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Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour at First Avenue, 2/22/12

Welcome to Minnesota Tour
With Atmosphere, Kill The Vultures, Big Quarters, MaLLy and BK-One

First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

View a slideshow from the concert here.

Last night, Atmosphere brought the second annual Welcome to Minnesota tour to the performers' home base of Minneapolis in between trotting throughout the state. Atmosphere, Kill the Vultures, Big Quarters, MaLLy, and BK-One gathered together for an epic local tribute.

Atmosphere's role in the local rap scene is undeniably pivotal, but unlike many rising stars who use their city as a stepping stone, Slug and company truly hold it down for Minneapolis and Minnesota writ large. Taking his band and his scene, essentially, on the road to oft-neglected smaller towns is the opposite of what many in his position have done in other cities. Not for a second were the roots of this whole music machine forgotten, and Slug made a point to shout out everyone from Uptown to "Forest motherfuckin' Lake!" The lineup itself was inspired, bringing an eclectic mix of rap groups that hit different strides but managed to meld as a whole show. BK-One spun a number of local tracks in between, everything from Prof to Guante to Doomtree to Franz Diego. For a group that just sold out a number of venues on a recent international tour, Atmosphere's heart is still clearly in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour at First Avenue, 2/22/12
Photo by Ryan Siverson

MaLLy's co-sign from Slug last year eventually led to this, a primo opening slot that gave him a chance to branch out his audience. Clearly excited about the opportunity, the young rapper powered through a relatively short set, and left people a mission statement of his intent to blow up. Anticipation for his next album The Last Great has been   building steadily, and each new song seemed tighter and more polished than the last. MaLLy is clearly a rapper who studies his craft and his precision with lyrics is his strong point.


Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour at First Avenue, 2/22/12
Photo by Ryan Siverson


Afterwards, Big Quarters brought their sounds to the table, and their strength is in the loose energy found between the brothers. Amid the stellar beats the rapper-producers duo crafted, they had fun with their music by involving the audience with sing and/or shout-alongs, competitive appreciation, and rapping within the crowd itself. Still riding high off their excellent November release Party Like A Young Commie, Big Quarters were definitely in rare form. 


Finally, Kill The Vultures rounded out the openers with another side of the Minnesota scene. Anatomy and Crescent Moon at one time helped support Atmosphere on tour as part of Oddjobs, though KTV is radically different from that (or any other) group. The challenging avant-garde stylings kept the audience captivated despite being heady and confrontational, and the minimalism coupled with Moon's distinct stage presence made this fit among the lighter groups. An intense performer (he began the show by lighting incense and wafting it over the audience), Crescent Moon brings the skill of a trained lyricist and the energy of a stage rapper to what would otherwise seem closer to beat poetry. By the time he got to "Moonshine", where he ordered everyone to put their drink or whatever else they may be clutching into the air, the audience seemed won over.
Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour at First Avenue, 2/22/12
Photo by Ryan Siverson

 

As Atmosphere took to the stage, the crowd swelled. I wondered where all these people were for the beginning of the show. Starting things off with The Family Sign's cryptic "Became" before jumping into the banger "Shoulda Known," the packed house seemed primed. Most seemed to know songs by heart, and few seemed to be unresponsive. Pulling from 17 (!) years worth of material, Atmosphere spanned their catalog and hit the ground running from all sides.
Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour at First Avenue, 2/22/12
Photo by Ryan Siverson


Some of the well-worn tracks found new life thanks to instrumentations that reimagined the sound, such as "Trying to Find a Balance" moving away from flirting with punk towards something more bluesy, especially thanks to backing vocals from guitarist Nate Collis. Slug kept a steady energy onstage, knowing when and where to accentuate himself, and the tight-knit band behind him played off his cues. Certain highlights like "Til the Nipple's Gone" brought an intensity that found Slug more animated. The surprise encore addition "Cats Vans Bags" with special guest Brother Ali had the two trading lines and matching wits with impressive results. Slug's also a great ad-libber, and made me laugh several times throughout with his left-field comments and random barbs. It was a strong performance from a well-oiled workhorse who always do well in their birthplace.


Personal Bias: I will stand for local music pride any day.

Random Notebook Dump: Atmosphere played to a backdrop of fake trees, like they were in the woods!

Setlist:

Band Intro
Became
Shoulda Known
She's Enough
The Woman With The Tattooed Hands
Blamegame
God Loves Ugly
I Don't Need Brighter Days
The Best Day
God's Bathroom Floor
Don't Ever Fucking Question That 
Pour Me Another
Modern Man's Hustle
Freefallin'
Until The Nipple's Gone
The Abusing Of The Rib
Little Man
Yesterday
Guarantees
Trying To Find A Balance
Scapegoat

Encore:

Cats Vans Bags (with Brother Ali)
Sunshine



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