It wasn’t a snowstorm by any means, but enough flakes fell at precisely the right moment Friday night in Minneapolis to make it feel like even Mother Nature knew it was Doomtree Blowout time again. The ninth annual family-potluck concert – which has a history of raising bad winter weather – moved into First Avenue after an early start Thursday at the Triple Rock for under-age fans.
The scene outside First Ave with a crowd lining up under light flurries was as familiar as the vibe inside once the local hip-hop crew hit the stage running (literally), with a short runway jutting out over the dance floor like past years and the five Doomtree rappers tag-teaming through their verses.
“Thank you for coming to the Doomtree Blowout … again!” Sims said after two high-adrenaline fan favorites opened the show, “Low Light Low Life” and “Beacon.”
For all its welcome deja-vu attributes, this year’s Blowout concerts offered enough new twists to avoid feeling like a rehash. The visual production from local “videoptical” company Playatta was an impressive touch-up from the get-go, with two dueling video screens for a backdrop and a light show that would out-dazzle most touring productions that come to First Ave.
A short list of guests also joined the fray this year, with Aby Wolf providing her usual rich vocal layering to Dessa’s songs but also adding to the harrowing-epic feel of P.O.S.’s “Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats.” Crescent Moon of Kill the Vultures and Oddjobs notoriety also took the stage Friday to fiercely revive “I’m Talking,” introduced by P.O.S. as “someone who inspired all of us.” Per word from the Twitterosphere, Saturday’s show also featured Har Mar Superstar during “Bangarang” (a night after he appeared on “Wits” for Minnesota Public Radio).
“I’m Talking” was one of many older, rarely played nuggets dusted off for Blowout IX. Others included “The Wren,” “Thinking Dunk Tank” and “Kid Gloves.”
One other unusual twist: The crew took about a 20-minute, jam-band-style break about 75 minutes after it first hit the stage. Whether or not this had anything to do with the kidney condition that sent P.O.S. to the emergency room during last year’s Blowout run, you wouldn’t have known Friday the dude is still in need of a transplant. Besides the hair-raising version of “Lock-Picks,” he also spouted off with extra fortitude in “We Don’t Even Live Here (Weird Friends)” and “F* Your Stuff” post-intermission.
As has been the case in past years, the show -- about 2½ hours total not counting the break -- was sporadically split into mini-sets in which each rapper delivered three or four of their solo tunes, usually with the rest of the crew there for hype duty. Mike Mictlan went first before the crowd got too hoarse or drunk to shout along to “Game Over” and “Prizefight.” Dessa breezed through “Dixon’s Girl” as if to save her energy for an extra powerful “Warsaw.” After the break, Cecil Otter dug up a couple of his oldies, “A Hundred Fathers and “Lakeshore Drifter.” He also steered them through “Little Mercy” for the pre-encore finale.
Several new songs – presumably from a new all-crew record that the group started laying down this fall – also made the set, including a rousing, chant-filled gem near the end of the set with the hook, “I got my own nation.” Paired with one of Sims’ lines in another new tune earlier in the show, “My city is electric,” it sounded as if the crew had been writing with the Blowouts in mind. The Doomtree nation continues to show up in force each year and was once again rewarded with one of the most electric concerts of the year.
At the time of writing, tickets still remained for Sunday's Blowout finale at First Ave, following fast sell-outs the first three nights.