Words by John Silva
Hometown shows are extra special. This is true everywhere, but I feel like it is especially true in the Midwest. We really show up for our hometown heroes because we don’t have as many local celebrities as the coastal cities like New York or Los Angeles. When an artist from the Midwest takes the stage in their hometown, the audience cheers loudly, and that reaction isn’t just coming from a place of sheer excitement and anticipation: it’s as if the crowd is saying “we’re proud of you,” the same way a loving parent enthusiastically applauds their child at graduation.
This is the setting for Justin Courtney Pierre’s first hometown show since releasing his solo album, In the Drink last month. On a Friday night at the legendary Turf Club venue in St. Paul, Minnesota, about 350 adoring fans gathered to celebrate the work of the Twin Cities native, who previously fronted the popular rock band Motion City Soundtrack.
There was only one opener; singer-songwriter Alyse Vellturo, who plays with a full band under the pseudonym, Pronoun. The New Yorker received a warm Minnesota welcome, and she and her band fed off that energy. She blasted through an arsenal of highly enjoyable indie-pop jams that had the whole room of 20 and 30-somethings bopping their heads. She seemed genuinely grateful to be there and explained that she had never performed in Minneapolis before, to which one audience member responded “we’re in St. Paul!” in correction. She sincerely apologized. At the end of her well-received set, she thanked Chicago for coming out to the show, a humorous callback to her slight mishap. I think the best performers are the ones who can poke fun at themselves.
After Pronoun, Justin Courtney Pierre took the stage. He gave the fans everything they wanted, kicking off the set with catchy new songs from his In the Drink release. The songs were upbeat, poppy, and full the melodies and vocal harmonies fans have come to love. The space between every one or two songs was filled with socially anxious stage banter — Classic JCP.
The first block of songs was followed with a treat for his longtime fans, as he jumped into several tracks from his side project, Farewell Continental. He even played a previously unreleased FC song, teasing that it’s from the album that might or might not come out “sometime in the next ten years.”
The audience popped the hardest when Pierre played a handful of Motion City Soundtrack songs. He sent his band offstage first, explaining that out of respect for the other members of Motion City Soundtrack, he didn’t feel comfortable playing the songs with people who weren’t in MCS. But attendees of this particular show got a special treat, as Pierre was joined onstage by fellow Motion City Soundtrack bandmate, Joshua Cain. The two played several MCS songs, and the overjoyed audience loudly sang along with every single word.
The set ended the way it started, with Pierre’s band joining him back on stage for several more tunes off of his solo record. The whole performance felt like a love letter to both his longtime fans and to the Twin Cities in general. It was a great ending to a special night. Both bands were fantastic, but what really made the show memorable was the 350 Midwesterners who came out to root for their hometown hero. As the final song ended and the house lights came back up, the audience clapped and cheered for the phenomenal performance. To some, it might have looked like standard applause, but everyone in the room knew what was really being said: “we’re proud of you, son.”