For most of his career, P.O.S. has listed his songwriting credits under the publishing name Half a Kidney/Half a Lung -- the latter a reference to his smoking habits, and the former to heretofore unknown medical problems that forced the cancellation of his fall tour. He salvaged one show off the itinerary, though, and anyone with half a brain could've recognized the significance of it.
The extra dose of momentum for P.O.S.’ long-sold-out hometown release party Friday night at First Avenue started a day earlier, when fans and friends flooded the YouCaring site set up to help the rapper receive a kidney transplant. His close friend and fellow Doomtree MC (and Friday's opener) Mike Mictlan made some nice comments about the immediate outpouring of support when he hit stage: “It’s really special people are helping him. … He deserves it. He’s one of the best [expletive] people I know.”
Many more friends showed up to support the real-life Stefon Alexander's own set, including the rest of the Doomtree rappers for three songs near the end. Alexander started out with his cohorts in the electro-mangled improv band Marijuana Deathsquads, though -- sort of like starting out a long night of drinking with straight Everclear, but it worked. They played a nerve-rattling 15-minute jam, with Polica singer Channy Leaneagh in tow. Her bandmates Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson then seamlessly banged out a segue into “Bumper,” the opening track of P.O.S.’ new album, which he proceeded to play in order. That’s when things turned pretty damn incredible.
Already widely regarded as a major artistic leap for the already cult-revered rapper – an especially bittersweet point given he can’t hit the road to promote it – “We Don’t Even Live Here” had only just hit stores last Tuesday. That’s only three days for fans to have learned the songs. THREE FRICKIN' DAYS! Granted, both “Bumper” and the next tune in order, “F--- Your Stuff,” had been released earlier via the web, so it was no surprise hearing fans shout out the lyrics to those tunes. But the crowd continued mouthing along to all of them.
Fans had a little trouble figuring out the right call/response in “Wanted / Wasted,” but that was only because they wanted to sing both the call and response. P.O.S. himself admitted he didn’t yet know how to perform “Fire in the Hole / Arrow to the Action” in concert, so he just delivered a bit of it a cappella. Otherwise, it was a perfect recreation of the album from start to finish, with new DJ Ander Other proving his abilities throughout.
“It has been pretty insane for the last couple weeks,” P.O.S. said during his only real stopping point. “I felt like I was on the verge of falling apart at the seams, and you guys put me back together.”
If Friday winds up being the one and only time Alexander gets to properly promote “We Don’t Even Live Here” – he thankfully is confident it won’t be – the crowd reaction was strong enough to make it a legendary album. The fervent tone reached the boiling point in “Get Down,” for which Mictlan and nearly everyone else backstage came onstage to match the dance party exploding throughout the room. P.O.S.’ crowning moment during the performance, however, came in the darker and stormier “Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks & Bats,” which he described as the record’s mission statement and delivered with fist-clenched intensity. It was so powerful, I seriously worried about his condition in it. Imagine how much more killer that and the rest of his set might become when he’s operating with a fully functioning kidney.
Here’s the whole set list from Friday:
Marijuana Death squads jam / Bumper / F--- Your Stuff / Where We Land / Wanted, Wasted / They Can't Come / Lock-Picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats / Get Down / All Of It / Weird Friends (We Don't Even Live Here) / Piano Hits / Music for Shoplifting / Optimist / Drumroll / Bolt Cutter (next three with all the Doomtree MCs) / Low Light, Low Life / Bangarang / Purexed