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First Aid Kit at The Anthem

Say what you will about Swedish pop rock, whether it’s Abba, Roxette or Lolita Pop (among many others), the music is always catchy, danceable and meticulous in its nature. Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg hail from Enskede, on the outskirts of Stockholm, and have guided their musical collaboration, First Aid Kit, to the top of the Swedish pop rock pack with stirring songwriting, gorgeous harmonizing and impeccable songwriting.

Though it was a misty and somewhat dreary Monday night in DC, First Aid Kit lifted spirits in the Anthem considerably with an energetic, polished performance that treated an adoring crowd to their cheery melodies. The set list featured new tunes from the January 2018 release Ruins, but fans got a good selection of songs from First Aid Kit’s back catalog including “Stay Gold,” “Waitress Song” and the stunning tribute to the sisters’ musical heroes “Emmylou.”

Early on during Monday’s show, Klara thanked some youngsters dancing in the crowd for “making us so happy.” A First Aid Kit performance is bound to make everyone happy.

The pair have come a long way since their childhood days of singing into pretend jump rope microphones and performing in the family’s living room. By 2007, they honed their vocal and songwriting chops enough to start posting songs to MySpace.

In April 2008 they released their debut EP Drunken Trees. In August that year, they uploaded to YouTube a cover version of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” which was seen by Fleet Foxes front-man and lead guitarist Robin Pecknold, leading to the video, and First Aid Kit, going viral.

Over the next few years they gained an audience through relentless touring, including attention from legends Paul Simon and Emmylou Harris. At the 2012 Polar Music Prize awards Johanna and Klara earned a standing ovation from Simon for their performance of “America.” But it was the sisters’ rendering of “Emmylou” at the Polar Music ceremony in 2015 that brought the song’s namesake to tears. The performance is available on YouTube and I defy anybody to watch it without shedding a tear.

The band is on tour through October 2018, so do yourself a favor and let the Söderberg sisters brighten your life for an evening. Find more information on First Aid Kit’s Facebook page or here. Photos/write-up: Mark Caicedo