GRRRL PRTY Residency Finale at Icehouse, 1/10/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Nick Kozel

GRRRL PRTY with special guests
Hosted by Dessa
Icehouse, Minneapolis
Friday, January 10, 2014

A year ago, GRRRL PRTY was a complete unknown for most fans -- they played their first show together back in July. Since then, they've become fixtures of Twin Cities hip-hop scene without even releasing an album, in part through their residency at Icehouse, during which they've showcased other talented acts like BdotCroc and Psalm One.

After GRRRL PRTY ran through "Top Floor," a celebration of unapologetic ambition with the hook "99 problems but a dick ain't one," Manchita moved to the front of the stage for one of the few somber moment of a raucous night. The spitfire MC told us how one year ago she lost everything in a house fire, including her cat.

See also: Slideshow: GRRRL PRTY at Icehouse, 1/10/14

"GRRRL PRTY changed my life," she said, wiping away tears. After hugs from her bandmates, she introduced "Ashes," a song inspired by the experience, and unleashed an absolute banger about power and rebirth over the destructive trap of TNGHT's "Goooo." One verse closed with "You can keep me out your boy's club, in it's final hour / But name one empire that ever kept their power."

Photos by Nick Kozel

What is GRRRL PRTY? According to Lizzo in a recent interview, "GRRRL PRTY is so fun, and so hip-hop, and fulfills so much of my N.W.A. tendencies." And according the sold-out crowd on Friday, they brought it. The group consists of Lizzo and Sophia Eris of the Chalice, along with Manchita, and they were backed up by DJ Shannon Blowtorch.

Previous residencies had split the bill between a few acts, but this finale was supported entirely by GRRRL PRTY themselves. It was also the first to entirely sell-out in pre-sale, and the venue was packed, making it all the more obvious that the Icehouse isn't so much a venue as it is a restaurant with a stage -- with good acoustics. Host Dessa introduced, charming as always, promising "more vowels, fewer consonants and broader gestures as the evening goes on."

After a short Shannon Blowtorch DJ set featuring local dancers Natty and Mona Lisa, GRRRL PRTY took the stage to Beyoncé's "Diva." Successfully covering Beyoncé is as much about presence as it is musical ability, and Lizzo has as much of both of those as anyone. I can't think of many other artists who could successfully open a show with Queen Bey karaoke. From the beginning, GRRRL PRTY was loose like they owned the place without delving into sloppiness, creating the vibe of a great house party without losing any of their stature or considerable gravitas. 

Not that it was just good vibes and stage presence -- the PRTY was backed up by considerable skills, which were shown in earnest during the first few songs. On Lizzobangers' "WERK," Lizzo proved that she could spit better while twerking than most rappers can on a record. Sophia Eris showed off her verbal dexterity over "N---- in Paris," using not only speed but smoothness and melody. "Learn the Name" brought out full ferocity of Manchita who managed to be appropriately menacing without taking herself too seriously.

Though everyone in the group is crazy talented, Lizzo stands on her own, both in her various group efforts and increasingly in the Twin Cities as a whole. "Wegula," if you had to pick just one, was the peak of her impact on this show. Most technically skilled rappers dial it back live, at least a little -- a dropped word here or there, holding back on the chorus, simplifying their stage presence to save needed energy. It's not phoning it in; it's just being a human. Lizzo seemed somehow immune to all that. She would finish a verse with three different cadences, convey 16 bars of style in a half-second stare, and completely work the chorus. She combined Southern speed and cleverness with high impact delivery, calling to mind Big Boi, and adds a bit of the sublime weirdness of Missy Elliott. Similarly live performances from Sophia and Manchita did justice to the group's biggest hit.

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