Welcome To MN Tour with Atmosphere, 2/17/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson
Welcome To Minnesota Tour 2014
with Atmosphere, Toki Wright and Big Cats, No Bird Sing, and Dem Atlas
First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis
Monday, February 17, 2014

The fourth annual Welcome to Minnesota tour once again found Atmosphere bringing a range of local rap acts around the state with him, finishing last night with a triumphant sold out show at First Avenue. An impressive night of music from front to back, the mini-tour's line-up was well-chosen and showcased the different kinds of quality rap music coming from Minnesota.

See Also: Slideshow: Welcome to MN at First Avenue, 2/17/14

Jimmy 2 Times of Get Cryphy spun throughout the night and worked through tracks as variant as M.O.P., Le1f, TNGHT, and Future, and used Pusha T's "Numbers On the Board" as a cue to introduce Dem Atlas, at the rapper's special request. As his DJ spun some garbled Charlie Brown samples, the recent Rhymesayers signee leaped out from the side of the stage with a passionate hunger and a baseball bat in hand. A very physical performer, deM atlaS brought a tempered aggression to material off his Charle Brwn EP and owned the stage like a seasoned performer.

Lydia Liza of Bomba de Luz joined him for their joyful collaboration "Who Loves the Snow," and later beatboxer Bloomer backed him up for the latter half of "Lucille" (appropriately enough during the track's "La Di Da Di" reference). Ending on the huge "Watabout," deM atlaS jumped into the crowd to give his very last breaths to the singalong chorus, and the impression his set left should prove to everyone how he caught the attention of Rhymesayers in the first place.
Photos by Tony Nelson
No Bird Sing hit the stage after a brief intermission and added a dark tinge to the night's energy, with heavy lyrical material from Joe Horton over the live guitar and drums of the band. Horton keeps his rap patterns tight but his content deep and difficult, and the backing music gives the songs a haunting accent. Aby Wolf came to the stage for "Apogee" off the group's recent Definition Sickness, their latest album since signing to Strange Famous Records, and the vocal textures added an off-kilter depth to the band's work. The contrast from Dem Atlas's set gave the night a nice nuance and the crowd showed an appreciation of the stylistic diversity.

The immediate bass hit from Toki Wright and Big Cats introductory song was gigantic. Like many of the songs the pair have crafted and gradually made public through recent performances, it moved and meandered into unexpected directions that highlighted Toki's poignant flow and songwriting ability. It's some of his most honest and stark material yet, bolstered by Eric Mayson's lush keys and Lydia Liza's deep vocals. Toki is not one to let mellow-leaning material stop him from encouraging the audience to turn up, and galavanting around the stage, in the audience, and atop speaker systems added an entertaining physicality to his lyrical focus.

Photo by Tony Nelson
His closing number added a backing dancer to the mix, and Lydia's big vocal performance got a huge response just before the crew left the stage. Toki is forever taking grand strides forward in his music, and the years he's put into perfecting his live act have manifested into one of his best incarnations to date.

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