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Review: ‘All Hands’ on deck as Doomtree return to First Avenue

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One freezing night in December 2013, I stepped into the Triple Rock Social Club a casual Doomtree listener and left a faithful fan. It was Blowout IX, and that concert was enough to convert me—the band’s energy, eagerness, and acumen won me over in less than a couple of hours.

Last night, just over a year later, I made it back to a show (this time as an enthusiast), and I was still impressed with the way Doomtree manage to bring it onstage. The crew still pulls some of the same tricks out of their bag, creating absolute mania with P.O.S’s “Get Down” and the Doomtree single “Bangarang.” They brought on local vocalist Aby Wolf, as usual—she often lends the band her polished voice. Also, though, Doomtree added new material with crowd-friendly hooks. Although it’ll take time to feel comfortable with such dense new music, the group’s verses were as cutting as ever.

All Hands, Doomtree’s latest album (read Andrea Swensson’s review here), dropped Jan. 27; last night was their first Minnesota show since that date. On March 3, the second leg of Doomtree’s tour behind the album will open in Des Moines; last night, the group returned to their home town to play First Avenue before the break.

First, vibey, captivating sets by rapper Meta (also known as Metasota) and experimental duo Taggart and Rosewood opened up the show. Then, the Doomtree crew jumped up the stairs. “Gray Duck” kicked off the set, which wound through No Kings favorites, All Hands highlights, and plenty of the crew’s solo work.

“Final Boss” from All Hands (music video here) went over particularly well, the crowd rapping along with Sims, Dessa, P.O.S, and Mike as they bounced in a huddle, front and center. “Cabin Killer” is a blaring, unstoppable song that I’d guess many people went home listening to—though few knew the words, most seemed hooked and engaged in the song. Speaking of new music, Mictlan’s “Clapp’d” (off his recent mini-LP, Hella Frreal) and Sims’s “They Don’t Work For Us” (from September’s EP, Field Notes) both hit home last night with their dynamic music and themes of social justice.

In addition to the new material, old favorites like “Slow Burn” and “Low Light Low Life” surfaced; the older music served as a shout-out to veteran fans, and it also provided a way for the crew to mix up their set list and have fun. Dessa’s “Seamstress” (from 2010’s A Badly Broken Code) chilled the crowd; P.O.S resurrected “Terrorish” (from 2009’s Never Better) and loved it. Cecil Otter’s “Black Rose” and “Traveling Dunk Tank” (both from the album Rebel Yellow) feel like they’re woven into the fabric of Doomtree, since parts of those songs have made it onto crew projects in the past. They preach the ideology of wings and teeth, and Cecil, with the collective, performed them well last night.

As evidenced by crowd participation (tenacious) and the post-show chatter of new fans, Doomtree’s live performances still have the power to forge zealots out of audience members. The group’s albums, though brilliant, could be criticized for a couple reasons. For me, though the huge draw of their artistry lies in the energy, brightness, and passion of their performances. Listeners with any interest in live shows would be well-served to stop into a forthcoming concert and experience the joyful, uncompromising frenzy that is Doomtree.

Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include Korean food, poetry, and Angers, France.