St. Paul has never really been particularly associated with riotous, hedonistic dance parties, but Big Freedia's return to the Turf Club on Friday brought the insane energy of the New Orleans' bounce scene to our humble Capitol city. There was a diverse crowd of people, most drunk and garishly dressed, ready to wild out in a way that Minnesotans shy away from stereotypically.
Local openers Votel started the night off with a bit of understated electro-funk energy that combined the styles of the ensemble cast's other groups. While the sound fit the bill to an extent, it wasn't until DJ Jimmy Two Times dropped classics from Juvenile, Mystikal and B.G. that the night's sound began to unfold. As he is known to do, Slapping Purses began playing with little introduction, setting up shop on a tiny table on the floor in the audience. Working in a space somewhere between the shrill bursts of noise music and the futurist funk of Detroit techno, the vibe was forceful and energetic. An intriguing act to watch if you could get close enough, Jason Power creates a wave of sound solo using a number of pedals, gadgets, and a microphone apparatus that morphs vocals into distorted garbles.
Slapping Purses emphasizes a shift that seems to be happening in Twin Cities music, where hip-hop, rock and electronica are moving toward the freeing power of fun-seeking escapism . Our hip-hop scene might not have birthed an icon like headliner Big Freedia yet, but this bill and the last (Marijuana Deathsquads and Spyder Baybie opened up last time Freedia was in town) prove we're ready for it.
Once Big Freedia in the flesh hit the stage, the roar of the crowd was immense. The powerful energy at the core of bounce makes staying still near impossible. The stripped-down, amped up, bass-heavy thump is so focused on getting the crowd dancing that ass-shaking itself becomes one of the strongest aspects of the music: Big Freedia's scantily-clad booty dancers the Divas worked it onstage throughout the performance, injecting animalistic twerk into the already heavily sexual lyrics. Eventually, the tiny stage was flooded with people from the audience joining in.
The Turf wound up being the ideal location, allowing enough space to dance with abandon while still feeling as packed and sweaty as a Freedia show should. There was a sense of awe for Freedia's mere presence; the tall, libidinous, gender-bending performer had style that's rare around here. Straight-forward singles like "Gin In My System" and "Azz Everywhere!" are easy to get down with and sing along to even without a lot of prior knowledge, and even if one were not inclined to dance, the atmosphere in the room was undeniable. Mere months after Freedia's last appearance, it's clear that the return of this transgressive party night was much needed and anticipated, and here's hoping we see more in the near future.
The Crowd: Everyone from hipsters to ravers to rappers to regular-ass party-goers.
Random Detail: Watch out for that Cowboy Special ($5 for an Old Style and a shot of whiskey); it ain't no joke. The combination of that and the minimum purchase for cards can be deadly.
Overheard In The Crowd: "So, has his/her gender been officially determined?"