At least there was cause for celebration at one of the Twin Cities’ two professional ballparks on Saturday.
As the Twins’ playoff hopes were officially dashed at Target Field, local hip-hop collective Doomtree’s dream of launching a new annual festival at CHS Field in St. Paul got off to a roaring, screaming, squealing start. And those were just the sounds heard from the inflatable bouncy houses on the dirt near first base — part of the group’s efforts to make its aptly named Doomtree Zoo a family-friendly music fest.
“This shows that hip-hop is so much more than the negative stereotype some people have of it,” said Karen Howard of Minneapolis, while watching her boyfriend’s kids, Sophie and Adrian, jump through the jumping obstacle course. “They’re having a blast, and we are, too.”
The music similarly jumped all over the place and involved a lot of different noises Saturday — from an interactive dance and shout-along party by kid-friendly techno-rap duo Koo Koo Kanga Roo on the mezzanine level behind home plate to a serenading version of Radiohead’s “No Surprises” by women’s vocal ensemble Anonymous Choir on the terrace above right field.
Meanwhile, the main stage in center field delivered a wide variety of experimental, sociopolitical and none-of-the-above indie-rap by Shabazz Palaces, Open Mike Eagle and Aesop Rock. Los Angeles’ thrash-punk band Trash Talk was also a main-stage act, but wild-eyed singer Lee Spielman spent most of their set down in the thick of the crowd — sparking what was undoubtedly the first circle mosh pit on the new ball field.
“Give it up to [Doomtree] for putting together all these jumpy houses, food and beer for the little [kids],” Speilman tauntingly yelled.
Saturday’s festival not only showed off the clever curation and eclectic tastes of Doomtree, which launched the Zoo to replace its popular Blowout concert series. The Zoo was also a strong showcase for the $63 million Saints ballpark, which has only hosted one other concert, a free Dr. John gig in June.
About 5,000 fans bought the $35-$45 Zoo tickets, a comfortable number that left room for dancing on the field and plenty of seats to spread out in the stands. Surly Brewing, which launched a Doomtree brand beer last year, parked a truck on the field for serving, but otherwise the ballpark’s permanent concessions sufficed.
“I’m super impressed with the location and the setup,” said Casper Marshall, 19, of Minneapolis, who had been to many Doomtree events before. “It’s a good fit.”
Doomtree’s seven members hit the big stage around 8:20 p.m. amid a whir of stage lights and an animalistic procession by Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre. They brought a few extra musical friends with them, too, including Poliça drummer Ben Ivascu and keyboardist Eric Mayson — as if there already weren’t enough moving parts in a Doomtree performance.
The extra players definitely added more oomph, starting with the show openers “Gray Duck” and “No Way” and especially toward the end of the nearly 90-minute set in the fan faves “Get Down” and “Bangarang.” Throughout, the group’s rappers expressed relief and amazement for how well the event came off.
“The idea of throwing a festival seems really stupid, and it’s hard — until you get here,” said rapper P.O.S. “All we kept hearing all day is how cool the crowd has been.”
See a concert photo gallery at startribune.com/variety