Coming off their explosive First Avenue show last Wednesday, local hip-hop group Doomtree have a lot to look forward to. Starting March 5, the crew (minus Lazerbeak) play 11 shows around the western U.S.; then, Dessa criss-crosses the other side of the country with Welcome to Night Vale. The band will be in Denmark for the annual Roskilde Festival, and they’re also on Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner’s recently announced Eaux Claires Festival line-up. First, though, they’re headed to Texas’s biggest film/interactive/music festival: South by Southwest, the music portion of which takes place from March 17-22. Among other artists from Minnesota, they’re hoping to delight old fans and, of course, draw new ones.
Three hours before that sold-out show at First Ave, I slipped into the Mainroom and sat down with four members of Doomtree. Sims, Lazerbeak, Paper Tiger, and Dessa showed me into the green room, where leather chairs and chilly air awaited us; on the counter were sandwich supplies and, of course, a bottle of Jameson (the latter of which appeared onstage during the show that night). As we settled in, I asked the crew about this year’s SXSW.
The scoop: Karma Lounge is hosting Doomtree’s second official label showcase on Thursday, March 19 at 8:00 PM. The details: Doomtree will perform first as a group. Then, crew members will take turns playing individually before reuniting for a final set. This marathon concert isn’t all the band is up to, though—in true crew fashion, they’ll also pick up interviews, in-studio performances, and other gigs during the hectic few days of the festival. Sims and Mike are coming off recent releases (Field Notes and HELLA FRREAL, respectively), so they’ll play “day parties,” which are unofficial performances from artists drawn by the festival’s magnet.
Dessa’s second-favorite city in the country, Austin hosts a “massive car crash” of events every year. “Everything becomes a venue,” says Lazerbeak, and Dessa adds that “anywhere you can put a PA is now a club.” They laugh about it, but really, the city is so packed that they’re glad to have a pair of hotel rooms reserved to sleep in. After last time’s RV adventure, when they were parked on a slope for most of the festival, they’ll appreciate all the comfort they can get.
Speaking of changes from the past, artists’ focus at SXSW has generally evolved, Dessa said, from “looking for a deal” to “looking to play in front of some great press people…and talent buyers, so that your next year of touring might have some great, high-profile gigs in it.” She used the phrase “industry gathering,” which felt like a great way to describe an occasion with so many different musically-interested people making pilgrimages to the same city.
As Sims got up to make a sandwich, I asked if they’re looking forward to any other shows during SXSW, or whether or not they’ll even have time to check them out. Dessa and Lazerbeak grimaced, because they’ve already mourned the fact that they’re just too busy; Paper Tiger made an intricate schedule the first time they went down, but disillusionment took hold as he ended up missing every show. They do have rare moments to enjoy others’ music—Sims couldn’t miss Kid Cudi in 2013, and he also got to catch Big Freedia live (still a fan a couple years later, he name-checks the bounce artist in All Hands‘s “Cabin Killer”). On the whole, though, Doomtree tries to focus on what it has going on.
And that’s a lot. Look for more tour and festival announcements soon—the band has so many plans in the works that they spent a lot of the interview checking with each other on what they could share with me. (Spoilers: more Europe is definitely involved.) They emphasized their webpage Doomtree.net, the group’s various Twitter accounts, and the Doomtree Instagram as the best places to get hooked up with news as it comes. But for now, they’re excited about the next few months. If the SXSW showcase is anything like their last Minneapolis show, Texas won’t want to miss it.
It’s just been announced that Mike Mictlan will also participate in First Avenue’s Midwest Showcase day party at SXSW—along with Prof, Hippo Campus, Lili K, the Sharrows, Ggoolldd, DeM atlaS, Xoe Wise, the Traveling Suitcase, J. Fernandez, Trapper Schoepp, the O’My’s, We Are the Willows, and the winner of Friday’s Are You Local? contest at First Ave.
Here’s the complete list of Minnesota artists playing official showcases at SXSW, with links to details on the SXSW site.
If you are, or know of, another Minnesota artist who’s playing a SXSW-associated show, please let us know by leaving a comment below.
Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include Korean food, poetry, and Angers, France. Selena Carlson also contributed reporting to this post.