First, the bad news from the last leg of Doomtree’s three-night Blowout VIII marathon at First Avenue on Sunday night: The crew was still one man down. Due for a kidney transplant next month and on daily dialysis, P.O.S. performed full-tilt on Friday but had to bow out and head to the hospital right before Saturday’s show.
“I might have over done it Friday, but I can't say for sure,” the rapper, aka Stef Alexander, reported Monday morning from the hospital. Doctors suspect one of his kidney medications might be the culprit. His account of what happened: “I arrived Saturday exhausted. About 15 minutes before the set I had a spell of some kind. I couldn't open my eyes without throwing up, I couldn't close them without spinning.”
His absence Sunday seemed especially disappointing to the many teens on hand for the all-ages Blowout night, who didn’t get to see the one and only show behind his “We Don’t Even Live Here” album in October, which was 18-and-up. No worries, kids: He's good for it.
Now the good news: The thought of Doomtree performing without P.O.S. might’ve seemed preposterous at the very first Blowout concert in 2005, when he was far and away the lone star of the group. Sunday’s set, though, demonstrated how far the rest of his crew has risen in stature since then -- and how much they all continue to grow. Of course, the dude was missed greatly, but none of the energy, forcefulness or sheer insanity of last year’s main-room Blowout shows was missing.
One of the big sparks that set the room ablaze over the weekend was the addition of “The Doomtree Band.” Taking the stage after a regular opening mini-set and a fun PowerPoint-like multimedia presentation full of Blowout history and future Doomtree promo hype, the surprisingly massive conglomeration of musicians included P.O.S.’ Marijuana Deathsquads mates Ben Ivascu (also one of Polica’s drummers), Ryan Olson (also of Gayngs) and Isaac Gale, plus Dessa’s live bassist Sean McPherson (Heiruspecs), guitarist Dustin Kiel and backup singers Aby Wolf and Linnea Mohn (Rogue Valley). It’s a good thing they had the runway in front of the stage again this year, because there wouldn’t have been enough room for the rappers otherwise.
At times, the giant ensemble indeed sounded bulky and bludgeoning. Cecil Otter’s “Sufficiently Breathless” and Mike Mictlan’s “Prizefight” lost some of their nuance and were all roar and noise, while the more tender fan favorite “Little Mercy” came off a little messy. But whoa to the world when the group was fully clicking. Those moments included the especially devilish “Team the Best Team” and a hard-grinding tear through “Bolt Cutter.” The band showed more of a subtle side during Dessa’s sweet ode to sibling bonds, “Children’s Work,” which was coolly soaked in dark red lighting.
Doomtree went back to being just Doomtree for the final half-hour or so of the show, starting with the always riotous “Low Light Low Life” and a surprise gem from way back, Cecil Otter’s “A Hundred Fathers.” In lieu of a typical P.O.S. rousing finale such as “Purexed,” Mike Mictlan and Sims raised the most hell at show’s end with “OMG!” and “Burn It Down.”
But the rest of Stef’s crew weren’t going to let Blowout VIII go down without “Get Down,” the party bomb that he debuted during last year’s Blowout shows. It served as the encore Sunday. “Say hi to Stef,” Dessa said, holding up her phone to video the crowd as “Get Down” started up. They delivered that one and “F--- Your Stuff” near the end with Doomtree’s younger protégé Ander Other filling in, as he did earlier during “Bangarang” and a couple other all-crew songs where P.O.S.’ parts were ineludable (Ander was supposed to DJ and back up P.O.S. on his canceled fall tour).
Pretty amazing stuff, really. Never has there been more discernable proof that Doomtree is bigger than the sum of its parts. Even more impressive, those parts are so tightly glued together now, they still tower over a crowd even when one big piece is temporarily taken out.
Click here for Leslie Plesser’s photo gallery from Friday’s Blowout concert, which included the "Doomtree Day" proclamtion from Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.