Saturday night saw First Ave welcome a who’s who of contemporary Minnesota music: Velvet Negroni, Dizzy Fae, Ness Nite, Iron Boy, Marijuana Deathsquads, and Hippo Campus. All these acts and more took the Mainroom stage as part of of Andrew Broder’s “Don’t F— This Up” benefit show. Proceeds from the event were donated to Voices for Racial Justice, the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition, the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Sunrise Movement, Appetite for Change, and Honor the Earth.
The evening started out with a ten-minute set drone set that showcased the brutally beautiful vocals of Aida Shahghasemi. Next up was the pop R&B artist FPA and indigenous drum group Iron Boy, the latter showcasing Ojibwe MC Thomas X, who rapped in both English and Anishinaabowin. Velvet Negroni closed out the first slate of performers with a quick set. He later explained that some of his equipment malfunctioned, preventing him from playing some of his hits like “KURT KOBAIN.”
The second section of the performances was kicked off by a brief Andrew Broder speech documentary about the Line 3 pipeline and its impact on indigenous and low-income communities. Immediately after this, Alan Sparhawk performed a short, gorgeous set on his guitar.
Rapper/producer Ness Nite and electro R&B whiz Dizzy Fae put on two of the strongest performances of the night: Nite’s precise production and Fae’s electric stage presence were incredibly well-received by the crowd. During Nite’s set, several people shouted “we love you!” at the 22-year-old singer who describes their sound as “braless music.”
After Dizzy Fae left the stage, Marijuana Deathsquads fired up not one, not two, but three drummers. A single, slim tapestry hung in front of the band displaying trippy projections, slightly obscuring the faces of Andrew Broder, Velvet Negroni, Ryan Olson, and the rest of the band.
Hippo Campus were the last band of the night, showcasing the jangly, jazzy pop sound that’s helped them become the biggest rock band to emerge from Minnesota in the past decade. Dance group New Black City closed out the night with a party, capping an exhaustive list of talent.
Broder, who has put together several benefit residencies in recent years, said that this particular event was meant as a deliberate response to the political climate. “We’re a community of artists trying to be a force for justice because our leaders have failed us,” Broder said. “It’s the kind of show I want to see and one that will bring a crowd, but it’s also about raising awareness about how policy impacts real people’s lives. It’s about social justice, racial justice, and ecological justice converging into one force.”