Soundset ’09. A weekend for the ages. From the collective hundreds of dollars we spent at Town Hall brewery the night before the show all the way to eating Culvers the day after with Sage Francis, Soundset was everything it promised to be. I came for the Doom and I got it (surprisingly), I lost count of the number of Atmosphere shirts I saw (god only knows what ticket sales would be like without them), I chilled backstage with some of the greatest in the game for two hours (sometimes I get lucky). I’m here now to share these moments with you through the pictures I gathered. Check for part 2 (videos) tomorrow!
The mainstage at Soundset saw some ridiculous talent all day. For the second year in a row hometown demi-gods Atmosphere headlined it all, but I’m willing to argue that some of the lesser acts where much much better. Let’s start with I Self Devine. Not a terrible opening act at all. His message about what going on in Minneapolis was great: Poverty growing horizontal instead of vertical. That’s important and all, but his stage presence fell a bit short. Look for big things on album though in the future.
Next we have Blueprint, the man maybe more well known for his work as the rhyming half of Soul Position. For being stuck way too low on the setlist, Blueprint made sure he left the crowd surprised. His presence on stage was unreal, he had a way of making it look so easy, standing in place with a backpack on for a while, Blue seemed like he was merely talking. It was beautiful, and I think the crowd definitely had the same reaction, especially when he closed with “Drugs, Sex, Alcohol, Rock ‘N Roll.”
The trio of Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, and Myka 9 were next up on the beyond beautiful day at Canterbury Downs. I was really unfamiliar with all three, except for a Aceyalone track that was on a video game a few years ago, ha. They were all full of energy and seemed really excited to be on the main stage, but I felt like their music, and especially Myka 9 were not so hot. I have to say that I would have much rather seen Cunninlynguists or Blue Scholars in their spot, but nothing is perfect I suppose. Let’s keep going though….
Now the real talent began raining down. Eyedea & Abilities took the stage after those three left, and the crowd finally started to get into it. Thanks to Eyedea’s awesome persona and DJ Abilities stellar work on the tables, the show finally had the energy to match the hype. Abilities might really stole the show actually, with his 6 or 7 minute exhibit to all wanna-be DJs out there. The group is set to release their first album in 5 years next month and they played a few very good cuts off of it. A good start to a long day, for sure.
Immortal Technique. I feel like if I write anything bad about this guy that he’ll personally seek me out and do terrible things to my health. SO I’ll talk about some of the better things instead. The guys spits absolute fire, both lyrically and emotionally. The rants between songs and at the end of his set was both overly powerful and inspiring. Apparently he wants all of you to illegally download his albums, so thats cool I guess. He has a flow that matches a lot of what he brings to his records, aggression and precision, a deadly combination. Probably the most vocal off the cut of any artist there, maybe a good thing maybe a bad thing. Good stuff though.
We’re just heating up folks….
One of the biggest names on Rhymesayers lately has been P.O.S. His work with Doomtree and on his solo album is stellar, not to mention is punk band as well. He took to the stage as the first truly recognizable face to probably a majority of the crowd, initiating a spirit from the crowd that had yet to be seen. Armed with more than a DJ, POS rocked the guitar and MPC as well as the mic. It was awesome to see him interact with the crowd and give newer fans of Rhymesayers a chance to enjoy some of their best talent. Playing “Low Light Low Life” with a full cast was one of the best tracks all day at Soundset, and the only chance that a girl got to rock the mic on the main stage.
A little guy by the name of Sage Francis took to the stage next, note the pun, looking even more out of place than 20,000 white kids at a hip-hop festival, Sage dominated the crowd thanks to antics with buddy and partner in crime B. Dolan. The two brought some much needed respect from the east coast, specifically the booming Rhode Island scene, note the sarcasm. But his set absolutely rocked, Sage seemed like one of the few performers to actually enjoy himself up there, and the guys was super personable when I Got to chat with him backstage (more on that later).
Good to see Def Jux getting some love on the main stage again this year, El-P, the king of New York independent hip-hop thrashed his way through some of his best material on I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and Fantastic Damage as well. Highlighted by “Tasmanian Pain Coaster” at the start, El-P seemed intent on blowing the crowd away with pure sound. His set was far and away the loudest of any artist, and the compliment of Mr. Dibbs on the decks was a sight beyond belief. Check for more on that tomorrow, including Mr. Dibb‘s entire 8 minute freestyle on the decks.
The most “mainstream” artists there was quite possibly Freeway, complimented equally by Jake One on the 1s and 2s. It’s safe to say that this set was the best good surprise of the day. Freeway’s style and flow was exponentially better than I thought it was going to be, exciting me for the entire Freeway and Jake One album coming out this summer called The Stimulus Package. All that could have been improved was if Jake One did some amazing DJ freestyle like we all know he could, but oh well.
Doom came next… or was suppose to at least. We got Brother Ali instead.
Not a bad trade I guess, but still, what the fuck Super Villain? The show must go on, and Brother Ali took over in the clutch. It was an amazing moment when the crowd started chanting “The truth is here, the truth is here” right before he came on, and Ali really seemed to fee off that intro. He had the biggest grin on his face nearly the entire set, playing tons of new and old stuff, but every track was one to sing along to. His set seemed the most polished vocally, Ali spit with such confidence and precision that it was jaw dropping and yet extremely upbeat. The essence of Minneapolis hip-hop, Brother Ali dominated a crowd antsy for what they didn’t see and anxious for the next Rhymesayers king to take the mic.
And then it happened… The moment We’ve (I’d) been waiting for… The MF Doom show pulled into town…
The man’s more of a show now than he is a straight performer, but it was still awesome to see him actually perform live. After the imposter Doom (side) that is, ha. Playing the classic “Hoe Cakes” to a crowd that seemed almost fed up with the antics and the hype. But I was loving it, and it was at this point I made my break for it, for the big times, for backstage. Jumped the fence, took some video (check tomorrow for it), took some photos, and just bee lined straight for the other side of the stage. Amongst some of my heros I sought out Doom’s van that he just minutes ago rode in on. And there he was, the Villain, DOOM, MF Doom, Metal Fingers, Viktor Vaughn, you know the list goes on. So I snapped a great picture and sat down next to the legend. I hardly remember what I said, I think I just thanked him over and over, ha. Doom was well worth the wait, some people obviously weren’t fans, but I thought he was worth every verse of hype.
I was a bit skeptical of The Pharcyde in the 2 spot, but the newly reunited group of 4 MCs took to the stage with a fury and confidence not seen in years. Performing a playful set that featured the awesome “Passing Me By” and even a cover of “My Prerogative”, The Pharcyde definitely got and kept my attention their entire set. They even played the Gorillaz “Dirty Harry” for the part when Romye Robinson could come in and absolutely tear up the mic. That track put the biggest smile on my face I had nearly all day.
But the Night was closing in… and we all knew what that meant…
16 year old girls singing about hangovers and ugliness. Atmosphere. It’s year two for these guys as headliners, and it’s year two that the entire state seemed to go nuts for Minneapolis icons Slug and Ant. Backed by their full band, Atmosphere demanded every person’s attention as the sun fell behind the distant bluffs. From “God Loves Ugly” to the more recent Life Gives You Lemons material, their set was one that the crowd eager with anticipation all day was beyond ready to jam to. It was a safer bet to put money on them closing with “Sunshine” than it was to bet any horse at Canterbury all weekend, so their set was a little disappointing in a way too. I think I was just disgusted by the four suburban hispter/scenester/god awfully annoying girls in neon singing along as they walked out of the park. Atmosphere is on an entirely different level. Their fame, their popularity, their draw is so far beyond everyone at Soundset. It’s amazing to see and hear the crowd as they took the stage. As much as we might come to hate them after a while, Minneapolis hip-hop, Rhymesayers, and Soundset would cease to exist beyond half-baked ideas without them.
MORE PICTURES HERE!
So there it is, a lengthy recap of Soundset ’09. Sorry if you missed it, and hope you loved it if you were there. I’ve got Part 2 (videos) coming tomorrow, but until then… ENJOY!