Astronautalis at the Triple Rock, 10/3/11
Andy Bothwell probably wakes up and breathes enigma. The talented rapper, known as Astronautalis, is two weeks into his six-week fall tour, which comes hot on the heels of the release of his fourth full-length album, This Is Our Science. This recent release is a stunning 11-track collection, where Astronautalis boldly reaches into different genres for a sound that, while housed solidly in the hip-hop genre, loses no merit when recognized as a contribution to blues, electronica, and more. At the Triple Rock last night, the beaming Astronautalis put on the kind of show that proves all of that to fans who already knew as much, and gave new fans the opportunity to become full-fledged believers.
Astronautalis is a recent Minneapolis transplant (via Florida, then Seattle), and a devout one at that, pausing at various moments throughout the evening to survey the crowd and appreciate the mass turnout.
"I can't believe all the fucking people here," he said breathlessly at one point. "I've lived a lot of places and never said this to any one of them: I've never felt more at home in any place."
Lots of artists claim to have a soft spot for our fair city, but few of them actually decide to move here--and few of them seem to share Astronautalis' absolute conviction about it. But then again, conviction is something the young artist is certainly not running short on. The middle of "Trouble Hunters" found Astronautalis center floor in the middle of the pit, on his proverbial pulpit as he talked about his pride in the Occupy Wall Street movement and encouraging the crowd to take charge on their own: "When November comes around, I don't care if you're occupying Wall Street or you're occupying your own fucking couch, I want you to get put there and occupy a fucking voting booth."
For an hour that seemed all too brief, Astronautalis lead the eager crowd through a large portion of his new material and some old, reaffirming his talent for writing songs that, lyrically, draw as much on the rappers' own experiences as they do on his indisputable gift for storytelling. Every song is heavy with imagery and history, personal or not, and Astronautalis works his craft like a modern mythopoet. "Dimitri Mendeleev" is desolate, subtly not-so-subtly political, while "Holy Water" reads like a rough cut from the wrong side of the tracks, and "Secrets On Our Lips" is an earnest pop-rap ballad. Indeed, This Is Our Science is an album that could be criticized for its lack of cohesion--except, of course, for the fact that it is entirely cohesive, because the links are all there: Astronautalis, with his dirt road-vocals and fearless wordsmithing, knows exactly what he is doing.
Photos by Meredith Westin
On stage, Astronautalis is magnetic. He's a skinny kid who looks like he should be in a J. Crew catalog, but it doesn't take half a minute before he's won over the audience with the force of his passion for what he does. If his songwriting wasn't enough, his performing certainly is, because Astronautalis bears it all for his audience, sweat, blood, guts--nothing is spared, no energy untapped, from freestyling (which he did, halfway through the show, based on crowd sourced topics) to expressing his gratitude to throwing back whiskey. Good thing--because we wouldn't have him any other way.
Critic's bias: Pomegranate won me over three years ago.
The crowd: Packed, sprinkled with local talent, and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Overheard in the crowd: "God, he's awesome. Shame he's so ugly," said one of my friends jokingly.
Random notebook dump: Second openers Votel were also very well received. If the Amazon had a soundtrack, I'm pretty sure it would be this band, with the smooth, internal electronica and Maggie Morrison's surly sexiness.
Photos by Meredith Westin