Black Weirdo Party
with THEESatisfaction, Sarah White, Sweetz P, DJ Just Nine and Mamadu
Gamut Gallery, Minneapolis
Friday, May 23, 2014
The basement of downtown's Gamut Gallery played host to the touring Black Weirdo Party, a traveling celebration and community space with the stated goal "To create an energizing, unifying and healing home space for Black queers and People of Color from all backgrounds, identities and experiences." Thanks to some excellent music provided by organizers THEESatisfaction and a string of Twin Cities best, the party succeeded in that regard, standing out as one of the most energetic and vibrant local social gatherings on record.
The evening's vibe was far more house party than venue show. It was both musically on point and loud enough to rival bigger concerts, but intimate enough to truly feel like a community space. THEESatisfaction's Stas and Cat alternated DJ duties to start off the night, which slowly grew from a small group of dancers to a full on basement rager. Running through surefire dancefloor classics like Michael Jackson and Prince alongside Azealia Banks and Sir Mix A Lot, the duo was clearly having fun coaxing the crowd into loosening up. A chair by the wall was marked as the "Twerk Chair" which didn't get a lot of use for it's intended purpose, but it was nice to know it was there just in case.
The dancing got more and more lively as Mamadu (Toki Wright's DJ alter ego) took to the tables. Spinning tracks in sections, from funk and soul by James Brown and Stevie Wonder to modern reggae to club-oriented hip-hop, the set seemed carefully chosen to reflect the history and diversity of Black music with an ear for riling up crowds. When a dance circle broke out to "Crazy In Love," the pop-and-locking, doo-wop shimmys, and spontaneous backflips that ensued signified that the people were sufficiently ready to party.
The energy only climbed from there, as a string of performances from an expertly curated lineup followed. Sweetz P's brash hardcore raps segued into Sarah White's spacey futurist funk, and the contrast highlighted just how inclusive the party's philosophy was. Sweetz is among the Twin Cities hardest spitters, with unflinching content and a gritty approach that flips the script on the standard expectations for both female and local rappers.
Though her sound diverged from the neo-soul leanings of the rest of the bill, she clearly fit in among the Black Weirdos. The microphone could've stood to be louder, but Sweetz's untamed energy bled through every track regardless, winning over a crowd made up of fans and fresh ears alike.
Sarah White switched the vibe sharply with electronic-leaning chilled funk that inspired some particularly impressive dance moves from some of the audience. Simultaneously experimental and rooted in traditional sounds, the unique sound again fit perfectly.
THEESatisfaction, who had been milling around the party all night, came to the front for their excellent, if brief, performance. Opening with the truly excellent "These Bitches Is Bad," Stas and Cat strutted through their hybridized hip-hop/R&B/soul/all-of-the-above to an eager crowd. The pair's chemistry is palpable, syrupy smooth but bracingly powerful at the same time. The set lasted four songs, similar to the sets that preceded it, and it would've been nicer to get a more full performance, but the intention seemed to be more about facilitating an experience rather than throwing a traditional concert.
The event page proposed an "atmosphere where Blackness can be wild, unrestricted and unafraid," and great care was clearly taken to create a safe space for people to express themselves. Thanks to this intentionality, the audience felt comfortable enough to truly let loose and be themselves in the best way possible. When DJ Just Nine hit the turntables for his especially impressive extended closing DJ set, everyone was well-primed to participate in one of the best parties I've been to in some time.
In true house party fashion, the event was even halted by the police just before 1 a.m. The earth-shaking bass that had been going throughout the night came to an abrupt stop for a period, but Just Nine returned in full form shortly thereafter, dropping the well-timed "Fuck the Police" by J Dilla as an audio retort. He continued to spin well into the night, meshing everything from Missy Elliott to YG to Franz Diego in a perfectly crafted set that cracked off the party into near euphoria. Wild dancing and party abandon filled the basement, and closed out the night on a profoundly high note.
Personal Bias: I am a straight white male, and this was not a space designed with me in mind. Countless shows featuring black artists are populated by people that look like me and it was clear THEESatisfaction wanted to occupy a party space that reflected their own identities better. The space was inclusive and open to everyone, but my experience was different from the majority of the attendants.
Random Notebook Dump: Watching Jenga towers topple upstairs was a great way to chill out between dancing.
The Crowd: Primarily African-Americans representing all sides of the spectrum.
Overheard In The Crowd: "There are so many people here that I just wanna be best friends with!"
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