Totally Gross National Party
with Allan Kingdom, Leisure Birds, Tender Meat, Stolyette, Pony Bwoy, Fog, Votel, Alpha Consumer, Roniia, Warey, Aero Flynn, Marijuana Deathsquads, Taggert & Rosewood, and Def Kith
Saturday, August 23, 2014
On Saturday at Icehouse, the innovative Totally Gross National Product crew again proved that they throw one hell of a party. The day was filled with 10 hours of eclectic, inventive music provided by 14 divergent bands with creative ties to TGNP, including debuts of some brand-new musical collaborations. The sets were intentionally kept short, which forced the groups to fill their performances with their best work.
With a playful bubble machine filling the air and free mimosas for the early arriving guests, the experimental noisemakers Marijuana Deathsquads kicked off the party with a crew that was ten deep. Their slow-burning half-hour set featured a slew of four drummers, including Ben Ivascu, Freddy Votel, and JT Bates. Their relentless percussion consistently pushed the tempo forward. Led by the visionary commands of Ryan Olson and the frenzied, futuristic vocals of Isaac Gale, MDS ripped through free jazz, electro-rock, and even disco during their breakneck opening set.
The TGNParty's side-by-side stage setup allowed for smooth transitions between sets. After the bubbles settled, Josh Scott's new band Aero Flynn delivered a heady, jam-filled set that was perfect for the humid, overcast afternoon. The former Amateur Love singer-songwriter assembled a cracking band for this performance, including both Jake and Jeremy Hanson, Bon Iver's Mike Noyce, and Adam Hurlburt, who all added vibrant textures to the slowly expanding songs. There were subtle elements of both Radiohead and the National layered within their numbers, all of which exquisitely suited the occasion and kept the fest churning on.
Poliça's Channy Leaneagh got some of her former Roma Di Luna bandmates back together in a new band called Warey, and this simmering set was only their second performance ever. The quartet's understated arrangements allowed Leaneagh's pure, unprocessed vocals to soar over the crowd, as most of the songs took on a hushed elegance that gradually built to a stylish, fitful release. The set was filled with a series of graceful new songs that the group has been working on over the past three years since the break-up of their former band, with all of them guided by Channy's mellifluous voice that even coaxed the sun out for a brief moment or two.
The intoxicating electronic-fueled trio Roniia brought haunting, Mezzanine-like tracks as the heat of the day began to burn off. The group is composed of Mark McGee (who was already playing his second of three sets during the day), Fletcher Barnhill, and vocalist Nona Marie Invie. Their luxurious, textured mix -- featuring trip-hop beats of McGee and Fletcher's refined keyboard strains -- took a while to build, crafting a tension that was gradually released by Nona's soothing vocals.
Leave it to the guys in Alpha Consumer to snap everyone out of a collective daze and get the crowd up and dancing. Jeremy Ylvisaker, Mike Lewis, and JT Bates took to the stage and immediately launched into some filthy, Band of Gypsys-type jams that found all three members exploring the creative edges of their sound. They eventually settled in on some fun, straightforward rockers like "Brain Doctor" and "The Eat," before busting out a droney, fuzzed-out cover of the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb." They returned to the free-form sonic excursions via a long, hot jam to end the set with a bang.
Votel kept the spark lit while delivering their brilliant debut album from front to back. Maggie Morrison's golden vocals rose above the pulsating, hypnotic din, with the songs coalescing stylishly as dusk slowly settled over the city. What followed was the highly anticipated Fog, Andrew Broder's experimental project making their first live appearance in nearly six years. Broder was joined for the occasion by his Cloak Ox bandmates Jeremy Ylvisaker and Martin Dosh, along with keyboardist deVon Gray. Their all-too-brief set featured four new songs that will all appear on Fog's forthcoming album, which was just crowdfunded by a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Broder mixed cuts from turntables in front of him into his songs' fragile but moving arrangements, with Gray's melodious keys ringing out atop the spare electronic flourishes from Ylvisaker and Dosh. The hushed melodies were quite haunting, while Broder's plaintive vocals added a mournful edge to the music. "See you some other time," Broder said as the set came to an end. Hopefully it's not another six years, because this was truly good for the soul.[page]
The untamed electro-funk of Pony Bwoy gave the night a jolt of energy it needed, as Spyder Baybie Raw Dog and Hunter Morley both threw themselves into their lively set and got much of the crowd dancing. The bass-heavy beats were massive, with sultry R&B undertones that gave the performance a seductive allure. Spyder Baybie joked while introducing their second number, "All right, this is going to be our last song." And thankfully, the band had much more in store for us, as their spirited half-hour performance enlivened the audience as darkness gradually descended over Minneapolis.
While Stolyette were delivering a lovely, gentle performance indoors, the frenetic two-piece party starters Tender Meat brought a towering set filled with restless live drums and pounding electronic flourishes to the outdoor stage. Smoke machines, moody lighting, and lasers filled Icehouse's back patio, as the churning, vivacious noise generated by Andy Fritz and Joe Coe rang out boisterously while keeping the creative fires of the TGNParty fully lit. The duo have just released a brand new record, Hello World.
Things got dark, moody, and intense during Leisure Birds' set, as the quintet delivered a mesmerizing performance that drew mainly from their new album, Tetrahedron. Bathed in blood-red lighting that added to the ominous texture of their electro-psych sound, the group led off with the spellbinding "Waveforms" and didn't let up once during their 35-minute performance. As a series of lasers flashed around them, Jake Luck and Collin Gorman Weiland led their creative cohorts from Daughters of the Sun through a series of jams that bounced fluidly from electro-industrial to psych-rock and back again. The echoey effects on Luck's vocals added to the performance's futuristic vibe. The brazen, inspired set stood out as the strongest of the day.
Allan Kingdom closed out the outdoor portion of the day-long festival with an energetic hip-hop set that gradually won over a crowd that at first appeared to be tired and lackadaisical. Kingdom's brand of hip-hop doesn't cater to what currently dominates the rap scene -- there are few choruses or hooks to grasp on to, or easily repeatable rhymes to repeat back (other than his motto, "I'm wonderful, I'm wonderful. That works for me" that he teased throughout the performance, trying to get the crowd warmed up). It's just him and his imaginative, rapid-fire flow. Just when you think you've caught on to his vibe, he's already changed things up and is on to the next track.
His songs come in short, dynamic bursts. He's on such a creative roll that this performance stood apart from his recent set at 10 Thousand Sounds, indicating that he's constantly tweaking his sound and performance style. He gave a shout out to TGNP's Ryan Olson before he played the Olson-produced track "Damn," and even sent us some love from Spooky Black after he played their collaborative track, "Wavey." This was a cutting-edge, pioneering performance from a young artist who is on another level at the moment, and only getting better.
The night came to a close with a series of indoor sets by Taggert and Rosewood, a new joint project by Ryan Olson and Zach Coulter. The performers dressed in all-white suits -- complete with gun holsters under the jackets -- and wore Kanye-esque white netted masks over their heads. They pretended to drink from a bottle of bubbly that slid across a white bar table every time the bass hit from one of their slow, ambient R&B numbers. Guitarist Jake Hanson and drummer Drew Christopherson augmented these tortoise-speed jams with typical brio.
Def Kith, a new electronica collaboration between Martin Dosh and Jon Davis, also helped close out the night in style, and it brought some of the most dangerous dance moves to the floor. Judging by the still-engaged crowd at the end, 2014's Totally Gross National Party was a resounding success.
Personal Bias: I have written quite a few profiles on many of the bands and artists who performed throughout the day, and I will proudly admit to having a TGNP fixation that doesn't show any sign of abating.
The Crowd: There were more musicians mixed in with the crowd than I've seen at recent shows, all there to show their support to their creative cohorts and bear witness to one of the strongest festival bills of the entire year. It was great to see so many familiar faces, both on stage and in the audience.
Overheard in the Crowd: "All right, those mimosas cured me of my hangover. I'm done drinking, for now."
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