Judah and The Lion Give Their Fans The Best Musical Workout at First Avenue

Pop Break Live: Judah and the Lion with The Academic and Tyson Mostenbocker at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Words & Photos: Corbyn Jenkins

In just two and a half months, Judah & The Lion sold out the Mainroom at the Historic First Avenue for their stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota on their “Going To Mars Tour.” It is quite an accomplishment to sell out First Avenue, but to do it only two months is even better. It is one thing to be sold-out, but the Mainroom was packed from wall to wall with fans eagerly waiting to see their favorite genre-bending band on Friday, September 29th.

The independent Tennessee band is currently touring in promotion for their most recent album release, “Folk Hop N’ Roll” which the band describes on their website as “a rule-breaking record” and it most definitely is. You can claim that Judah & The Lion is a folk band, but you can also argue that they are pop, rock & roll, and even hip-hop. They do it all, and they do it well.

Read The Pop Break’s interview with Spencer Cross of Judah & The Lion. 

The first opener for the night was California singer-songwriter, Tyson Motsenbocker (pictured below). Tyson took the stage with his guitar and had the crowd in awe with his sweet, warm voice and emotional lyrics. The crowd seemed to enjoy his folky indie-rock sound and mellow tunes. You could tell that Tyson loves performing and being able to hear his heartfelt songs live was a great experience.

Taking the stage next was The Academic, a four-piece indie rock band from Mullingar, Ireland. As soon as the band stepped on stage they brought it all, and the crowd loved it, especially their Irish accents!

The crowd was especially into their hits including, “Different” and “Mixtape 2003” which combined have over 5.6 million streams on Spotify.

My favorite moment was when they performed their latest single, “Bear Claws” which is a total bop! If you don’t have it on your playlist, you are doing it wrong. They recently did a “live looper version” of the song, and it is so cool! Check it out!

Being that this is only their first time touring in the United States, I have a feeling that The Academic is a band that is going to go big places. You do not want to miss out on the chance to see them perform live because it is so much fun!

The Academic Setlist: Permanent Vacation // Bite My Tongue // Sometimes // Why Can’t We Be Friends // Mixtape 2003 // Chasers // Bear Claws // Northern Boy // Different

Headliners, Judah and The Lion took the stage at First Avenue with their energizing cover of T-Pain’s “Booty Wurk.” I am not exaggerating when I say that the crowd did not stop dancing from that moment on. The energy and passion that Judah & The Lion brought to the stage from the start radiated out into the crowd throughout the entire set.

The band’s song, “Kickin’ da Leaves” brought the energy in the venue to another level. The crowd was screaming the lyrics, head bopping, and dancing with their hands in the air at the same time.

About halfway through the show, headman, Judah Akers invited a fan on stage to sing and dance with the band during their iconic cover of The Killer’s “Mr. Brightside.” Judah said, “we wanted to have one song that no matter where you come from tonight you can sing this one with us and we can share this one together.” Everybody sure did sing making it a definite highlight of the show. The volume in the room climbed decibels, and the energy moved up another level, if even possible.

Soon after, the headman, Judah Akers told the crowd, “You guys are really special to us. We just love playing concerts. We love going to concerts. We all came here tonight with different stories and perspectives and my perspective tonight is that we are all family.” It was a touching moment as the crowd filled with smiles from ear to ear.

Other performances of the night were stand-outs. The performance of “Suit and Jacket” was one because it was so wild! There was a crowd singing competition during, “Green Eyes” and I believe it was during “Going to Mars” that Judah jumped into the crowd. Before performing “Going to Mars” Judah gave an inspiring speech by telling the crowd, “we want to spread the message to do whatever you want with your life. You can do anything. I dreamed of selling this place out, and here we are.”

The fun-filled night began to come to a close with a heartfelt speech from Judah where he mentioned, “If we could we would come back to Minnesota so many times in the year. We love it and all of you. We already scheduled to come back to St. Paul on February 23rd and conveniently tickets went on sale this morning. So, if you want to do this all over again come on out!”

The night ended with the band’s biggest hit, “Take It All Back” which has over 21 million streams on Spotify. This song ended up turning the room into a massive dance party. It was incredible. The band then left the stage and returned a few moments later for the encore.

The encore included an intimate performance of Bill Withers’ song, “Lean On Me.” Judah said, “This wasn’t rehearsed…it is an intimate one, and we’re gonna sing it together.” It was beautiful and a moment that fans will never forget.

Overall, Judah & the Lion sure know how to put on a show and leave you sweating after having more of a work out than you do at the gym. You most likely will lose your voice as well, but it is so worth it. If you ever have the chance to attend a Judah & The Lion show I cannot recommend it enough!

Judah & The Lion Setlist:

Booty Wurk (One Cheek At a Time) (T-Pain Cover)


Hold On

Kickin’ da Leaves

All I Want Is You


Reputation (“Turn The Beat Around” tag)

Mr. Brightside (The Killers Cover)

Back’s Against the Wall

Suit and Jacket

Green Eyes


Going to Mars

Rich Kids

Take It All Back


Lean On

Me (Bill Withers Cover)


Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites