Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6 a.m.
Doomtree Blowout 9
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, December 13, 2013
The unstoppable seven-headed hydra that is Doomtree rolled through to destroy First Avenue with a seismic two-plus hour set Friday. The annual Blowout tradition once again found the local legends occupying the Mainroom all weekend, and, as always, the crew reminded everyone why they've maintained such momentum for nearly a decade.
Building suspense with the opening to "Bangarang" repeating over dim light, the rappers emerged from backstage to big cheers and the snare-roll stomp of "Punch-Out." Mictlan's raucous opening verse was a great way to set the standard for the evening, and the energy level stayed steady from there over the course of the set. The combined efforts of Mictlan, Sims, Dessa, Cecil Otter, and P.O.S. have never failed to impress, with each backing one another to create a unified force even as the songs shifted gears and switched out lead performers.
A number of tracks came from their last crew album No Kings, which made the effort to incorporate every member on every track, but all songs carried that same form-like-Voltron group effort. The rappers as individuals were given many moments to shine, each playing what amounted to mini-sets within the larger structure, usually consisting of truncated versions of around three songs from each artist's discography. But the other members were always waiting in the wings, ready with backup vocals and dance moves to heighten the songs.
Divided in the middle by an intermission ("We need to go smoke a cigarette," Sims proclaimed), Doomtree went through an impressive 40 songs, pulled from throughout their long careers to represent the whole of their body of work. They got into some deep cuts, such as Cecil's "Lakeshore Drifter" and "A Hundred Fathers", Mictlan's "OMG!", and the crew track "I'm Talking" featuring a surprise appearance from Crescent Moon (who Sims cited as a longtime friend and inspiration). Trading bars in a rotating formation at the front of the stage, P.O.S., Mictlan, Sims, and Crescent Moon commanded the audiences full attention even if they weren't totally familiar with the song.
There were a number of brand new tracks unveiled for the first time as well, which won people over thanks to Doomtree's steadily evolving songwriting. Mictlan played a song with Aby Wolf which was stunningly optimistic and poppy, referencing his attempt to get beyond the struggles of his past few years by focusing his energy elsewhere and solidifying his family ties. While less grimy than his material from last year's excellent SNAXXX (which unfortunately had no songs represented during the set), it was a triumphant exclamation of some of the same mental reframing that lurked underneath that project, and a definite highlight of the night.
Sims brought a great new song that flexed a bit of his hook-writing muscles and got people singing along even though it was completely new to them. A few new crew tracks, possibly from the upcoming album they worked on this fall, leaked out as well and displayed a lot of great momentum. It was exciting to see new material rolled out among the old favorites, and a sign that Doomtree has not stopped working and moving forward.
As Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak dutifully manned the boards, tapping away furiously at drum pads, the rappers cycled through songs like a well-oiled machine. The lights and visuals were a very nice touch, adding appropriate drama to torchlight songs like "Warsaw" and "Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats." Aby Wolf stayed in rotation for a number of tracks, giving a jolt of extra harmonies at exactly the right moments.
Before a blistering section that included the rapidfire "Yeah Right (Science Science)," " Weird Friends," and "Fuck Your Stuff," P.O.S. asked who in the audience had never been to a Blowout before. A decent amount of people cheered, showcasing their continuing winning over of new fans, and he thanked everyone for "sharing in [their] life's work". After the powerfully atmospheric "Little Mercy" brought the pace down to a cool, the night's close -- "Get Down" into "Bangarang" -- was absolutely gigantic, with everyone in the crowd yelling, jumping, dancing manically, and generally losing their shit. It was a huge climactic ending to an amazing night, but they still had the whole weekend ahead of them.
Personal Bias: I have been to every Doomtree Blowout and have been a big fan for a number of years.
The Crowd: Friday's 21+ event brought out a slightly older crowd, everyone who deemed it a priority to not be around younger fans.
Overheard In The Crowd: A request for P.O.S.' "Safety In Speed (Heavy Metal)," which would've been pretty awesome.
Random Notebook Dump: "It's time to stop caring what the person next to you thinks." -- Sims, on proper concert conduct.
Low Light Low Life
Dots & Dashes
Traveling Dunk Tank
Burn It Down
Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats
New Mictlan ("Let's Talk About Something Else")
New Dessa, Mictlan, and Sims
Team The Best Team
The Grand Experiment
Call Off Your Ghost
New Sims ("Uh Huh / They Think They Pullin' One Over")
A Hundred Fathers
Yeah Right (Science Science)
We Don't Even Live Here (Weird Friends)
Fuck Your Stuff
New Sims, Mictlan, Dessa, and POS ("I Got My Own Nation / I'm In Violation")