The rain couldn't stop the first annual Black Dog Block Party
Black Dog Block Party / Station 4 / July 8, 2007
Desdamona and Ill Chemistry / photo by James Dankert
Ain't this a bastard: finally, something big happens musically in Lowertown, and residents—along with assorted Twin Cities fans of free, great local music—are rewarded by getting a deluge of rain dumped on them. Shortly after Adamno Divine's opening set finished christening the first annual Black Dog Block Party—held outside downtown St. Paul's artist-friendly coffee shop, and booked to feature a who's who of local hip hop and indie-funk artists—word got out that the thunderstorm that was beating the crap out of Minneapolis was headed across the river, and the whole deal would have to be shut down.
Fortunately, there was a backup plan: as hostess Desdamona and beatbox/fast-rap virtuoso Carnage (aka Ill Chemistry) occupied Black Dog patrons with an impromptu rain delay performance (and called out a Minneapolis coffee shop—which shall not be named—for their anti-poetry policy, threatening to do a walk-through/drive-by reading just to spite them), equipment and musicians alike both hustled a few blocks up to Station 4, the closest (and possibly only) indoor venue that could reasonably host the proceedings.
The change in plans meant that Jelloslave had to be cut, though they have a make-up date planned at the Black Dog at some yet-undetermined point in the future. But most of the other announced groups made the trip okay, as did the crowd—which, between the punks, hippies, rastas, b-boys, b-girls, hipsters, demi-hipsters, Irish, Latin, and juggalos, skewed towards no particular trend except numerous.
But there's a serious difference between an outdoor block party and an indoor one, and with the venue divided cleanly between the 21+ bar and the all-ages music stage, the only thing that held universal under the same roof was the fact that there was not enough air conditioning. Thankfully, an auxiliary door was opened, which helped renew a bit of the lost block party vibe by letting the sound spill back out onto the street.
In the wake of Sarah White's recent departure for New York, Black Blondie's set could have felt a bit incomplete, but Samahra sounded just as strong flying solo as she did contributing harmonies, and even if the band didn't sound as immediate from the sidewalk, they still felt just about right. Ill Chemistry built on their Black Dog set with a series of between-set crowd-hype segments that could make a lot of locals' actual sets look dead-assed by comparison.
And then there was the one-two of Los Nativos and the Toki Wright-accompanied Brother Ali, concluding the weekend with more fist-waving anthems than most people could handle. Through the walls, it hit like a hammer, and if you were brave enough to wade into the humidity of the club it was damn near enough to knock you over. Ali's rousing renditions of Undisputed Truth tracks like "The Puzzle," "Truth Is," and "Listen Up" (the latter rapped over a hybridized beat that fused the Beastie Boys' "Root Down" to Run-DMC's "Peter Piper")—along with a couple earlier classics like "Dorian" and "Self Taught"—sounded tailor-made for tearing up stages, and it was a distinct moment of triumph when he fixed his eyes on the crowd from under his baby blue LL bucket Kangol and proclaimed: "not even the rain could stop us."