Gallery: Doomtree and Yelawolf at La Cigale
As a Midwesterner who splits time between Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis, learning and anticipating spending a good chunk of the next year in Europe, like many others, instantly calls forth premature nostalgia for all things 3:30 AM diner trips, craft brews (recently Cave à Bulles solved that), free wifi everywhere, and Mexican food (Chipotle’s coming to Paris in the next couple weeks). Other things? The Twin Cities’ annual Soundset hip-hop extravaganza in May will be sorely missed, but last night I got a little reconciliation for having to miss the week-long Blowout last December when Doomtree made it happen and continental criss-crossed to Paris’ La Cigale. La Cigale is a highly regarded venue around here with a capacity that tops 1,000 with a balcony, shimmering gold ceiling, and a floor that was actually bumping to so, so much good rap last night.
Twin Cities’ Doomtree is on their first time rolling across European soil and are doing it on the heels of their massive American road trip these past few months in support of No Kings. P.O.S. previously came in 2009, performing the tiny Mains d’Oeuvre in the Paris suburb Saint-Ouen, but it’s been a drought since, which is remarkable given the number of albums they’ve released collectively or individually. “No Way” and “Drumroll” may have took the crowd by surprise to kick things off, mostly because the majority were here for Yelawolf and may not have expected to see five rappers on stage passing le relai from one to the other. Regardless, the floor at La Cigale was throbbing to the point you could’ve been in a rap bouncy castle (betcha didn’t expect that metaphor). Mike Mictlan, although sick, confirmed once more in my opinion that he’s evolved into a force within the group, completely evident on all his contributions on No Kings. He soldiered through the night in sunglasses, starting strong, and keeping up. Nice work. Right after, just like back home and for the Blowouts (annual concerts that take place over a weekend or week at First Avenue & 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis), the lights turned on to Cecil Otter in Paris with a swift transition to Dessa time with “Little Mercy.”
The rest of the set upped the intensity, as natural pressure in having to open and thus a bit more limited. “Bolt Cutter” had the bite, though La Cigale could’ve used better sound on that to truly make it sound as it should on the low end. “Bangarang” won the crowd over, who loved the interaction that was upped with the callbacks-a surefire way to help get people involved. They turned the dial further with Dessa singing “Seamstress” from the barrier, which P.O.S. did a short time later. Their first Paris show came to a close with the solid trifecta of Sims‘ “Burn It Down” off Bad Time Zoo, the fabled “you can only hear it live” dance rap P.O.S. track now with solid contributions from Mictlan, then wrapped up with “Team the Best Team.” The most remarkable thing to see was that in the beginning, you could tell not many people knew who this collective was. At the end, you could tell they won over the vast majority of Paris that night as they stepped off the stage and soon had newfound fans left and right asking Sims and the rest to write down their name, get autographs, and type ‘Doomtree’ into cell phone after cell phone.
While everyone else was won over by the opener, Yelawolf had the same effect on me. I trust the taste of friends, though the Alabama rapper has a slightly different style than what I’m used to. But by the end-damn, I was hooked. Donning a jacket over a red hoodie and neon green sunglasses, the Shady Records rapper took to the stage like a predator hypnotizing his prey moving into “Trunk Musik” a couple songs in with a definite half-and-half balance between the Trunk Musik mixtape and Radioactive. He took those gaps between songs by the throat, freestyling into “Hard White (Up In The Club)” with so much energy that had hands up, bodies bouncing without even needing to suggest or ask for it as he went into “I Wish.” From the back, from the front, you had no doubt what Eminem was thinking when singing him back in early 2011. Stadium light sweeps and intensity that leaves no doubt to his response to the January signing that he did good on his promise, “Let’s kill this shit.” The entire set was a solid balance, switching things up into a ridiculous mini-set of turntablism that dipped into a impending countdown unleashing dubstep. With all that ruckus about EDM at the Grammy’s, you could have sworn you were three years in the future with it in distant memory with how la Cigale took to that switch.
Yelawolf definitely takes pride in his past, going straight into “Growin’ Up In The Gutter” before an influences intermission that was easily a highlight of the night. The music writer with me reads all the time about who influenced who, etc., but to have a performer just cut into that on stage was a new form of on-stage banter that was hugely welcome. Everyone ate up The Doors‘ “Riders in the Storm” before he followed up with, “Fuck rock and go country,” into good ole “Folsom Prison Blues” from the country legend Johnny Cash. Eazy-E, Metallica, Outkast. Then the dedication-“If you have a cell phone or a lighter, put it up for MCA right now!” “Fight For Your Right,” “Brass Monkey,” “Intergalatic” and “Paul Revere” all honored the Beastie Boys’ emcee karaoke-style.
“Pop the Trunk” slunk the sounds back to Yelawolf Yelawolf. That horror rap could have lowered the stage into the depths of a dungeon with the beats that heavily brought to mind how Eminem used to expertly weave those tales in the early days of him breaking out across radio. Things lightened up for the rest, much as Doomtree switched modes, going into “Marijuana,” “Love Is Not Enough” and “The Hardest Love Song in the World” before heading off the stage just after “Good to Go.” He barely disappeared from sight before the calls for the encore-no, stomps-resonated through Montmartre. Rarely have I experienced such enthusiasm to draw someone back out than Yelawolf had. Capping off Paris, “Throw It Up” had everyone surging straight into “Let’s Roll,” a song that spread quickly among my Paris friends with a surprising quickness when it debuted. Three bottles of water were strewn over the crowd, explaining the confusion at seeing a good dozen at the beginning. The crowd erupted, like Mount St. Helens opened up near Sacre Coeur, with people on shoulders (including one dude that had just as many tattoos as Yelawolf) singing along. You don’t expect to see that in the City of Lights-nor the young French dude outside rocking out and rapping every lyric to his cell phone twenty minutes after. Welcome to hip-hop in France.