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P.O.S. and Dosh (Friday, July 1st, 2005, Minnesota Museum of American Art)

P.O.S. (above) and Dosh (below)

By Taylor Carik

On a summer night, the Minnesota Museum of American Art’s patio may be the best venue in town. Overlooking the river in downtown St. Paul ---with the lights and fireworks of The Taste of Minnesota---the backyard-sized space provided a relaxing and intimate setting. And the MMA's art was as fun and engaging as the performances. Dosh and P.O.S. made the most of it Friday night.

Doomtree's P.O.S. shared a secret with the several dozen people in attendance: The metal box up on stage with him---the one labeled "Rap Kit"--- had just his IPod in it. That was it. Not mixing machines or drum sticks or any of the stage full of goodies that Dosh used in beginning the night, just an IPod. But the incredible success of Friday's show wasn't about the instruments; it was about what they did with them.

Take Dosh's set. Surrounded by a bare bones drum kit, a keyboard, a tricked-out toy drum machine and various other unorthodox instruments, Dosh swung around in his musical command center, producing variously complex and emotional walls of rhythmic sound, turning on-the-spot recordings, manipulations and loops into entertaining compositions.

If such a stunt sounds complicated, it is. It was a sonic spectacle, nothing short of a one-man electric-orchestra. Unfortunately, as a result, the crowd sat attentive and still, respectfully, as if to an artist presenting his art. What Dosh does undoubtedly deserves inspection. But it's also funky as hell. He furiously kicked out crazy beats on everything he had with him, yet folks scattered in seats and picnic tables on the patio sat stone-faced in visible contemplation. When Dosh wrapped up, people applauded almost genteelly.

Passive behavior didn't suit follow-up MC P.O.S. P.O.S. hooked up his rap kit, did his mic check, and promptly rearranged the audience closer to the stage. After Dosh---and a few $3 beers---the crowd loosened up, ditched their hip defensiveness, and moved closer to the action.

After a good ten minutes of banter, P.O.S. jumped into the performing that has garnered him and his colleagues in Doomtree a fair amount of hype. His singing voice, used more than a few times last night, left some room for improvement, but his rapping timbre and lyrical content, in both his more practiced tracks and the new stuff debuted last night, shamed the poor quality of mainstream music. If that's what one guy and an IPod can do, the finished hip hop we regularly hear should simply be better.

And despite the seriousness in many of his narratives, P.O.S. was hysterically funny. During his third or fourth song, when his beat dropped out, he pointed to a table of young hipsters in the front and gently asked them, "What's your favorite Weezer song?" Off guard, no answer was given, and P.O.S. blasted back into his rhyme. When his rap kit ran out of beats, he held up his cell phone to a mic and rapped over the phone's repeating high hat.

The comedy and invention continued when Dosh joined P.O.S. back on stage to fill out the show's remaining time with freestyle, despite the many disclaimers P.O.S. made at his lack of freestyling skill ("Do you know that guy Eyedea? Cuz' I don't.") And if there were any doubt that Dosh's music was more about audience participation than appreciation, everyone up front bopped and rocked along to his improvisation.

Taylor Cerik is tcarik[at]gmail.com