Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Dessa brings a new energy to First Avenue

Dessa onstage at First Avenue, 2018. (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

I’ve been a fan of Dessa’s since I saw her at Rock the Garden in 2014. When I saw her perform for the first time I was blown away by her presence on stage and how dynamic she was. Fast-forward to 2018 and Dessa continues to evolve as an artist and bring fans of all kind together.

Dessa just released her fourth album, Chime. The album takes new leaps with shorter songs like “Shrimp” and pop songs like “Half of You.” When I got to First Ave last night, my first thought was “doors must not be open yet,” because the lines were wrapping around the venue. The doors were open — but there were just that many people coming out to support Dessa.

Her set was energetic in the way her shows usually are, but the addition of a new backing band brought a new energy. Dessa’s backing band consists of Kara Laudon and the guys from the Chicago band MONAKR. The whole band seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, throwing glances and smiling at each other.

Her set began with the first song from Chime, “Ride.” Dessa stood there in a silver windbreaker with the hood up as the projector screen revealed a simple stage set with a few filament light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling. The already loud crowd erupted the second they saw her. You could really feel the hometown love.

She played songs off the newest album, as well as old favorites like “Dixon’s Girl” and “Seamstress.” At one point Dessa even started to sing the National Anthem, saying “without the f—ing eagle I can sing that song.”

Dessa left the stage the first time after singing “5 out of 6.” The crowd cheered and Dessa came out for an encore where she sang “Fighting Fish.” For an encore, Dessa sang “Shrimp” with the help of a fan and ended the night with “The Chaconne.” If the crowd could have it their way they’d have had a fourth encore.

The night was made better by the openers. First up were Dwynell Roland and LOTT. The combination of rap, singing, and violin was entrancing. The pair was put together by Dessa a little over two weeks ago to try out a short set for this show.

Then MONAKR hit the stage with an incredible amount of energy. The band’s pop sound mixed with some electronic components and Matthew Santos voice made for a set that had people dancing from the first note. Frontman Matthew Santos, who is from Minneapolis, said he’s known Dessa for 12 years since they collaborated on “The Chaconne” (A Badly Broken Code), which really made the show come full circle since they closed with that very song.

Dessa setlist
Good Grief
Dixon’s Girl
Jump Rope
Boy Crazy
Dear Marie
Call off your Ghost
Half of You
Fire Drills
Skeleton Key
5 out of 6
Fighting Fish
The Chaconne