93X Nutcracker featuring 311 / Highly Suspect – The Armory – Minneapolis MN – December 14th 2019

93X Nutcracker featuring 311 / Highly SuspectThe Armory – Minneapolis MN – December 14th 2019

Rock radio fans are probably not looking for a holiday concert with amped up versions of traditional Christmas songs, which the 93X Nutcracker certainly is not. They did hang stockings from amplifiers and line drum sets with tinsel, however putting together a collection of bands that appeal to their range of listeners was the obvious focus. Additionally, Ashley from the Half-Assed Morning Show was on hand making sure to thank listeners for their support between bands.

The Armory was a good venue choice for this show due to its large venue sound and lighting capabilities, plus they have a functional bar layout and multi-level space to accommodate the good size crowd. It was, however, a significantly chilly night and there were other events happening downtown Minneapolis to contend with.

“BRKN Love” was the first of 4 bands total. They put their all into a hard driving 20-minute set that should have made a lasting impression to any new listeners. Justin Benlolo’s impressive vocal style and range had me drawing comparisons to Chris Cornell. Their stage presence was entertaining with lots of hair flipping excitement and “Shot Down” was a standout.

“The Glorious Sons” had a more laid-back sound that was catchy, but also rocked. Brett Emmons is an effective frontman and drives their live show. The additional five members create a large sound that also includes keyboards. The crowd seemed particularly into “S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun)”, which is catchy and simply hard not to groove along with.

There was a lot of anticipation for “Highly Suspect”, whose Alternative Rock sound seems to resonate especially well with younger listeners. Singer, Johnny Stevens knows his audience and was effective at engaging fans throughout their performance. The added blend of Hip Hop on their latest album “MCID (My Crew Is Dope)” was expressed with a temporary wardrobe enhancement with fluorescent orange accessories that helped draw attention to a rap rhythm section the crowd was onboard with.

It all built up to a headlining set by long established “311” who included this date as part of a 5-show mini holiday tour. Their polished Alternative Rock sound includes hints of Reggae along with several other atypical influences, which translates into a live experience that’s contagious. Their sound was perfectly dialed in from the first notes and some really great graphics were projected on a giant screen giving the show a big production feel. Nick Hexum was the primary focal point as usual and seemed to be having fun rocking a red Gibson Flying V to start out their set. I enjoyed hearing their cover of “Love Song” (The Cure) and most of their biggest hits were included.