From my brief but evocative conversation with the owner of the recently opened BlackBlue boutique on Selby and Dale in St. Paul, I quickly surmised two facts: Steve Kang knows menswear. Steve Kang knows music. The entrepreneur fashion auteur dutifully pleased his onlookers by adorning the openers Blue Sky Blackout with trim, tight and sharply constructed soft-palate attire, expertly creating a cool visual link between band members as the six piece delivered a complimentary assortment of comforting rock ditties that made this listener momentarily reminisce about North High freshman-year and an album called “Pleased to Meet Me.”
Clad in a breathy, striking black dress proffered by Kerry Riley and the Red Shoe Clothing Company, Laura Bennett of Red Pens held court confidently over a sound and sight sensory overload that enveloped our ears and eyes during one of the many apexes Friday night. As her blistering carpet bomb onslaught effortlessly coupled with the smooth rage and modern class emanating from the slick threads and brash thrashing of frontman Howard Hamilton III, the rambunctious duo savored the rapt crowd and slapped out hit after hit after round-tripper as the models continued to grip every opportunity for surprise. When designer and drummer hooked up for a memorable and flamboyant runway encore, the reveille camaraderie stretched for yard after sumptuous yard, as Laura required some attentive assistance with the extravagant train careening from the Red Shoe selection she had slipped into. A thankful and jubilant crowd cheered the opulent embrace between fabric, style and performer, and a flurry of flashes lit up the proceedings accordingly.
Finding themselves marked third on this proud docket of chill display and local allure, Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps jumped at the chance to up the epitome of whimsy and flair, accentuating the colorful direction of a Calpurnia Peach collection with their endearing groundswells of storytelling travels anchored in the memories of everyday aspiration. Fresh odes peppered with verve, wonder and the thrill of innocent transgression also made for a fitting companion to the novel and thought-provoking work of designers Danielle Everine and Carmichael Claith, and the songs leaped from the stage to turn and address the models with clear terms of affirmation and glee.
The next phase to unfold caught me off guard and unaware. Within a few succulent moments of unleashing a rarely seen level of raw conviction and legitimate righteousness, Mayda had me exclaiming “wow” under my breath. I was stunned. I want more. I want to witness the massive persona tucked in a tiny frame belt the big truths again. A heady crest of awe peaked in the full house as she pranced about and took ownership of the concourse First Avenue had become, and her diminutive, heat-seeking bolts knocked us down a peg as we slurped at steely, frame-ready concoctions from Walker/Weisman maestro Laura Fulk, and feasted our gaze upon sleek and shimmery one-offs from George Moskal. Here, the traditional power of showcase pageantry truly transcended its own historical parameters, and the refined art of convention and expected reinforcement faded — the evening was forever cast with ferocious elegance and rebellious requests. Mayda put us all on her back and soared as if no burden had ever existed.
Propping us up to raise the roof for the finale, Mark Mallman and Ruby Isle told us it was okay to murder multiple Guns and Roses numbers at a serious art house event, and a thousand leading, cheery jumps and ladder ascents and mimicry of David Lee Roth solo kicks got a sustained, gushing blare out and onto Anthem Heart’s prodigious screen print panoply, with the serious and groundbreaking designs of PFT Couture and Emma Berg laid in at full contrast to the foul-mouthed and flippant jesters who ultimately called it a night and escorted us out the door to 7th Street and First Avenue….