All week, Doomtree showed no weakness

  • Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
  • Updated: December 12, 2011 - 9:23 AM

The local hip-hop collective's seven-night Blowout VII marathon became the stuff of legend by the time it hit First Ave's main room.

It was the little signs and small gestures that captured just how big the Doomtree Blowout became over the weekend at First Avenue. Things like the ring of scalpers outside cashing in. The profusion of tweets arranging pre-show meet-ups. The Blowout VII T-shirts made special for club staff. The Blowout VII T-shirts bought by fans a few nights earlier that already looked worn.

Maybe the biggest little thing of all was the smirk on each of the performer's faces -- the kind of sly, cool-kid glow that didn't give away too much excitement, but also didn't hide the pride bursting inside. As it absolutely should have been.

The breathless end to an exhausting, weeklong marathon of gigs, Friday's and Saturday's sold-out Doomtree concerts settled two debates about the seven-member Doomtree hip-hop collective: The group is still better together than it is apart, despite all the members' prospering solo careers; and in the way that Doomtree's indie-rap forbearers Atmosphere dominated the '00s, these old skater-punk high-school pals from Hopkins are taking over in the '10s.

Where 2010's Blowout concerts drew fanatical crowds despite a historic snowstorm, this year's were all clear skies outside but a true flurry inside. On Friday, the group performed for 2 1/2 hours nonstop -- 40 songs, at least 30 of which had fans hollering out lyricism, including plenty off the new all-crew album, "No Kings."

The performance was so seamless and relentless that Doomtree's most orderly member, Dessa, nearly missed one of her moments in the spotlight. "When this song started, I was halfway to the bathroom," she admitted after knocking out "The Bullpen" late in the show. "I have never moved so fast in my life."

The set kicked off the same way as "No Kings," with the stalker-tempoed "No Way" giving way to the electronic-frazzled "Bolt Cutter," followed by the shout fest "Bangarang." From there, the group divvied up the new material between five-song segments showcasing each of the rappers' other work.

Doomtree's original breakout star, P.O.S., remained a crowd favorite Friday and arguably struck the emotional epicenter late in the set with his anthemic hit "Purexed." However, Blowout VII was a true group effort.

Each Doomtree MC had at least one crowning moment when you'd swear he or she was the best of the bunch. For Sims, whose February release "Bad Time Zoo" made him this year's breakout member, the crowd lit up and leaped around during "Burn It Down." For Cecil Otter, who also had a good year with his Wugazi mash-up record, the wicked lyrical gem "Little Demon Girl" truly did burn. Dessa made men and women alike giddy with her neo-feminist opus "Dixon's Girl."

And then there was the hyper-howling Mike Mictlan, who seemingly peaked early on with a full-tilt "Game Over" but came back strong with "OMG!" Of all the members showing the wear and tear of the long week (P.O.S. and Sims had raspy voices), Mictlan most looked like he was about to keel over.

The Doomtree rappers all took solo turns earlier in the week, helming one night apiece in the neighboring 7th Street Entry with guests. Mictlan's show was madcap and hyperactive. Dessa's was tender and thought-provoking. P.O.S. thundered all night with MVP help from drummer Ben Ivascu, prompting a crowd chant to perform until 2 a.m. "You guys know we're doing this for a whole week, right?" the rapper retorted.

Pieced together, the lasting impression made by Blowout VII's seven nights might be that there's no weak link among Doomtree's seven members (also including the behind-the-scenes talents of producers/beatmakers Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger). Think about how unique a trait that is: Even the Traveling Wilburys had Jeff Lynne, and the Wu-Tang Clan has U-God.

See a Blowout set list at startribune.com/music.

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