Impressively diverse summer kickoff packs in high-energy sets from Big Freedia, Dengue Fever and Omar Souleyman.
By Areif Sless-Kitain|
Break out the blockades and kegs, and toss up those temporary stages. It’s that time of year again, when the promise of summer is an excuse for each neighborhood association to stage its own throwdown. On Division Street, that means braving baby strollers and boutique window-shoppers, but it’s worth it—Do-Division boasts better bands than many big-name festivals for a fraction of the price. For that we can thank the talent buyers at the Empty Bottle and House Call Entertainment (the folks behind Subterranean and Beat Kitchen), who’ve put together this impressive pool of talent.
Saturday starts off light and breezy with Pacific Northwest songbirds Thao Nguyen and Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, who as Thao & Mirah sound as if they’re having the time of their lives together. With any luck they’ll reignite their tribal-folk version of “Love Is a Battlefield” here. Organ-driven New Orleans phenom Quintron is up next, abetted by the mad-cap puppetry of his wife, Miss Pussycat. Javelin, yet another duo, arrives with the same woozy, organic mash-ups that put the pair over at Lollapalooza last year, followed by crowd-pleasing Cambodian-pop throwback Dengue Fever (see Top live shows). While downtempo beatmaker Bonobo closes out the Damen stage with a DJ set, Bruce Lamont howls out glass-shattering highs on the Leavitt stage, fronting the unfuckwithable Led Zeppelin 2.
A spate of rising locals fills that stage Sunday, including the fluorescent jangle of California Wives, almost–Rolling Stone cover boys Empires, and the new-new-wave of Big Science before This Must Be the Band completes the Reagan-era time warp with its Talking Heads tribute. Wry songman Daniel Knox opens the day over on Damen before ceding the stage to Omar Souleyman, warming up for his Bonnaroo debut. The Syrian singer wowed us at last year’s SummerDance with synth-streaked songs of sorrow and celebration that are banging enough to anoint a dance party on any continent. It’s a far cry from fiery-haired sibling act White Mystery, whose trashy garage stomps introduce an even louder band, A Place to Bury Strangers. The Brooklyn noise-mongers open the sonic floodgates for NOLA bounce diva Big Freedia. After blowing minds and slapping behinds at the Bottle’s NYE bash last year, the high-energy MC is back to cap off this wildly and wonderfully diverse summer kickoff.