Dessa is my longtime musical crush. I've seen her perform at venues as diverse as The Minnesota State Fair, DC's Black Cat, The Minneapolis Women's Club, and with The Minnesota Orchestra. Dessa has a near magical ability to appeal to diverse and seemingly incongruous audiences. Yet I was still blown away by her ability to charm a completely random crowd at Papa Charlie's in Lutsen, Minnesota this Wednesday night along with bandmates Aviva Jaye and Jelly.
Watching Dessa walk purposefully back and forth across the dining room to the stage, the sound booth, the bar, and so on only 10 minutes before show time, I assumed that it might be a more casual show. But Dessa brought the same energy, passion, and professionalism to this Lutsen show as to all of her other performances.
Dessa was the first to say that the crowd was confusing and hodge-podge. "I have no idea why any of you are here," she admitted, adding that she recognized some faces from other Minnesota shows and from previous years at Papa Charlie's. Dessa spoke directly with Table 6 late in the show, applauding them for challenging her assumptions. "That table is going to like songs 4, 6, and 12," she related hypothesizing about the middle-aged white group at Table 6. Instead, one of the women was furiously chair-dancing during all of the fast rap songs. Dessa described the man next to the chair dancer as an enigma wrapped in a hunting jacket, to which he proudly pulled a Superman pose with his hunting jacket.
The dance floor was full of old Doomtree fans, new IDES fans, and one towheaded little girl who out-danced all of us. At some point mid-song, Dessa asked the bar for a shot of whiskey. When an audience member was too slow bringing it up to her, she took matters into her own hands, stopping the song and coming into the crowd to get it herself.
Dessa's set list paid homage to her earlier work, including Dixon's Girl, Call Off Your Ghost, Fighting Fish, and Dear Marie. As always, her lyrics were timely and haunting. The crowd went crazy for I Already Like You, from Dessa's latest release, IDES. By the encore, we were all yelling along to Fire Drills "I think a woman's worth / I think that she deserves / A better line of work / Than motherfucking vigilance / Don't give me vigilance / By definition you can't make a difference / If the big ambition / Is simply standing sentry to your innocence / That's not a way to live / That can't be what a woman is / That gives her nothing to aspire to / What that is / What that is / Is just a life of running fire drills".
By the end of the night, Dessa had the chair dancer and the enigma out on the dance floor standing up to dance. If you missed the show, check out her upcoming shows here. You won't be disappointed.
Dessa Performing in Lutsen 7/13/22
Past Dessa Sightings