Artist, rapper, writer and musician all embody Dessa Darling who describes her music as “melancholy aggressive rap.” She is the only female member of Doomtree, a group of rappers from Minneapolis primarily known for its involvement with the rapper P.O.S.
At this year’s fall concert, hosted by St. Olaf’s Music Entertainment Committee (MEC) on Saturday, Oct. 24, Dessa provided audiences with a fun, energetic performance. It was clear that she was comfortable on stage. She jumped rope with the cord of her microphone and told entertaining stories, including one about how all of the members of Doomtree, including herself, have lost their front teeth.
When Aby Wolf took the stage much of the mystery of her connection to Dessa still remained for many listeners.
“Aby Wolf was a stellar introduction to the musical styling of Dessa,” said attendee Michael Pearce ’17.
While some understood the connection between Aby Wolf and Dessa, others were left in the dark until they came out together. Their voices seemed to meld together, especially during their acoustic version of “Call Off Your Ghost.” The two singers sang together in a Doomtree a capella trio, the Boy Sopranos, which Dessa co-founded.
“Dessa and Aby were probably the most enjoyable large conert artists to work with...Both were very excited to be here and connected with the audience well,” said MEC Coordinator Emily Nyberg ’16. “[Dessa and Aby] were very laid back in nature and committed to a sustainable, low environmental-impact lifestyle. It was fun to see their natural synergy with each other on stage on Friday.”
MEC began the process of lining up a fall concert artist months ago, starting with over 30 potential names and narrowing it down from there. They based the decision on criteria such as how well they fit within the budget, their tour schedule, appropriateness for campus as well as the artist’s respective genre and musicality, according to Nyberg.
Dessa is truly a local to the area. The 34 year-old graduated from Southwest High School in Minneapolis before attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she earned her degree in philosophy.
Dessa performed spoken word and worked as a medical writer before joining Doomtree in 2005, and she now serves as the CEO of the collective. She has also published four books and taught at McNally Smith College of Music, among other accomplishments.
During the fall concert, Dessa drew in fans and newbies alike with a performance that was constantly growing in intensity. She began her set with slower songs and a less attentive audience, but she had a way of commanding the room and the audience when she spoke.
It was clear both in Dessa’s lyrics and narratives that she is a story-teller. She set aside the mic to speak to the audience creating an authentic and intimate atmosphere. She spoke, as she writes, in a raw and honest tone.
The intimate nature of her performance continued when she jumped off the stage and created her own space in the center of the audience during “Warsaw.” This was the ideal song to perform in the crowd. With its distinct beat and agressive lyrics, it is easily one of her most intense songs.
Though she may not have drawn a huge crowd at St. Olaf, she was a fabulous performer and is now heading off on her global tour going all the way from Dublin to Auckland to Perth.