Mixed Blood Majority at the Triple Rock, 1/26/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Mixed Blood Majority
with Guante & Big Cats and LaLiberte
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 26, 2013
It's easy to be cynical about new local supergroups when our music community seems to interbreed at such an alarming rate, but Mixed Blood Majority's set on Saturday made an excellent case for the energizing power of collaboration. After surviving what must have been some of the most difficult years of his personal life, Alexei Casselle seems invigorated by this new project with two men he's obviously very fond of.
The veteran MC put on a stunning performance to a packed Triple Rock as we've come to expect from his work with Kill the Vultures and Oddjobs, but it was the synergy he displayed with his younger co-star Joe Horton of No Bird Sing that really made the night special. Over Lazerbeak's sizziling trademark bangers, the pair bantered, danced and traded goofy hugs with a familial bond that proved infectious, willing the crowd along with them to a great final payoff.
Opener LaLiberte could also wear the mantle of "local supergroup" with ease. Fans of the over-too-soon Digitata and Lookbook groups led by Maggie Morrison should be excited that the singer is lending her one-of-a-kind voice to this new project with Cecil Otter and Ben Clark. Shrouded in mystery, as these groups often are, the band's very subdued single "Kelis" gives the impression that LaLiberte could be more sleepy electronic blips along the lines Morrison and Clark's recent work in Votel, but the live show seems to be something altogether different. With the Doomtree co-founder in the back triggering samples LaLiberte still contains an electronic element, but does so through a more organic '80s R&B lens.
Supported by Clark on bass for this show, Joey Van Phillips's crisp drumming was a pleasure to watch in action, giving the group's more propulsive songs a serious danceable kick. Morrison, who was celebrating her birthday that night, was in excellent form as well, working some serious drama out of a more melodic vocal delivery that we haven't heard from her in a while. The ever-enigmatic Cecil Otter held down the laptop atmospherics and seemed to do little else onstage, save for smile winningly. It's always a bit of a tease to see a performer of his caliber decline to rap, but he seemed to be having fun, joking with his bandmates and even laughing once or twice.
Guante and Big Cats were the known quantity on the bill, having released a pretty fantastic new album You Better Weaponize in late 2012. After an instrumental into showing off Cats' always-impressive turntable skills, the MC took a turn for the solo as well, beginning their set with an acapella version of one of Weaponize's standout tracks, "Other". Dedicating it to everyone in the crowd who shared his somewhat conflicted identification of "Mixed Blood," Guante really sold the verse, highlighting lyrics that were already profound on recording with impressive oration honed from his years in the Spoken Word circuit. The MC seemed a bit hoarse, so the duo kept things relatively short, breezing through several new cuts before closing with another acapella from Guante.
Bounding onstage to a somewhat sleepy room, the headliners quickly overcame the crowd's relative lack of familiarity with their songs through sheer force of will. Crescent Moon was transcendent as always, a uniquely gifted rapper with a great sense of body performance and a natural command of the audience. Not to be outdone, Joe Horton decided midway through opener "Product of my Company" that the crowd wasn't nearly live enough for his tastes and dove right in, punk-show-style, galvanizing the audience with this early display of physical intensity.
The camaraderie between Crescent Moon and Horton made for a lighter atmosphere than their respective groups' normal shows. While Kill the Vultures and No Bird Sing both trade in depressive, riveting intensity, Mixed Blood Majority was all smiles and bro-hugs, with the playful energy and easy banter of three longtime friends. Chest-bumping after successful moments, rapping into each other's faces, and generally just acting adorable, Horton and Moon made MBM's sometimes dark, social-commentary oriented lyrics seem like party-rocking anthems. During the back-and-forth hook of "Still Standing Still," the older MC roused a response from the crowd with by demanding hands in the air, while his student took the more direct route and dived back into the crowd for the second time in the show's first 10 minutes.
Toki Wright appeared next to start of the night's parade of guest stars, having apparently just jogged over from the Cabooze after opening for Method Man. The surprise cameo got a big cheer from the crowd and a great intro from Lazerbeak that included at least three different explosion sound effects. Toki is getting big enough these days to sell out the Triple Rock by himself, so the collaboration felt like a rare treat, especially when the his familiar face excited the crowd to an even greater response.
Following up this guest appearance, Joe Horton took the spotlight for a second to deliver a new No Bird Sing song called "Boomday" with Lazerbeak's assistance. Catching air off the monitors while spitting his words emphatically, Horton's new delivery sounded to my ears a bit like a younger, punkier Brandon Allday of Big Quarters, and he capped the song off with yet another stage dive.
After two songs featuring the goofy charm of Kristoff Krane, Mixed Blood made a spirited run through their radio-banger "Fine Print" before welcoming the night's final guest-of-honor back to the stage for "Free Up." Cecil Otter and Lazerbeak are always a potent combination, and the Doomtree rapper's laidback cool made a nice counterpoint for Moon and Horton's pinballing delivery. While he's far from a household name, Cecil's local celebrity starpower provided the tipping point, and the crowd's response finally began to match the energy onstage.
Crescent Moon also took a solo turn, showing off some funky new Kill the Vultures Material before the trio ended their set with "Hallucination Music." Set to one of my favorite Lazerbeak-trademark lavabanger beats ever, the two rappers danced around the stage like boxers, so totally focused on the moment that they forgot to unravel their mic cables, leading to an endearing stumble-hug-fall off stage before returning for the encore. After conducting the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" to Maggie, Mixed Blood closed their set with a climactic take on "The Runaround" that shook the walls and practically caused a mosh pit to break out. Horton dived into the crowd one last time, shoving the mic into the face of onlookers for help on the hook, the song eventually breaking down into more spirited hugs and high-fives.
CEDRIC CEBALLOS INTRO
PRODUCT OF MY COMPANY
STILL STANDING STILL
STORY TO TELL (w/ Toki Wright)
BOOMDAY (new No Bird Sing song)
FIX (w/ Kristoff Krane)
RITUAL (w/ Kristoff Krane)
FREE UP (w/ Cecil Otter)
NANA (new Kill The Vultures song)
Critic's Bias: Kill the Vultures was one of my first favorite local hip-hop groups, but I missed Mixed Blood's debut show at Icehouse.
Doomtree Members In-Attendance: At least 4, more may have been incognito.
Random Notebook Dump: Guante totally popped one of Maggie's birthday balloons on his way onstage, much to the horror of the crowd in my section.
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