Northern Spark 2014: Music recap

Northern Spark
with Dosh, GRRRL PRTY, and others
Multiple locations, Minneapolis
Saturday, June 14, 2014

Beyond concurrent events happening at multiple locations, Saturday's fourth annual Northern Spark was especially difficult to accurately cover on account of the incessant torrential downpour. Still, there was plenty worth getting soaked for, with some impressive sets from Dosh, GRRRL PRTY, and more.

See also:
Slideshow: All-night Art Party at Northern Spark 2014

The Convention Center Plaza kicked off the night with performances from trios Mu Daiko and GRRRL PRTY, after Dosh initiated things at one of very few paid events of the night at Orchestra Hall. Betsy Hodges and 89.3 the Current's Mark Wheat played hosts, introducing those who helped put the massive event together and the bands that played the spacious auditorium. Mu Daiko's taiko drumming filled out the arena and played well in the echoing acoustics, as the players pounded drums as big as themselves with powerful energy and intricate rhythms. It was a great precursor to the vibrance of Lizzo, Sophia Eris, and La Manchita, who tore through a turned up set of energetic rap and conjured a big response from the mixture of attendees.

Everyone from the very young to the post-middle-aged surrounded the stage and caught the feeling from the raw and uncompromising hip-hop crew, who rocked songs from their TNGHT EP and some unreleased material. An exhilarating start to what wound being an exceptionally frustrating, wet, yet enjoyable evening, GRRRL PRTY were a smart choice to set off the night.

From there, events were less defined by time and space, with various acts performing various definitions of music everywhere from downtown to Uptown to across the river. Northern Spark is already an overwhelming event to try to take in wholly, and the constant rain certainly added an element of difficulty to my review attempts. Biking between locations left me sopping to my very core, as the rain refused to stop at any point during my eight hours out and about. My next stop was Le Meridian, where Greycoats were playing sets every hour in front of spacey visual projections that recalled Starfox in the best ways. Their reverb-laden layered indie-pop fit well among the art-covered walls and trippy visuals, a sound that could play as focal point or ambient background to the whole experience. After this point, catching music proved more and more difficult, as the continuing shit weather caused me delays at basically every stop I attempted.

I just barely missed Emily Johnson and the Anonymous Choir, who performed at Mill City Museum and alongside the river, as well as the Dakota Combo's jazz performance at MacPhail. Chris Koza and Holly Hansen provided music via the Northern Spark app, which could be activated at different locations, but timing the viewing of live music proved tricky. Feeling defeated, I ambled around catching various art gatherings at spots like the Walker, Lunalux, and Hi-Fi Hari and Records, taking in just a portion of the night's visual aspects while missing a number of the audio performances.

The nonstop rain made it easy to want to camp in a singular section as a biker, and I essentially confined myself to the downtown/Uptown area despite the fact that there were things happening throughout the city. There were still plenty of people roaming around despite the atrocious weather, taking in everything well into the night. I was impressed by the intrepid Minneapolis art fans, while simultaneously feeling bad for organizers whose work was likely compromised by the weather.


I caught the tail end of L'Assassins (a rousing rendition of Patti Smith's "Gloria") and the beginning of Black Diet at 1612 Harmon at Loring Corners, where bands performed on a balcony above the bar as Chaplin films projected on a nearby wall. "Normally I ask people to come closer, but ya'll can't scale this thing, so I'm just gonna ask you yo shake your asses," said singer Jonathan Tolliver, and the audience promptly obliged. It was nice to see vibrant energy from the roving crowd, despite the persistence of rain on the parade.

Dosh closed out performances with a second showing at Orchestra Hall at 2 a.m., bringing his brand of electronic loopage to an immense space. The acoustics and background visuals were unique from any other Dosh set I've experienced, heightening the experience by bringing the grandiosity of an orchestra performance to the one-man show. With a stellar mixture of technological trickery, jazz grooves, and hip-hop mentality, Dosh turned in an amazing performance that got people dancing in the hallways.

The ushers quickly shut it down when the audience spilled onto the stage, not wanting to be liable for any potential injury. Dosh is a delight to see live regardless of the circumstances, and his presence made the night. When called on to do an encore after an exceptional set, he proceeded to make something wholly from scratch, an ambient-funk groove that proved to be among the most affecting of the night despite being totally unprepared.

Dosh made the night worth staying out for, though the same could be said for a number of the installations and performances as well. By the time I got home at 4 a.m., soaked and marginally peeved, I was impressed by the event's ability to truly deliver on a rain-or-shine promise and bring an amazing night of music and art regardless of the shitty circumstances.

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