Photos and Words by AJ Dent
Before the concert even began, I could feel the energy inside the Crocodile spilling out onto the streets of Seattle. Midwestern rappers in the birthplace of grunge on a hot Saturday night? I can’t think of a better venue in all the city for the intensity and intimacy that members of Doomtree always deliver. It’s no wonder that the show sold out.
As opener Aby Wolf began to croon, the already-slammed space inhaled sharply, with every person previously smoking and laughing outside suddenly rushing to get close. Wolf’s soul-baring voice seemed to almost shock the crowd with its richness, making us all simultaneously weak in the knees and whipcrack-ready for the entire evening. It was a treat to experience her bravado and vibrato twice, as she later joined Dessa’s set for quite the double whammy.
Following Wolf couldn’t have been easy, but Sims was all sizzle onstage. A perfect mix of swagger and silliness, he consistently made grins as big as his own break out across the audience. With his 2011 single, “Burn It Down,” the entire place was party central and kept begging for more.
More is exactly what they got when the powerhouse that is Dessa took over. As she and I both hail from Minnesota, I was extra excited to see her headline a packed house. Gone are the days when even my friends in the Twin Cities had hardly heard of her — and for good reason. Dropped on June 25th, her new album “Parts of Speech” slides with ease between pop-tinged ballads and her signature panache.
While the softer tunes scattered a few tender moments throughout the show, it was Dessa’s balls-to-the-wall rapping that marked the night like a branding iron. She read the atmosphere like a book, upping the ante with each lyric, drawing us more and more into the stories unfolding onstage. Talk about hanging on someone’s every word. She was breathing fire right in our faces, and when she jumped into the crowd, I felt the entire room swoon in the heat.
With great purpose, Dessa has proven her poetry slam prowess and hypnotizing jams worthy of national attention. So far, she’s still the sole woman in Minneapolis’ Doomtree collective, for crying out loud. And after all, she asks on her tune “Fighting Fish,” “If we all go round bowed heads, button-lipped — if none of us go for the bell, then who is?”