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Photo Essay by Andy Witchger: Maggie Rogers at Minneapolis’ First Avenue

During Maggie Rogers’ meteoric rise, it’s been easy to forget she has yet to release a full-length debut. On her journey from bedroom folk artist to this week’s musical guest on Saturday Night Live, she produced an EP and a handful of singles. They’ve propelled her from small rooms to headlining music festivals in the course of a year.

Well aware that a rabid fanbase anxiously awaits her album’s release, she paused after her first song Monday night, admitting to the sold out venue, “I haven’t released a lot of music, so we’re just going to play you the entire new album.” The crowd responded with deafening enthusiasm. Rogers stepped back with a look of delirious surprise, bewildered by her fans’ show of support. 

There’s no doubt it’s been a disorienting few years for the singer. Catapulted from relative obscurity into viral fame by gushing plaudits from the likes of Pharrell Williams and Lorde, Rogers took a brief hiatus to take stock and plot her next move. She confessed to the audience that the transition left her reeling, but when she resumed performing, “Every night I would get on stage and feel completely at home.” That comfort was readily apparent. Rogers’ stage presence has grown exponentially, just like her audience.

Rogers’ new songs edge ever-closer to pop, R&B and house music, while preserving the organic texture of her folk output. Her music remains permeated by the natural world, both lyrically and sonically. Field recordings form the backbone of multi-layered samples, and loops of falling trees and rattlesnakes complement subtle drum machines. The effect is a distinct sense of place. You’d be forgiven for missing these subtleties during a live performance. Her band and stage production now evoke a dance party rather than a campfire sing-along.

That’s not to say the intimacy of her early work has been abandoned. Before ending the night with her breakout hit, “Alaska”, Rogers emerged for the encore without a mic. Backed only by a loop of crickets chirping, she performed “Color Song,” intoning:

“The night is robed in spangled black / And soon we shall be sleeping / Beyond the moon that rides on high / The radiant dawn is creeping, creeping / Down through the leaves, the sunlight / Came in shafts of gold / Now by the dying embers / We watch the day grow old.”

Setlist:

“Give a Little”

“Split Stones”

“Burning”

“Better”

“Overnight”

“Say It”

“The Knife”

“Retrograde”

“On + Off”

“Light On”

“Dog Years”

“Back in My Body”

“Fallingwater”

Encore:

“Color Song”

“Angel From Montgomery” (John Prine Cover)

“Alaska”

Andy Witchger (@andywitchger) is a naturalist and concert junkie from Minneapolis. You can find his work in City Pages, The Current and on his mom’s refrigerator.

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