Soul Asylum - Culture Room - March 16

Soul Asylum
with Lavola, Chris Alvy Band, and Jennifer Kaiser
Culture Room
March 16

Better Than: Staying at home and watching MTV Unplugged reruns

The 90s were alive and kicking inside Culture Room on Friday Night as Soul Asylum took the stage for the first time in god knows how many years. (View full slideshow here)

Opening for Soul Asylum was a slew of local acts including Jennifer Kaiser, Chris Alvy Band, and Lavola. Interestingly enough, all three bands were given open guest lists that they promoted to fans through Facebook. We have to wonder if this meant that Soul Asylum itself couldn't pack the venue. Or perhaps it had something to do with the $25 ticket price that seemed a bit on the higher side for a band who hasn't put out a record since 2006. Regardless of the rhyme or reason, the club was comfortably filled.

Getting there promptly at 10p.m. -- just in time to catch Lavola's set -- to find the venue packed with extremely drunk 40somethings who must have been downing booze for a solid two hours. The anticipation and tension in the room before Lavola took the stage could have been cut with a knife. But, who could blame a crowd who has been waiting around since 8p.m.?

The West Palm Beach trio took the stage, and despite its lacking in numbers, the Culture Room didn't feel too large. Describing the "Lavola sound" is a difficult task. It's sort of like At The Drive In meets Pixies with a hint of Radiohead. Is that complex enough for you? Nevertheless, it's impossible to deny the raw talent exploding from this group of musicians. In sum, Lavola is the best band you don't know about yet.

After another awkward waiting period, the pièce de résistance arrived and Soul Asylum appeared on stage. Frontman Dave Pirner wore extremely torn jeans -- with the button fly undone -- white hi top converse, and a shaggy dreadless hairstyle, it's as though he's never left the 90s. The band went directly into "Somebody to Shove" and from the looks of the crowd's faces and participation, they too had been sent back in time.

"It's good to be back," Pirner smiles and looks over the crowd. "I missed you. I really missed you."

As Pirner twirled around on stage with his guitar, occasionally dancing with fellow band members,  you could feel the energy pouring out from him. The way he adoringly gazed out into the crowd as they chanted along every word along with him -- not noticing that he was occasionally using a lyric sheet -- Pirner really was glad to be back in front of his fans. Alongside Pirner was lead guitarist Dan Murphy whose face had a permanent smile as he wailed on the guitar and assisted in raising the liveliness of the band's set.

The Soul Asylum set list was packed with oldies and goodies from the band's extensive discography. They literally pulled out all the hits, sprinkling notable favorites like "Misery", "Black Gold", and "Runaway Train" throughout the set. It was refreshing to hear a band not wait until the encore to give the crowd what they wanted.

Music aside, there was something else the crowd wanted that night, and it was '90s heartthrob Dave Pirner. There was certainly no shortage of ladyfriends hanging on every word spouting from the charming singer's mouth. Throughout the night, a dark-haired girl wearing a corset repeatedly pulled her top down in the hopes of catching Pirner's eye. Unfortunately for her, it didn't go as planned until she prompted her boyfriend to hoist her up on his shoulders to give the band a better look.

One lucky lady was brought on stage during "Stand Up and Be Strong" to hold Pirner's microphone for him. Wearing a vintage Soul Asylum shirt-turned dress, she pranced around on stage aside him to perform her dream duet.

Soul Asylum is talented. There is no denying that. The songwriting is clean and the lyrics are catchy. But, with something like 10 albums under its belt, it's almost a bit confusing as to why they didn't make it bigger. Was it the timing? They weren't quite grunge but they weren't completely college rock either. Or maybe they are and we're just not giving them enough credit. Nonetheless, after being away for so many years Soul Asylum took back what was theirs on Friday night.

Set List
Somebody To Shove
Easy Street
All is Well
Gone 'Til November (cover)
Black Gold
Without a Trace
Never Really Been
Runaway Train
Closer to the Stars
Just Like Anyone
Stand Up and Be Strong


My Generation (cover)

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Dave Pirner gives me a lady boner.

The Crowd: lots of drunk 40somethings, super fans, friends of the opening acts who got in for free via Facebook guest lists

OH: "Lavola Virus! Lavola Virus!" by an extremely drunk over 50 male.

Random Crowd Detail:
A lady insisted on showing her tits to Soul Asylum. After two failed attempts, her boyfriend hoisted her up on his shoulders.

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Betsey Denberg