Minnesota winters are magical, if you look in the right places. Icehouse in Minneapolis is one of those hotspots – where late on a Saturday night, you can retreat inside, escaping frigid weather to be warmed by Minnesota sounds. Icehouse is an intimate venue, where friends sip cocktails over candlelit tables, excited for the live music to begin.
Pop/R&B artist Nyasia sits in the corner adjacent the stage, waiting for TASTE to begin. This event, she explains via email, was created to showcase Black artists: “I felt it was necessary to set my standard and intention for the beginning of the year, which is to create space and a platform for Black artists. I hope it’s the first of many so everyone can get a little taste of some great local talent.” This powerful intention pulled together an array of talented artists of color who also know the importance of creating a space in a world where we are told there is no place for us. The key ingredient here is love. Love for one another and love for community.
BE is the first performance of the evening. Their energetic sassy presence, which includes a hat toss off the stage and a “these hoops have to go” (tossing the earrings, too), is just the energy TASTE needs to start the party off right. You can hear the support in the audience while BE flips their long beautiful hair back and forth, pulling you in with their funky hypnotic beats. I’m all smiles after the set, eager to introduce myself and hand BE back their hat.
The next artist to bless the stage is Mayyadda. Her soulful voice fills every corner of Icehouse, grabbing the attention of everyone in the bar. This is perfect as she begins to interact with the audience, telling us her next song is a call and response. It’s easy – she warns, all you have to know is how to spell “Mississippi,” which is, honestly, the first word every Minnesotan learns to spell. As I look around, everyone is singing along, and the Minnesota love is off the charts in this room even as its snow threatens to bury us all.
Asia Divine sets up her laptop on stage. My hips immediately start moving when she drops the beat — I look around and confirm I am not the only one. Her chill beats and flow are staples of Midwest hip-hop, illustrated by artists such as local Destiny Roberts or Chicago’s Noname. On her last song, Asia Divine decides to turn off the music and take it a cappella. I tell her after the set how much I loved that she did that — Asia Divine tells me it was important to her that the crowd hear the words, words that encourage you to not to be afraid of expressing your true self. A message we all need to hear loud and clear.
Nyasia is the final act of the evening, her goth attire adding another new look to the stage, which has been filled with unique self-expression all night. With her band right beside her, Nyasia dances across the stage, singing to us with her smooth R&B vocals and just enough bop to keep the body rockin’. Her stage presence is warm and interactive, and you can tell she belongs in front of an audience. As Nyasia’s set wraps up, the people who have gathered on the dance floor beg her for more. She laughs, saying she wouldn’t do that to her keyboardist, who is “filling in for Gary,” and who I’m sure only practiced the songs on the set list. Props to Nyasia for leaving everyone wanting more.
TASTE lived up to its name, giving the occupants of Icehouse a taste of the talent, creativity and personality all these artists possess. Nyasia curated a show of all Black women/non-binary artists, and proved that this can and will work. The tables were full of supportive friends and live music connoisseurs, all ready and open for this new showcase of talent.
After the show, I sensed the excitement the performers had, itching for more space to collaborate, vibe out, and have down-to-earth connections. BE tells me they feel a sort of renaissance happening in the Twin Cities: a synergy of possibility, one they tell me is unique to Minnesota, one that I’m sure Prince felt here also. TASTE left me hopeful for more spaces like this one, whose focus is elevating voices that have historically and systematically been silenced. Between the connective nature of the internet, and in-person gatherings like TASTE, I feel the Twin Cities has just gotten a glimpse of the magic to come.
More photos by Awa Mally for MPR: