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all words: Erin Holmes
all photos: Julia Benton

Peter Bjorn and John know how to put on a show. That’s what I had heard (from BYT, especially!) before Saturday night’s early show at 930 Club, where those words took new meaning. If you weren’t already attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, you had the opportunity to catch hands down one of the best concerts I’ve experienced here in DC. (and that was BEFORE the afterparty-ed)

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One could probably tell walking in that it was going to be a memorable night. Fans fixed their gaze on the stage from the get-go; every single person showed up for the music. I’ve never seen a more attentive audience before the show even started. There were little to no bar lingerers, and if someone bought a drink, they did it quickly and while facing the stage. It was as if everyone was about to start a race, dead serious and focused on that finished line. They proceeded to dance and jump and clap and scream for the next two hours.

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Peter Bjorn and John (affectionately deemed “PB&J”) ambled on stage clad in full beards, suit and leather jackets, beginning with “May Seem Macabre” from Gimme Some, their newest effort. Fittingly, the new album cover’s picture— a blue hand with three thumbs up— was emblazoned behind them on stage.

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They’re clearly proud of this new record and the downright infectious tunes that play one after another, and they performed nearly every song from this album on Saturday. “May Seem Macabre” perfectly warmed up the crowd, surging electricity through the venue with the even pacing, guitar solos, and Peter’s unique vocals. The crowd erupted at the song’s last note and did so for each of the 18 songs following.

Next, the older “It Don’t Move Me” got everyone moving (chuckle… but seriously), and there was no time to linger on the fact that John dropped one of his drum sticks at the end. PB&J moved quickly in and out of performances all night, vigorously chugging out both new and old hits like a Swedish machine.

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I’m a fan of the newest album and familiar with their old favorites, but Peter Bjorn and John honestly could’ve played anything and it would’ve melted everyone’s faces off. They are the definition of entertainers. Peter stands and looks at you, waiting for your applause. He gets the windmill arm going on his guitar or spreads his arms out like airplane wings. He completely brings his knees into his chest with each high jump. He combusts into dancing frenzies. He WALKS OUT INTO THE AUDIENCE while someone from 930 holds his microphone cord like a puppeteer. All while Bjorn shreds the bass and John kills the drums… going hard and giving 100%.

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You, the bystander, literally have to respond and match all of their energy and methods of playing right to the crowd with your own clapping, stomping, shouting, whistling and smiling, as the entire show becomes a give and take, a call and response.

Added pressure came when Peter called out, “I’ve said it before, but this really is the best venue. Ever.” And the 930 team really did a fantastic job with the lighting and production behind PB&J all night. He then pointed out that the enthusiastic 930 crowd themselves were also well on their way to becoming one of the best audiences they had ever performed to.

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The catchy new songs from Gimme Some, such as “Eyes,” “Second Chance,” “Dig a Little Deeper,” “Breaker Breaker” and especially “Tomorrow Has To Wait,” all stood out on the set list and will become concert favorites for the band in years to come. And as if these new crowd pleasers weren’t enough, PB&J played newer versions of old songs such as “Stay This Way” (mostly due to the fact that they do not bring a synthesizer on the road). He said these old songs would sound more “bluesy”… aka time for everyone to make out with their dates.

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A high point was when Peter started a stripped-down version of “Paris 2004,” solo with his guitar and a mouth organ strapped around his neck. Standing in the blue light with his eyes shut and head tilted, he sounded angelic and actually looked a hell of a lot like Jesus. ‘Twas beautiful; I’ll never think of that song the same way. This also let the band’s musicianship shine through, since the particular performance wasn’t about playful energy or running around stage, it was simply about the singing and the playing.

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We also heard the beloved words, “There’s a song from our new record, we haven’t played it yet, and we’re going to play it now.” AMEN. “It’s about not liking yourself… we have a lot of songs about that… but they become positive… it’s weird… It’s also political, but ask me about it afterwards… we ARE in Washington and I don’t want to get deported.” This song was “Down Like Me,” and they nailed it.

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But the predictable bests of the night were “Objects of My Affection” and “Young Folks.” The latter of the two is their most recognizable hit which prompted a frenzy of whistling, dancing, instrumental breaks, Peter marching down off the stage and through the front rows, and an all-around bedlam of arms up and feet literally off the floor.

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The band took two long (probably much-needed) breaks during the 18 song set list, giving the fans two long encores. The crowd’s enthusiasm only increased, making me wish it was a late concert and we could be there all night. Saturday was a perfect example of how a good crowd makes for a great concert… but regardless, I can now say with confidence that Peter Bjorn and John know how to put on a show.

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Then they jammed out at the W Hotel afterparty… but that’s a whole different story…

Set List:
May Seem Macabre
It Don’t Move Me
Eyes
Second Chance
Dig A Little Deeper
Black Book
Nothing to Worry About
Let’s Call It Off
Objects of My Affection
I Know You Don’t Love Me

ENCORE 1
Paris 2004
Tomorrow Has To Wait
Breaker Breaker
Down Like Me

ENCORE 2

Stay With Me
Young Folks
Lies
When You Find Out (The Nerves cover)

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