Dessa Free at Noon - 10.20.2023

Consistent attenders of the Free at Noon shows know that once the intro of “Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello & The Attractions starts playing, they’re about to be graced with a remarkable performance, and today was no exception. Chatter diminished as Dessa — the renowned Minneapolis rapper, singer, writer and genre-bending artist — entered the stage. Playing a plethora of songs from her new record Bury The Lede with support from Joshua Holmgren and Aviva Jaye, the trio left a strong impression on the crowd.

Before jumping into her mid-day performance of hyper hip-hop, Dessa joked that the trio starting about 10 hours earlier than they usually play, earning a hefty chuckle from the audience. That wouldn’t be the last time she made the crowd laugh. She carried a confident and charismatic wit, never afraid to perform as her most authentic self. Whispering audience members commented about how unique her sound is, and they’re entirely correct. Switching between whimsical clarinet backing tracks to pop-py R&B beats, Dessa took turns impressing the crowd with her stirring raps and stunning vocals. Full of animated life and energy, she never stood still for a second. Endlessly moving, dancing, and singing right into fans’ video recordings, there were no dull moments in Dessa’s performance.

The trio performed like they were playing to a group of close friends who were invited to their jam session, creating a welcoming and wholesome environment. Joshua Holmgren dazzled away on his MIDI keyboard, playing pulsing rhythms as he grooved to captivating beats. Aviva Jaye strummed gently on her harpsicle, layering in eccentric sounds. Both Holmgren and Jaye enhanced the show with lively harmonies, fusing splendidly with Dessa’s skillful voice. These three musicians hold a well coordinated chemistry with one another, making space for all of them to shine individually and together. When Holmgren stepped away from his keyboard to shred out a saxophone solo, Jaye ran over to play his piano part. Dessa simply kneeled down and watched in admiration as her backing band acceded the stage.

Their last song — “Fire Drills” from Dessa’s 2018 album Chime — had the audience clapping along with the rhythm. She rapped out lyrics as if she were reciting a story, a perfect example of her strength as a writer. Flaunting her playful dance moves one last time before exiting the stage, the audience was left in wonderment of her infinitely frisky character.  If you missed today’s free at noon show but want to hear Dessa’s unique R&B pop sound, you can listen to her new album Bury The Lede now.