MUSIC | Atmosphere paint First Ave gold


How big are Atmosphere? They’re bigger than the actual atmosphere—at least, they are on the Internet (the first two Google hits for “atmosphere” relate to the hip-hop act rather than the weather) and in Minneapolis.

The last time I saw Atmosphere at First Ave, it was fall 2007 and their latest hit was “Sunshine,” from that year’s Sad Clown Bad Summer #9 EP. The place was packed and the crowd was rapturous. Since then, the duo (rapper Slug and DJ Ant) have cracked the national top ten with their album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold and earned enthusiastic reviews on a national tour that included some high-profile music festivals. So…when they returned to their home town last night, what was there to expect? The place was more packed, and the crowd was more rapturous. (The overwhelming whiteness of the Rhymesayers audience remained apparent, but no one expected that to change.)

The two were accompanied by support on vocals, guitar, and keys—a lineup less dynamic than the full band they had last time around, but that was almost irrelevant. Slug paced across the stage as always, animating his lyrics with symbolic gesticulations; and Ant (who Slug introduced as “my better half”) played his role with aplomb, chain-smoking, cradling a headphone between his ear and shoulder, and occasionally throwing in a gesture to echo the frontman’s. Pausing for a little self-deprecating banter, Atmosphere roared through a set mixing hits and obscurities, all of which the crowd greeted with cheers and singalongs. Slug made a point of mentioning how gratifying it was to play for a crowd familiar with even the rarities, and by the end of the set he seemed happily exhausted.

Opening for Atmosphere were the on-again-off-again duo Eyedea and Abilities, who seemed to already have about half the audience as fans when they walked on stage and proceeded to win over the other half with a furious (and long) set, Eyedea doing his best Vincent Gallo impression with his black stringy hair hanging in his eyes. Preceding E&A were Attracted to Gods, the competently rocking band of Atmosphere sideman Nate Collis.

The whole lineup returns to First Ave tonight for an early all-ages show. If you missed last night’s performance, it’s worth a visit to see these hometown heroes in their prime and very much in their element.

Jay Gabler ( is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.

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