When Doomtree, the seven-member Twin Cities hip-hop collective, recorded their 2005 “No Homeowners” track, their declaration of going from the “bottom of the bottle to the top of the throne” was more ambition than reality. But over the years the group’s popularity has grown steadily, going from playing punk houses to selling out First Avenue—an achievement of a lifetime for many local artists looking to make it big.
The annual Doomtree Blowout celebrated the achievements of the group as well as its individual members who were working on solo projects, by getting all seven on the same stage to share a collective spotlight. Over the years the Blowout grew from a single night to three. Last December, they threw Blowout X, a weeklong party that included everything from an intimate club gig to the band getting its own Surly beer. But Blowout X, they said, was the end of the run. The annual show was getting too crazy—it was time for a new direction.
Enter Doomtree Zoo, a daylong outdoor concert featuring a music line-up curated by Doomtree.
This Saturday, October 3 starting at 2pm, Doomtree will welcome Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic, Trash Talk, Shabazz Palaces, Open Mike Eagle, Serengeti, Aby Wolf, Koo Koo Kango Roo, and Anonymous Choir, to the stage at CHS Field in Lowertown St. Paul. Face painting by day, ruckus by night, and some In the Heart of the Beast Theatre puppetry in the middle—this will be a daylong party.
Musician-curated festivals are cropping up across the Midwest. Festivals like Rhymesayers’ Soundset Festival, Trampled By Turtles’ Festival Palomino, and Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner’s Eaux Claires Festival seem to offer the curators the chance to express their creativity in a different way, and to expose their fans to some of their musical influences. For Doomtree, the move from Blowout to Zoo is a way for Cecil Otter, Dessa, Lazerbeak, Mike Mictlan, P.O.S, Paper Tiger, and Sims to share the stage with their favorite artists.
Since Doomtree Zoo is all about passing the mic and sharing the spotlight, The Growler caught up with San Francisco–based rapper Aesop Rock on the road to talk about the upcoming CHS Field gig.
The Growler: I know you have a lot of Twin Cities connections with Rhymesayers and such. What is your relationship with the Twin Cities and how does it feel when you play here? Is there an increased familiarity as compared with other tour stops?
Aesop Rock: Minneapolis has always been a bit of a hub in my experience, and even in my years before being on Rhymesayers we were all friends, so it had a welcoming vibe beyond just the shows. We’d try to make New York a warm experience for them and vice versa. There are always tour stops that feel like work, and then there are ones that you know should go pretty well. Since I started touring it’s always kind of been the latter, and now that I release music on the label I guess that vibe is amplified.
TG: What’s your relationship with the Doomtree collective? When/how did you meet them?
AR: I met P.O.S. many years ago through some of the people on Rhymesayers; I’m pretty sure he was on tour with Atmosphere at the time. We always got along well. Over the years I’ve met some or all of the other Doomtree folks at various shows and festivals and things of that nature.
TG: How has it been watching Doomtree grow, both artistically and in terms of fan base?
AR: I feel like every time I am on tour there is a Doomtree poster in the venue I’m about to play at. They’re always about to be where I am, or were just there, so it appears that they are out grinding, making the rounds, and constantly putting out material. It’s hard to not notice hardworking people, and they have most definitely proved to be that.
TG: As a seasoned performer, what’s it like to play a festival rather than an enclosed venue? Is the crowd or atmosphere different?
AR: I’ve always kind of struggled with festivals. I feel like maybe the music I do caters most to a medium-sized venue, so sometimes the large crowds and outdoor stages are a challenge. I still have fun and do my best to make my performance translate, but the difference is there. I mean, in general the festival crowd is there for a big happy day of music and I’m happy to be a part of that. I think I just need to work a little harder in that scenario, in comparison to a normal venue gig where things start to become second nature.
TG: You’re playing an outdoor show in Minnesota in the fall. The forecast is sunny, but have you done many sets in inclement weather?
AR: Yeah, we’ve pretty much seen it all at this point: hot, cold, rain, sun. We played in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in some 110-degree scenario, and I always use that show as our barometer. If we have a hot show: “Well we made it through Brazil!” The weather will do as it must and you just do what you gotta do. Once the show starts I kind of black out until the end anyway. It’s just full steam ahead, no time to worry.
TG: Have you played other festivals where there is a predominantly hometown vibe? What’s it like as the out-of-towner coming in?
AR: We’ve pretty much covered every type of festival, from the Coachellas to the ones in the mountains with no cell service and people camping all over the place. I feel like the bill is pretty well-rounded, so hopefully the people will enjoy what we bring. Sometimes these localized ones are really special because these cities feel like they’re getting something specific for them instead of some overly blown-out event with 800 bands. This one seems concise and solid and should be a good time.
TG: What do you have in the works right now besides the Zoo? What’s next for you?
AR: I am well into several projects but I have not been given the green light to announce anything just yet. But there will be much rap and beats and collabs from me in the not-too-distant future.
TG: Anything you’d like to add?
AR: Be safe out there!