Vancouver lucky to vibe Doomtree on "Wings and Teeth" tour
If you didn’t start as a Doomtree fan last Tuesday night at the Biltmore, then you certainly ended up one. The Minneapolis hip hop collective, brought in by Timbre Productions Concerts, threw down a stellar three hour set to a chilled but hyper-enthusiastic west coast crowd on one of three Canadian stops on their “Wings and Teeth” tour.
Founded five years ago, Doomtree's nine person crew have been unable to tour together since releasing their debut collective disc in 2008, until now.
Their press material states that they’re like a family. Some members live together and they all work collaboratively while being supported by the collective on their solo projects. That dynamic of trust, loyalty and acceptance allows each artist to fly.
The three hour set started with DJs Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak who arrived early to spin warm-up music but the official set started with a spinning duet between Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak. Athletic and symbiotic, they were tight and fluid. It was hard not to dance.
Next, Lazerbeak stepped up to showcase three of his own more pop-focused songs, accompanied by Dessa on electric guitar, who lent support on back-up vocals. The crowd was pleased with this energetic and tuneful foray into another genre and Lazerbeak's self-effacing apologies for the pop detour were unnecessary.
The stage was over-lit with a cool blue and mirror-balls that were reminiscent of fireflies, while the side lights had the warm orange of campfires. The more mellow/melodic vibe of Lazerbeak's set, coupled with the great lighting, created the feel of a great outdoor party and transported the crowd to a warmer season.
Unfortunately, the sound was not as great. When Dessa first came in for harmonies on the vocals, she had trouble with her pitch, and it soon became clear that the lady couldn't hear herself. The mic blend between lead and backup was not where it needed to be for an optimal performance.
P.O.C tells it
For three solid hours the crew worked together to deliver an uninterupted, and varied set, showcasing each artist in turn. Mike Mictlan, Turbo Nemesis, and MK Lareda strengthened the group as a whole and being a good mixmaster like Lareda is often best evidenced in a live show by appearing as part of the background.
The whole night was impressive, with no real holes in the performances. Each rapper took the stage to strut in turn: Cecil Otter, Dessa, Sim and P.O.S. provided thought-provoking and intelligent rhymes alongside spot-on rhythms fueled by pedal-to-the-metal energy.
Otter's Rebel Yellow was expectedly beautiful. We were impressed by his clarity of speech. It's rare and exceptional for a rapper to have such crisp annunciation. His calm, yet charming demeanor with focused, precise intention made his message sharp.
Dessa's work makes heavy contributions as the collective's sultry songstress, but her rap creds are by no means slack. She engaged the audience with her no bull attitude - at one point telling us that she had a head cold and not an addiction. Her breath control was nothing short of impressive. Even on the trickiest lines, syllable for syllable, she spit through to her solo on the finale of Low Light Low Light. Dessa owned it. Once she took over the lead mic for her 'set', the pitch problems disappeared, proving that hearing was the problem at the beginning and not her singing. This spoken word artist who has a Masters in Philosophy, was a very welcome addition to the often male-focused genre.
Sim’s break neck rhythms impressed, while his words showed a sincere artist with a lot of heart and something meaingful to say.
Doomtree wouldn't be complete without P.O.S. Stefon Alexander’s talent is enormous and he has a joyful and grounded presence based on his love of emceeing.
P.O.S is as good live as he is recorded but his puckish sense of humour in live performance belies his punk rock roots .The aggressive energy of punk is all there though. At one point he shouted, "I rap, really loud, for a job, because I love rapping more than anything else in the world." For someone with occasionally grim rhymes, the man is a ball of positivity onstage. With proper management and some luck, you’ll be seeing P.O.S. in larger venues. He’s got the word "star" written all over him.
Doomtree's one of the most relevant new crews out there. Dessa is proving to be one of the strongest female emcee's today while P.O.S's 2009 album Never Better showed up on most of the top 10 of 2009 rap album lists.
Next time you see this crew, it probably won't be so easy to talk to them after the show as they’ll be in a larger venue with throngs of adoring fans clamoring to connect.
Or maybe you'll still be able to connect.
That midwestern politeness in action makes them approachable so you feel like you're in Disneyland when Mickey comes out for a photo. Except P.O.S. has better tats.