wouldn’t be able to catch all the acts—staked out a spot in the Record Room, where solo sets by Doomtree members were about to begin. By the time P.O.S. stood on a chair to begin his set, the back room was packed and people were craning their necks to see the rapper as he cleared a circle in the crowd, declaring, “I fucking love this town!” After a short, fiery set, P.O.S. handed the mic to Dessa, and I made for the 7th Street Entry to see Marijuana Deathsquads. With four drummers—including Martin Dosh—trading off on three kits, it was a typically fierce set by the noise-music project that includes among its members Olson and P.O.S. I took off as Har Mar Superstar began his set, guessing—correctly—that we’d see a lot more of him later.
I watched Doomtree’s set from the Mainroom mezzanine, being happily reminded of the intense energy that collective throw off when they’re on stage together. (The only member who couldn’t make it was Sims.) Then I treated myself to a Bell’s Two Hearted at the back bar—$6.50, cowabunga!—and made my way to the Mainroom floor for the night’s headlining set by Gayngs.
By this point, it was well past the group’s announced starting time of midnight, and after five hours of partying, the Sunday-night crowd was conspicuously sagging. They screamed and threw their hands into the Gayngs sign, though, when the screen rose and the group—clad in matching Gayngs-logo hoodies—swung into album opener “The Gaudy Side of Town.” (Among Olson’s many accomplishments, maybe the most impressive is somehow finding a hard-rock hand sign that hadn’t been taken by any other group.)
Gayngs, who since the Last Prom have toured, released a “regrind EP,” and even made a national TV appearance, were noticeably looser than last year—if slightly less festive. Perhaps to correct for that, they recruited Har Mar Superstar, who appeared on stage with typically ironic drama, cloaked in white and raising his arms as though in worship of Justin Vernon, who towered over him. Last September Gayngs released a free download of their cover of George Michael’s “One More Try” featuring Har Mar on lead vocal, and on Sunday night the consummate showman stole the show, delivering the song with a flamboyantly theatrical passion that woke the crowd right up.
After Gayngs zipped through a burbling “Faded High” and closed their set with “The Last Prom on Earth,” the crowd had thinned severely and seemed completely wiped out. I can’t remember ever personally feeling the need to work so hard to call for an encore, but I suspected Gayngs had something special in store, so I hooted and hollered along with the other crowd members who could muster the energy to do so. When the group reappeared, Vernon said, “About half of you should go home right now. The other half of you win.”
The surprise turned out to be a cover of Sade’s “By Your Side,” sung beautifully by Channy Moon Casselle, who stayed at her upstage mic while Har Mar lounged on the front center monitor and gazed beatifically (not to say drunkenly) over the crowd like a masthead. When the number ended, he went back and talked with Olson, seeming to be urging Olson to lead another song, to which Olson waved his hands, shook his head, and draped his arm around Har Mar’s shoulder as the screen dropped.
I looked at my phone: 1:55 AM. Well-played, Gayngs. That was epic.