For the beginning of the end of a long-standing local tradition, Doomtree opted for the intimate confines of the Turf Club to begin laying their annual Blowout to rest. The first of what will be a week's worth of grand finales set the St. Paul institution ablaze with a solid two-hour performance that rivaled some of their best of the past decade.
Every night of the final Blowout's week of performances sold out nearly immediately, and there's a sense the group has the power to do whatever they want to do when it comes to booking local gigs. Thankfully, the prospect of playing at smaller venues remains of importance to the powerhouse seven-person rap outfit, and the Turf kickoff perfectly melded their current-day legend status with the fiery energy of their hardscrabble beginnings.
Slideshow: Doomtree Blowout X: Night One at the Turf Club
DJ Ander Other opened the night with a slew of rap tunes from across the spectrum, from Vince Staples and Danny Brown to Milo and Manny Phesto, weaving wherever he so desired before eventually settling into a Doomtree instrumental showcase that spanned the collective's extensive career. Beats from early albums that the rappers rarely perform hinted at the long journey they'd been through to get here, as did the seven-year old gig poster from their last Turf Club appearance
that hung on the wall among other memorabilia.
Bursting forth from backstage to the looming strings of "Slow Burn," Doomtree gave the packed house no opportunity to ease into the evening. By the time the gigantic horns brought in the hard-as-nails hook, the crowd exploded with cheers, flailing hands, synchronized jumping and manic dancing. Well-versed in the art of garnering crowd response, Doomtree took tactics catered to a stage the size of First Avenue and brought them to one that barely housed them all.
The set progressed with a continuing intensity, with crew records "No Way" and ".38 Airweight" leading into Mictlan's stunning and heavy "Clapp'd" from his latest solo record HELLA FRREAL. The droning intro built an incredible tension, as the audience raised their hands high to signify the connection the song made with Ferguson protests. It was an eerie sense of collective calm as Mictlan detailed the roots of state violence, and when the gigantic drums finally hit there was a cathartic release that washed through the crowd.
Sims took center stage next with "L'Audice" off his latest solo effort, Field Notes, introducing it by saying he "wrote this song to remind myself to be as bold and fierce and beautiful as I can and not let the hand of fear hold me back." Doomtree's simultaneous messages of resistance and self-love were explicitly stated as well as expressed in their stage presence, and it translated to an audience eager to feel that sentiment unfold.
After a particularly intense rendition of P.O.S.'s "All of It," Doomtree played a never-before heard song off their upcoming third album All Hands
, entitled "Cabin Killer." A tightly realized example of how the MCs styles are expanding, it was also an example of how they work alongside one another effortlessly to create a singular vision from multiple angles. They steadily ran through a range of material, both solo and collaborative, ending the first set of the night with the slower-paced "Team the Best Team" and "Little Mercy." It was a well-curated set of songs, pulling from multiple points in their discography but maintaining a core sensibility that felt cohesive.
Pausing after a full hour of music, Ander Other returned to spin between-set music as the audience grabbed more Surly Doomtree beer, unveiled on tap for the first time that night. Again beginning on a giant song, the crew returned to the False Hopes
classic "Knives On Fire," allowing for some impressive interplay between P.O.S., Sims, and Mictlan. The second set saw more cross-sections of the group, with two-person collaborations like "Traveling Dunk Tank," "Kid Gloves," and "Accident" allowing different pairs within the group to showcase their individual chemistries.
As they've gravitated toward a more all-in writing style where the five attack at once, it was great to see them maintain the cross-sectioning that gave their debut record it's power. The group also knows which solo tracks to unveil, with Cecil Otter performing his funkiest record "Black Rose" to great effect, and Dessa switching out "Skeleton Key" (listed on the official setlist
) for the powerful "Seamstress," giving an amazingly affecting front-and-center performance that was one of the night's highlights.
The obvious choice for a closer, P.O.S. ramped up the crowd to mosh pit levels with the always manic "Get Down." The crowd screamed for an encore and was treated with another new track upon the group's return, All Hands' lead single "Gray Duck." It played well in front of the finale, "Bangarang," which was a singalong hit with the consumed fans. With that ended a solid two hours of music with rarely a dip in energy anywhere, but the final Blowout had only just begun.
Personal Bias: I have been to the Blowout every single year.
The Crowd: Seemed like a typical Turf Club crowd. Packed to the walls.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Mikey better save his voice, it's only the first night!"
Random Notebook Dump: Surly Doomtree get this critic's official Thumbs Up!
Dots & Dashes
All Of It
Team The Best Team
Knives On Fire
Traveling Dunk Tank
They Don't Work For Us
The Grand Experiment
Fuck Your Stuff
Low Light Low Life
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