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Orville Peck Yees AND Haws in Long-Awaited MN Debut

We bet the masked singer 'can’t hardly wait' to return after his two sold-out First Avenue shows.

All photos by Darin Kamnetz

Since releasing his debut, Pony, in 2019, Orville Peck has toured worldwide and performed to festival crowds at Coachella and Lollapalooza. He’s collaborated with Lady Gaga, Shania Twain, Diplo, and Trixie Mattel. He’s been decked out in Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, and custom Dior Nudie suits for GQ Style and Vogue—not to mention modeling for Beyoncé’s Ivy Park line. And as one of the few openly gay country artists, he’s become a full-blown LGBTQIA+ icon.

To quote one of Peck’s biggest influences: He’s been everywhere, man.

Except Minneapolis.

Peck finally made it here for two sold-out First Avenue shows this past weekend. From the second his boots hit the stage, it was clear that his presence here was long overdue.

Kicking off the shows was North Carolina septet the Nude Party. Beginning with a heavy dose of frat-rock revival, the Nude Party throws in some Velvet Underground and mid-era Stones influence along with some pedal steel for good measure. The resulting mélange is packed with energy, jangly guitar, and choruses that demand crowd participation.

The entire band was a ton of fun to watch as they each bobbed around the stage and let their personalities come through. But it was auxiliary percussionist Austin Brose that really drew my attention. This dude is the Neil Peart of hand-based percussion instruments. Bongos, maracas, egg shakers, tambourines, that cylinder thing with the metal beads that goes “ch ch ch ch” when you rub it, wood blocks—he had it all. If he’d pulled a rain stick out, I’d’ve lost it for sure. 

This steel-palmed maniac pulled off a maraca/tambourine/bongo combo and at one point, tossed a maraca to drummer Connor Mikita for some dueling shakes. And all this while having the vibe of a guy whose overly religious parents found a single tab of acid in his room ONE TIME in high school and sent him to work as a summer youth camp counselor to straighten him out, but that backfired because he just spent the whole summer experimenting with even more psychedelics with the other counselors and realized that it allowed him to work on his music in ways he’d never thought possible.

Anyway, his performance was flawless. No notes.

The band’s thirty-minute set flew by. When The Nude Party eventually comes back through Minneapolis, I highly recommend going. Their unique blend of twang, nostalgia, and energy was the perfect precourse of what was to follow. 

As Peck’s set time drew nearer, the giddy crowd began cheering every time the house music changed. The anticipation grew until, finally, a clip of Bob Dylan’s “All the Tired Horses” rang loudly throughout the venue. 

First to come on stage was Peck’s backing band: guitarist/keyboardist/singer Bria Salmena, lead guitarist Duncan Hay Jennings, and drummer Kris Bowering (all of the Toronto band FRIGS, whose 2018 full-length Basic Behaviour is definitely worth checking out), along with bassist Kyle Connolly. A moment later, the masked man himself was before us, wearing a deep green and white Nudie suit and approaching the golden microphone.

“Hello! I’m Orville Peck!”

The cheers continued as Bowering’s kick drum began beating out the thumping rhythm of “Daytona Sand,” the first track of Peck’s brand-new release Bronco. Before transitioning into Pony’s “Turn to Hate” (which juxtaposes Peck’s deep drawling croons against an upbeat, dreamy, almost Cure-esque backdrop), Peck addressed the fringed elephant in the room.

“It’s honestly pretty weird that we haven’t played here before. I love Minneapolis. Some of my favorite bands are from here, and it’s so great to finally be here playing this iconic venue.”

Following “Turn to Hate,” the band launched into a three-song set of Bronco tracks with some banter and explanation before each one. Following “C’mon Baby, Cry,” Peck offered some suggestions for how to best enjoy an Orville Peck show.

First, if you feel like crying, cry. Crying is encouraged.

Second, sing along even if you don’t know the words. (An unnecessary addendum. Everyone here knows the words.)

Third, if the mood strikes you, dance. (The person next to me really took this suggestion to heart, and I absolutely love that for them.)

After cruising through Pony’s “Winds of Change,” Peck traded his guitar for the upright piano at stage left. 

“Are there any truckers with us tonight?”

A lone trucker named Mason identified himself. “This is a song about truckers finding love out there on the road, and I’d like to dedicate it to you.” He hit the first somber notes of “Drive Me, Crazy” off the Show Pony EP, and what followed was one of my favorite performances of the night. 

Remember that scene in The Blues Brothers where they’re playing “Stand By Your Man” in the country and western bar, and the camera pans across all the happy couples nodding along and holding each other, and then it cuts to a lonely trucker who tearfully takes a sip of his beer? In the “Drive Me, Crazy” universe, that trucker is also canoodling a loved one—a fellow trucker, no doubt—and I just think that’s nice.

Peck once again strapped on his guitar, but not before removing his Nudie jacket to reveal a spouse respecter. (Because we’re not referring to white men’s tank tops by that other shitty name anymore, right? Right?!)

Peck and Co. launched into another set of Bronco songs that included “All I Can Say,” a duet co-written by Salmena that allows her smoky alto to shine. (Again, check out FRIGS. I really can’t stress that enough.) Throughout this block of songs, Peck handed out roses to deserving fans who exhibited a little extra enthusiasm or went all out with their outfits. Unfortunately for one rose recipient, security was actively removing him from the venue for crimes unknown. That made it challenging for him to claim his prize, but with a bit of help from the crowd, he got his rose and was promptly shown the door.

After Peck’s favorite song off of Bronco, “Hexie Mountains” (“It’s about depression!”), it was time again for a Salmena/Peck duet. This time around, it was “Legends Never Die,” which Peck originally sung with the honest-to-goddess legend herself, Shania Twain. Now, I love the original version of this song, and I can’t state enough that Shania Twain is perfect in every single way. But Salmena doesn’t only do the song justice; she even has a slight edge over Twain. There. I said it.

Following the duet were the final three songs of the main set, including the Bronco title track and Pony’s “Dead of Night” (which recently provided the soundtrack to an intense and stressful scene in HBO’s Euphoria).

The band left the stage, and the crowd erupted into the single loudest call for an encore I’ve ever heard. 

If you’re a Peckhead such as myself, you know that the man lives for a good cover song. And you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned a cover yet. His main set didn’t include any of his usuals like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” or Gram Parson & Emmylou Harris’s “Ooh Las Vegas” or Bobby Gentry/Reba McEntire’s “Fancy.” Surely he’d pull one of these out for the encore, right?

Wrong.

Instead, as Peck and the band filed back on stage, he again talked about how his favorite musicians were from Minneapolis. Prince. Babes in Toyland. And his favorite band: the Replacements. 

“We want to do something special for you, Minneapolis, and play a song we’ve never played live before.”

The split-second anticipation of what was to come didn’t last long as the first few notes of a twang-tinged cover of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” rang out. First Avenue went wild. I went wild. Racket Co-Founder Em Cassel went wild and gave in to suggestion number one of how to enjoy an Orville Peck show.

Closing out the night was an extended edition of “Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call).” The Pony track begins with a whistle before going into a classic galloping country rhythm. This gallop provided the perfect opportunity for a Grand Ole Opry-style intro of every band member to much applause. But the biggest applause came with the final introduction.

“And I’m Orville Peck!”

The two shows this weekend mark the second and third time I’ve seen the masked singer (no, not that dickhead). I’m now 100% convinced that Orville Peck is one of the greatest living entertainers on this hellscape we call Earth. His exuberance and unwavering love of performing are immediately felt from the moment he hits the stage and doesn’t let up the entire show—and that enthusiasm extends to the rest of the band as well. 

It’s easy for masks or makeup and anonymity to feel like a gimmick (and I’m saying that as someone who loves black metal and Slipknot), but that’s simply not the case with Peck. His performance is genuine. His lyrics are honest and heartfelt. And his anonymity doesn’t feel contrived because, at the end of the day, he’s not really anonymous. He’s Orville Peck!

Saturday Setlist

Daytona Sand
Turn to Hate
The Curse of the Blackened Eye
Lafayette
C’mon Baby, Cry
Winds Change
Drive Me, Crazy
No Glory in the West
Trample Out the Days
Outta Time
Any Turn
All I Can Say
Hexie Mountains
Legends Never Die
Kalahari Down
Dead of Night
Bronco

Encore

Can’t Hardly Wait (Replacements cover)
Take You Back (Iron Hoof Cattle Call)

Sunday Setlist

Daytona Sand
Turn to Hate
The Curse of the Blackened Eye
Lafayette
C’mon Baby, Cry
Queen of the Rodeo
Drive Me, Crazy
Nothing Fades Like the Light
Outta Time
Any Turn
All I Can Say
Blush
Legends Never Die
Kalahari Down
Dead of Night
Bronco

Encore

Can’t Hardly Wait (Replacements cover)
Take You Back (Iron Hoof Cattle Call)