Doomtree never fails to deliver live, and Saturday night’s hometown gig was no exception – despite the entire collective feeling ill. After we had been waiting two hours, songstress-cum-rapper Dessa took the stage with Kleenex and Red Bull and told the audience that in the last half hour, every member of the Doomtree collective had fallen ill to the same sickness, with opener Cecil Otter throwing up every five minutes. Nonetheless, Dessa, Mike Mictlan, Stef Alexander, aka rapper P.O.S., and Andrew Sims, aka Sims—with explosive backing beats courtesy of DJs Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger—fired up the crowd with an incendiary, unforgettable set.
South Minneapolis rap trio Illuminous 3 started the night off, taking the stage in overalls and giant beaded wooden necklaces with a big “W”, like an upside-down Minnesota Twins logo. I was perplexed until they launched into “Wag Out” (hence the “W”), among other tracks off their free EP Montessori. Illuminous 3, who connected with Dessa while in school, rapped about their experiences in the Montessori school system in South Minneapolis. I appreciated their examination of issues other than weed, women (except for some high school honeys), and their hard-knock lives; but at the same time, I had a hard time getting their verses on private school systems on the better-off side of the tracks. Then again, by the time Illuminous 3 started performing, I had waiting much longer than expected for Cecil Otter, not for an opener I wasn’t expecting. And, let’s face it, Illuminous 3 is just not as crowd-pleasing Doomtree.
After Dessa put her tissues and energy drink in a safe place, she came onstage and launched into “Mineshaft” and “Alibi” off her 2010 release A Badly Broken Code. Mictlan and P.O.S. joined her for “OMG!” off Doomtree’s 2009 False Hopes XV EP, the audience chanting faithfully along with the chorus “Oh my God!” Mictlan continued with admitted “love song” “Kid Gloves”, acting ironically cutesy with Dessa before P.O.S. took over, leading rousing versions of new songs “Earthquaker” and “Scuffing Up Your Nikes”. It never ceases to impress me how seamlessly the members of Doomtree trade verses within songs, rap in unison, and transition between tracks. And other than sit-down breaks the members took, I for one couldn’t tell that any of them were feeling under the weather.
Lazerbeak indulged the audience in a brief but enjoyable DJ set before Sims appeared to thunderous applause. He started off with “Good Times” off Bad Time Zoo before warning the audience that he was going to play “old shit, new shit,” “shit” from all his albums. He stumbled over his lines a few times in the beginning, excusing himself by saying he had been on the road for a long while and was overwhelmed by his Minneapolis reception. Mostly, he did play material off of his latest full-length, with “LMG”, “Weight”, and “Too Much” featuring P.O.S. being the highlights. “The Line” and “The Lighthouse” off of his recently released EP Wildlife were also expertly executed, as was “No Way” off the forthcoming Doomtree record No Kings (the No Kings sweatshirts definitely rivaled Gayngs’ hoodies in the hip-and-with-it department). The cherry on Sims’ sonic sundae? It was Paper Tiger’s birthday, so his significant other climbed the stage wearing a flapper outfit and mask to give the DJ a chocolate birthday cake. “Sure, go ahead, we’ll wait,” Sims joked as Paper Tiger snuck a bite of cake between songs. It was a Doomtree homecoming party, indeed.