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Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13

Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Totally Gross National Party 2013

With Marijuana Deathsquads, Lizzo, Moonstone Continuum, Digitata, Allan Kingdom, Pony Bwoy, and more
Icehouse, Minneapolis
Saturday, September 28, 2013

Totally Gross National Product's fourth annual fall party, held this past Saturday in and around Icehouse, was an eclectic, raucous, confusing good time. The label which City Pages recently called the best in the state is known for a wide range of boundary-pushing artists, and all made big efforts to turn this year's party into the biggest yet.



It was a somewhat dismal day weather-wise, but rain staved off making it just slightly chilly and grey. It was accompanied by the sounds of Tender Meat. A good starter point for figuring out the label's many angles, the mixture of ambient sounds, danceable 8-bit bloops, and raw minimal rhythms was a great introduction to the day. The stage set-up has improved since last year, with a built foundation just above the area's rock fountain to house bands, and two giant light screens flanked the performers with constantly changing displays. The crowd was still fairly light at this point in the day, with some confused Vertical Endeavors patrons walking through the courtyard to some increasingly gnarly noise. Ambient Inks had their live screenprinting set-up in the back, whipping up T-shirts fresh for paying customers who wanted some exclusive merch. 

The party hosted the return of Digitata, who called this their "legacy show." Their first show in four years sounded as though they'd never left. Tracks like "Weak Teeth" sounded gigantic, even as laid-back as their presentation and performance is. Lush with synths and weird electronic flourishes, all guided by the understated yet striking vocals from Maggie Morrison, the group sounded modern though they formed over a decade ago. It was very nice to see their return, and it reminded me where these artists would go in the time since they worked on this particular project. 
Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13

Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Throughout the day, the in-between-band filler music was as wide-ranging as the performers. At one moment you'd hear current rap from the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Pusha T, then ambient drone, then assorted oldies from all over the map. It made it difficult to tell when Albert performed his hard-to-define noise music. The overlong vocal-only diatribe about deteriorating societies and post-apocalyptic STDs as prophesized by "Judas Priest song about oral sex at gunpoint [which] sold 2 million copies" which blasted over the speakers seemed like part of it. It certainly made some of the audience confused and uncomfortable, a trend which continued during the following set by Moonstone Continuum. 


As the six-piece Lunarian-prog-rockers-turned-lounge-lizards scrambled to find their "Chief Financial Officer" J. Michael Fellows, the performance had a off feel before a single note was even played. The generally groovy sound may have had its tongue way too far into its cheek, but the playfully ironic humor of aping '80s smooth jazz took some odd turns as Fellows began to act erratic. In between indecipherable rants, the singer would drink from the rock fountain and get into physical altercations with audience members in the front row. He leapt from the rock fountain and accosted the perpetrators hurling beer and ice at his crotch ("I guess the audience needs practice too, just like the band!"), as music continued. It made the mid-song mushroom-trip vibe seem staged. If the idea was avant-garde performance art, mission accomplished, I guess? As their last few songs abruptly veered into their former prog leanings, I came to like them better, but color me confounded about the set as a whole.

 
Lizzo took stage next for another local show for which she returned home in the middle of a tour with Har Mar Superstar. The crowd was full and bustling by this point, and Lizzo's high-energy raw raps got a huge response. Lazerbeak's beats are as large, menacing, and funky as ever, and Lizzo displayed the kind of never-slow-down stage ethic that's shot her quickly to the top of the Minneapolis rap scene. Following was the highly-anticipated debut of Pony Bwoy, the duo comprised of Jeremy Nutzman (aka Spyder Baybie Raw Dog) and producer Hunter Morley. Nutzman maintained the off-kilter humor and lovable ruggedness in his stage presence but shifted gears when singing to fit his new melodic style. The gorgeous and syrupy electronic R&B is a bold new direction that lends itself more to slow sashays from the audience than gritty Spyder Baybie material, but the people definitely showed a big response. Closing on the striking and beautiful "Ævum (time crawls)", Pony Bwoy left a powerful impression.
Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13

Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13
Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Of course the stars of the show were Marijuana Deathsquads. Not even beginning set-up until 9:30, there was some concern about going past the noise ordinance, and their set was unbelievably loud. Opening with their latest leaked track "Ewok Sadness," the set was immense, with largely new material that was blistering and heavy with a distorted shimmer awash over everything. As Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson manned drums, the table of usual suspects screamed and twiddled and banged out one of the best sets they've ever done. Lizzo and Channy stepped in for certain songs, rounding out the group well. For some reason I feel like their music belongs outdoors, sound filling up the atmosphere everywhere and bothering passers-by. Luckily they weren't cut off for going past curfew. Definitely the evening's highlight.

Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13

Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

Afterwards, the party moved inside, where DJs Plain Ol' Bill and Jonathan traded spinning duties. Rapper Allan Kingdom took stage and surprised the crowd with some bouncy, infectious left-field club bangers. His flow is unencumbered and his songwriting is unique to anything in the Twin Cities, and he's sure to be a standout in this scene. To close out the night, Dreamweapon brought their experimental electronics to the table. With suitcases full of pedals and some sort of microphone tube thing you blow into to make weird noises, the vibe was less heavy than the Deathsquad crew but just as danceable and off-kilter. With just enough of a pulse underneath the waves of feedback and accent-less synth patterns, the crowd was feeling the beat and most people inside were dancing by this point. All in all, an incredible day and a triumph for Totally Gross National Product. 


The Crowd: Quite an age range. Lots of older folks, lots of little kids.

Overheard In The Crowd: On J. Michael Fellows: "I think that guy is sick or high or something..."

Personal Bias: I was on the audience side of things. Some of the performers have made complaints about the event's set-up.


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