Local Current Blog

Review: Dark pop, punk, and hip-hop made P.O.S’s TBFSE epic

P.O.S performs at TFBSE 2015. All photos by Emmet Kowler for MPR.

Saturday night in Northeast Minneapolis, P.O.S’s F—ing Best Show Ever (TFBSE) illuminated the Minneapolis music scene. Set on Harrison Street next to Familia Skateshop headquarters in Northeast Minneapolis, TFBSE offered eight sets of music, a community-building experience, and a lot of casual musician sightings—I spotted Lazerbeak, Lizzo, and Caroline Smith.

First, Ander Other (the “eighth member of Doomtree”) and TIIIIIIIIIIP (who DJs for Allan Kingdom and thestand4rd) played music for those who arrived early. Impromptu dance lines broke out on the pavement, soundtracked by past and present hip-hop jams.

The first live band, Denitia and Sene, were two of the coolest artists I’ve seen in a long time. They combined minimal beats and dark synths with a mix of processed and smooth vocals, and when female vocalist Denitia met my eyes, I got a serious jolt of star power. The duo may be an acquired taste for new listeners, but airy gem “The Fan” should help the get-to-know-you flow, judging from the leisurely nods and dancing it inspired at TFBSE. Expect the Brooklyn duo to continue getting bigger.

Saba, a West Side Chicagoan now spending time in Minneapolis, overcame minor technical issues to make a good first impression on many. To over-aggressive hyping from DJ Damage, the 20-year-old rapped and half-walked, half-lunged across the stage, his arms and dreads flailing. The performance played best when it felt like spoken word—for example, when lines from “Westside Bound” (from Saba’s 2014 mixtape ComfortZone) exploded out of his body unaccompanied by music and sparked spontaneous cheers. His spoken-word strength comes as no surprise, given that Saba grew up on open mics.

Next, experimental mega-group Marijuana Deathsquads (MDS) left the audience slack-jawed. Six band members surrounded a set-up of tables among the most cords and electronics I’ve ever seen on a stage; on either side, a drummer flanked the crew. Throughout the set, clamor slammed from the stage to the crowd. I was close enough to smell Ryan Olson’s cigarette smoke, and I saw spit fall from an Isaac Gale scream, but I never got used to the massive noise session that MDS produced. Its members shaped a warped set that featured intense percussion and heart-pounding distortion.

Definitely the most punk group of the night, ho99o9 (pronounced “horror”) assaulted the crowd through a pair of extra Marshall speakers, their volume set (literally) to 10. The band took little time to deafen ears, minds, and inhibitions; after members theOGM and Eaddy joined touring drummer Ian Longwell on stage, they collectively bit into a grotesque set and spat it right out. Mosh pits exploded amid yells and unintelligible lyrics.

TheOGM stripped from his blood-stained, spider-insignia’d wedding dress down to a pair of shorts—he often had goosebumps while looming over the crowd, but when he wasn’t at the front of the stage, he crouched under a soundboard and loomed. Eaddy hopped the barrier and flailed with the crowd for a few moments, still yelling into his microphone as he collided with others and doubled over. Other key moments: when beer cans and eyeglasses went flying from the pit; when Longwell spat Pabst Blue Ribbon into the others’ mouths and then all over them; and when Eaddy used the mic to pantomine shooting the crowd and photographers. Innovative and disturbing, ho99o9 actually scared the hell out of me.

The set that Psymun (a member of Rock the Garden 2015 band thestand4rd) played seemed to be cut for time—he wrapped up just after an employee motioned to him from offstage, which happened to be two minutes after Big Freedia and crew had shown up backstage. It all worked out, though; the solo DJ set lasted fifteen minutes, serving as a breather for the crowd as the sun slowly set behind a cover of boundless clouds. “Thanks for doing that, man,” said P.O.S from the photography pit just afterward.

Once Big Freedia (pronouced “FREE-da”) hit the stage, the Queen of Bounce and her back-up dancers the Divas took the energy way up. Looped vocal tracks, spectacular dance moves, and lots of twerking ruled the stage throughout all of Freedia’s hits—for example, “Excuse,” “Y’all Get Back Now,” and “Gin In My System.” During “Azz Everywhere,” Lizzo and almost a dozen other artists joined the show and wobbled their bodies while Freedia chanted the song’s title. After the set ended, some in the crowd didn’t know what they had just seen. Others were quite sure; as a guy standing next to me explained, “That was 45 minutes of idolizing ass.”

Then: P.O.S himself. Starting with “Drumroll (We’re All Thirsty),” Stef Alexander hugged the jagged edges of his catalog, performing punk-inspired songs like “Bumper,” “All Of It,” and “Terrorish.” A few times, he stood against the metal gates at the front and rapped right into the crowd, once encouraging audience members to “scream” into the microphone. The main exception from punk? “Get Down” featuring Mike Mictlan, which drives its maddeningly bouncy beat into an audience’s skulls.

Between blistering rhymes and Mictlan assists, P.O.S wanted to “take a minute for some real s–t” and shouted out Familia for being “the best skateshop in Minneapolis” as well as a good place for “the youth” to be. Familia owner Steve Nesser read a document from Mayor Betsy Hodges that declared June 13, 2015 to be Familia Day in the city of Minneapolis.

In addition to his published music, P.O.S debuted two new songs: one that mentioned Alexander’s kidney problems and the Black Lives Matter movement, plus another with the line, “We are made of exploded stars.” At first, the crowd stayed quiet to try to catch the words, but they were already singing along with the second one by the end.

Due to Minneapolis sound ordinances—the very same ones that limited amplified music at Northern Spark that night—P.O.S’s set needed to end at 10:00. However, it didn’t. After he tried to say goodbye with, “I know it’s weird to leave you on a super long, mid-tempo new song, but that’s what the f–k we’re going to do,” cries of “One more song!” got him to think again. Before playing “Let It Rattle” from 2009’s Never Better, he just asked that “nobody call the cops.” TFBSE officially finished at 10:15.

As people started filing out, I ran into the very kind Lydia Hoglund, also known as Lydia Liza, multi-talented singer and member of Bomba de Luz. (Back in 2012, she gave Andrea Swensson the scoop on collaborating with P.O.S.) After a minute of chatting, I asked what Hoglund thought of the show. She couldn’t say enough, sharing that she’s “super proud of Stef” and turning the question back to me.

Without having to think, I answered her with a smile. “I totally agree.”

Denitia and Sene










Marijuana Deathsquads














Big Freedia















Writer Cecilia Johnson is studying English and Spanish at Hamline University. Her favorite things include sashimi, Shakira, and bookshelves. Photographer Emmet Kowler is a student at the University of Minnesota—Morris.