"Should I say anything special?" P.O.S. asked at the start of Doomtree's Fifth Annual Blowout at First Avenue, as if he and the rest of the group haven't already said enough on their stellar string of albums over the years. The club was sold out based on the strength of that material, as well as their notorious live shows. He didn't end up saying anything too momentous between songs, but he proceeded to tear the roof off the club along with Doomtree's four other emcees, who hadn't shared the same stage together since last year's Blowout. The group didn't show any signs of rust as they incisively ripped through material both new and old during the fabulous show.
The Blowout was structured the same way it has been in years past, with the whole crew coming out for a short, half hour set at the start -- kicked off by a spirited version of "Gander Back" -- before each individual emcee took over for 20-minute segments, leading up to the group reuniting for an explosive full-lineup finish.
Besides the live debut of plenty of new material from False Hopes XV, other highlights of the night included both Cecil Otter and Dessa experimenting with their sound while performing with live bands. Otter fronted a group that featured bass and drums, while Dessa had a three-piece, with a guitar, clarinet, and stand-up bass (played by Twinkie Jiggles from Heiruspecs), which added depth to new material from her forthcoming solo record, A Badly Broken Code. Dessa also brought out Aby Wolf (who had made an appearance with the full crew earlier in the night) to lend her lush vocals to a song. Both groups added a natural, organic element to tracks that were already packed with emotion and intensity.
A technical glitch prevented the premier of Mike Mictlan's "Prize Fight" video directly before his performance, which seemed to throw him off a bit at the start. But Mictlan still delivered an energetic set that featured a fiery version of "Hand Over Fist" and a tempestuous "Game Over" with P.O.S. and Sims, who each delivered tight, animated performances as well. P.O.S. (who flew in from D.C. just for the show, and was due to play Atlanta the next night) dug through his entire catalog during his intense segment, and seemed genuinely appreciative of the massive and adoring audience who sang along to every word of "De La Souls." He closed with an impassioned, fierce version of "Purexed" that was one of my favorite songs of the night.
But this was the Doomtree Blowout, after all, so of course the best parts of the evening were when the entire crew performed together, along with DJs Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, who kept heads nodding all night long. Doomtree really has nothing to prove at this point, but they put on a show filled with both intensity and purpose as if they had to win over the capacity crowd all over again. So tunes like "Accident," "The Wren," and "Slow Burn," which are dynamic and energetic to begin with, were given an extra bit of venom by the band's determined delivery. The three hour show flaunted the varying talents of each member of Doomtree, and that diverse mix of styles and personalities added up to a volatile and high-spirited performance that left the crowd energized and awestruck.