Totally Gross National Party at Icehouse, 9/28/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Totally Gross National Party 2013
With Marijuana Deathsquads, Lizzo, Moonstone Continuum, Digitata, Allan Kingdom, Pony Bwoy, and more
Icehouse, Minneapolis
Saturday, September 28, 2013

Totally Gross National Product's fourth annual fall party, held this past Saturday in and around Icehouse, was an eclectic, raucous, confusing good time. The label which City Pages recently called the best in the state is known for a wide range of boundary-pushing artists, and all made big efforts to turn this year's party into the biggest yet.

It was a somewhat dismal day weather-wise, but rain staved off making it just slightly chilly and grey. It was accompanied by the sounds of Tender Meat. A good starter point for figuring out the label's many angles, the mixture of ambient sounds, danceable 8-bit bloops, and raw minimal rhythms was a great introduction to the day. The stage set-up has improved since last year, with a built foundation just above the area's rock fountain to house bands, and two giant light screens flanked the performers with constantly changing displays. The crowd was still fairly light at this point in the day, with some confused Vertical Endeavors patrons walking through the courtyard to some increasingly gnarly noise. Ambient Inks had their live screenprinting set-up in the back, whipping up T-shirts fresh for paying customers who wanted some exclusive merch. 

The party hosted the return of Digitata, who called this their "legacy show." Their first show in four years sounded as though they'd never left. Tracks like "Weak Teeth" sounded gigantic, even as laid-back as their presentation and performance is. Lush with synths and weird electronic flourishes, all guided by the understated yet striking vocals from Maggie Morrison, the group sounded modern though they formed over a decade ago. It was very nice to see their return, and it reminded me where these artists would go in the time since they worked on this particular project. 
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
Throughout the day, the in-between-band filler music was as wide-ranging as the performers. At one moment you'd hear current rap from the likes of Earl Sweatshirt and Pusha T, then ambient drone, then assorted oldies from all over the map. It made it difficult to tell when Albert performed his hard-to-define noise music. The overlong vocal-only diatribe about deteriorating societies and post-apocalyptic STDs as prophesized by "Judas Priest song about oral sex at gunpoint [which] sold 2 million copies" which blasted over the speakers seemed like part of it. It certainly made some of the audience confused and uncomfortable, a trend which continued during the following set by Moonstone Continuum. 

As the six-piece Lunarian-prog-rockers-turned-lounge-lizards scrambled to find their "Chief Financial Officer" J. Michael Fellows, the performance had a off feel before a single note was even played. The generally groovy sound may have had its tongue way too far into its cheek, but the playfully ironic humor of aping '80s smooth jazz took some odd turns as Fellows began to act erratic. In between indecipherable rants, the singer would drink from the rock fountain and get into physical altercations with audience members in the front row. He leapt from the rock fountain and accosted the perpetrators hurling beer and ice at his crotch ("I guess the audience needs practice too, just like the band!"), as music continued. It made the mid-song mushroom-trip vibe seem staged. If the idea was avant-garde performance art, mission accomplished, I guess? As their last few songs abruptly veered into their former prog leanings, I came to like them better, but color me confounded about the set as a whole.

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