With children brought to center stage, Ipso Facto led a crowd through a performance of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” Sunday on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall.
The performance was part of the “Support at the Capitol” event, organized by Isaac Peterson and Pierre Glass of 10-K Kollective. Over a dozen local acts performed, including members of Doomtree, Dem Atlas, PaviElle, Desdamona, and Ipso Facto. Billed as all-ages and non-political, the free event drew a peak crowd of about 300 people, though attendance waxed and waned throughout the day.
Peterson said he began planning the event Thursday morning, days after the police shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. He said he was able to pull off the last-minute maneuver thanks to collaboration with city planners.
“It was a blessing how it turned out. We started this on Thursday and this is amazing,” Glass said.
Peterson and Glass said they plan to reach out to other cities and nearby states to see if they can host similar events in those areas soon.
“Hopefully we can do this more, because it’s needed all over the place,” Peterson said. “We just had people from every sector of the community.”
Speaking on stage, Peterson called the event “a good representation of every part of our community,” a description reiterated by several attendees. Many came with families, and said the event allowed a way for them to show support for those hurting and discuss current events with their kids.
“For us, it’s about black and brown lives. This affects us and it affects everyone,” said Rianon Sargent, 37, who came with her husband and 14-year-old daughter. She added that she thought the concert allowed more people a way to be with others and express support. “I-94 was scarier. This one is a little bit easier, especially for people with younger kids, to show support without putting them in a potentially dangerous situation,” she said.
Nearby, Peter Thompson, 31, sat in lawn chairs with his young son. “I’ve been following the news and this was a good way to get the kids out and have a conversation about what was going on,” he said. “It’s hard to explain the scope of what’s going on to the kids, but when events like this are put on, it gives us the opportunity to have those discussions more directly.”
Performers’ energetic deliveries throughout the day contrasted with a dreary backdrop: the Capitol renovations and a cloudy sky. When dancing wasn’t a must, attendees laid back in the grass or milled about for most of the concert.
Ryan Liestman’s Reggae Revival kicked off the afternoon with their original song “High on Love,” as attendees continued to fill in the lawn. The band also got the crowd swaying with covers of two Minnesota heroes: Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” and Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.”
Next, concertgoers snapped and thumped their chests in sync with Desdamona as she delivered “Siren Song” off of her latest album, “No Man’s Land.” The attentive audience then went completely silent as PaviElle delivered her powerful rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Her set also included Nina Simone’s arrangement of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” a song PaviElle said her grandmother used to sing to her.
“I don’t know what to say, but I know how I feel and I’m sure everyone feels the same,” PaviElle said to the crowd.
Attendees returned promptly from food truck breaks for a set by Doomtree, who said they “just came out here to spread positivity.”
The band quickly got the crowd moving for “No Way,” with even the tiniest of Doomtree fans bobbing their heads from parents’ shoulders.
After the band dominated the stage with “Final Boss,” P.O.S spoke to the crowd. “Man it’s been a miserable year. I don’t know how to make this better, but I do know how to rap,” he said.
He called for people of all races and all backgrounds to come together in efforts against racism. “You don’t have to be sorry for your entire race, you just have to be you and do the best you can. It’s gonna stay hard until it gets better,” he said.
Concertgoers grooved and swayed as Doomtree closed things out with “Get Down.” And with that, Doomtree were off. It was time for their next gig that evening.
J. Plaza and Sieed Brown, who helped organize the event, kept the party going afterwards for a few songs. DeM atlaS took the stage afterwards with “Dandelions” and “Wutabout,” during which he hopped onto the grass, devoting all his energy to his performance.
“I’m at a loss for words, and all I can offer is my voice and my music,” deM atlaS said.
During their set, Deeply Rooted Tribe called up two children, each donning a T-shirt that read “CAN WE LIVE.” Members danced with the children as they sang “Can I live? Cause I don’t want no poison on my eyelids.”
For artists less established in the local scene, the concert provided a new opportunity.
Performer Neko Deshawn said he flew in from California to his hometown of St. Paul after the news broke of Philando Castile’s death.
“Being that this is the city where I am from, I thought it would be the right thing to support this cause — and it’s fun,” he said. “It means everything to me, this is my first performance here in the city and being that we are at the Capitol, it couldn’t get any better than this.”
When they heard of the concert, Dramuzic and Tabbie Knawledge said they reached out to organizers so they could perform “Miss America,” a song they said touches on how “the system treats people as a whole.”
“It’s been inspiring to see local artists come together, even big acts like Doomtree and deM atlaS,” Dramuzic said.
Though much of the crowd had left by Ipso Facto’s 5:15 p.m. start time, the legendary reggae rock band treated a crowd of about 60 to plenty of jams and guitar slaying, drawing in new passersby.
During their cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” the band called up several children, as well as a state trooper, for backup vocals. The practice is not unique for the band, said bassist Juju McFarlane. He said he and his brother, frontman and guitarist Wain McFarlane, hear from musicians today who said their first time on stage was with the brothers.
The McFarlanes weighed in on recent events throughout their set, and praised the organizers for providing a peaceful, positive atmosphere. “We need to respect each other, even in protest,” Wain McFarlane said after the performance.
The band paused their last song, “Blackbird,” for Dafina Doty, mother of Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who has shown the love and support for my daughter, granddaughter and Philando,” Doty said to the audience. “Philando’s not mad, he’s not upset this happened to him. I believe in my heart he’s rejoicing because in his life he made a difference, but in his death he will make a change.”
Jackie Renzetti is a student at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. She is a projects editor at the Minnesota Daily and co-hosts Radio K’s “Off the Record.”