Sims and Astronautalis at First Avenue, 6/14/13
Photo by Nicola Harger
Sims and Astronautalis
with Mixed Blood Majority and Greg Grease
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, June 14, 2013
First Avenue may have seen something in the way of a changing of the guard Friday night as Sims and Astronautalis took what they touted as a one-off, co-headlining show -- "You're never going to see this again," Sims claimed about halfway through -- and spent two hours proving that they are possibly the two best rappers in Minneapolis.
Opening with Sims's "Future Shock" from 2011's Bad Time Zoo with Astronautalis joining in, they switched roles for "The River, the Woods" from Astronautalis's 2011 offering, This Is Our Science and the night played out in that fashion, back-and-forth, with a live band backing them, to boot. It took a bit of getting used to for the first few songs, as they both have very different styles. Sims rapped with intensity and a tinge of anger, and Astronautalis laid his emotions bare, singing just as often as he was rapping. Doomtree's DJ Lazerbeak worked hard to keep it all as cohesive as possible, though, and soon it was as familiar as the back of your own hand.
There were also a multitude of guest appearances from Kristoff Krane, Sims's Doomtree bandmates P.O.S., who arrived early and, as always, just about blew the front doors off of their hinges, and Mike Mictlan, who arrived later in the set and dialed up the menacing anger a few notches for a couple of songs, including a stellar version of "Bangarang" which found Astronautalis respectfully removing himself from the stage -- the only point in the night in which both he and Sims were not both visible.
Photos by Nicola Harger
In between songs the two were absolutely giddy. It was one of the biggest shows either of them had played as solo artists and they were beaming with pride, though it seemed they had just a slight case of nerves as well, as both momentarily lost their place in the set list at different points and the banter devolved into babbling a couple of times. Sims explained early on that they put the show together for fun, the idea for it starting over glasses of whiskey one night a few months ago after Sims took Astronautalis in following a house fire in which Astronautalis lost most of what he owned. They seemed genuinely surprised at the attendance for the show, Sims explaining at one point, "Neither of us that famous, man. This many people here is really strange, but fucking awesome."
The set's highlight was Astronautalis' "Thomas Jefferson," which found both he and Sims at the top of their game and Astronautalis climbing out into the crowd for the middle portion of the song. The set had started to wind down a bit by then -- both of them visibly tired, but they still had a few more tricks up their sleeves to keep everyone's attention, including a new, as-yet-untitled song about forest fires offered up by Astronautalis and an outstanding, tense, anger-filled version of Sims' "Burn It Down." "We don't have an encore guys, because we don't have any more songs left -- we played them all," joked Sims near the end of the set, though it wasn't much of a joke simply because they really didn't leave very many songs out.
Two hours of catharsis, tension, rage and passion found them both in new territory by the end of the night. An idea formed over liquor many weeks ago had culminated in them legitimizing themselves as headliners -- both able to anchor and carry a show all the way through. The point being made most clear by the simple fact that the guest appearances were fun but hardly the best parts of the night. There is one Minneapolis rapper who is almost universally cited at the best in the city, but Friday night a nearly sold Mainroom crowd saw two other rappers who are just about to -- very deservedly -- start to paint shit gold for themselves.
Critic's Bias: Sims has always been my favorite member of Doomtree and in the two years since Astronautalis arrived here, he has become one of my favorite local artists in any genre. Seeing this night unfold as it did made me incredibly happy for both of them.
The Crowd: Pretty tame for a Friday night rap show, overall.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I'm Astronautalis' hairdresser!" said by one of a gaggle of incredibly annoying, astonishingly drunk mid-20s girls who spent the entire night shooting pictures of themselves with their phones (often at least one of them with her shirt pulled up), pinballing through the crowd to the bar and back and hollering at the people in my area to dance.
Notebook Dump: Sims might not think they're famous but he is very, very wrong.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.