Last updated on February 18th, 2022 at 09:27 pm
It’s Tuesday Afternoon, and I get the call that TOKiMONSTA needs a photographer to cover her set on the Dune tour with ZHU. So, I packed up my gear, charged my batteries, emptied my cards and jumped over to First Ave. The Venue was already packed to the brim with fans, more packed than I’ve seen First Ave in a while.
TOKiMONSTA’s most recent appearance in the cities was a drastically different one. She DJ’d the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Summer Party, a black-tie event more suited for the older folks among us who donate quite a bit of their income to the arts. The show at First Ave was going to be an EDM experience, which come to think of it, is pretty rare. Usually, those shows find their way to the Skyway, Myth or Armory, but here we were with two nights in a row of it, with The Glitch Mob playing the night before.
TOKiMONSTA’s story to get to this point is a fascinating one. Jennifer Lee has been making beats since 2008, seeing success in being invited to the Red Bull Music Academy in 2010 and releasing multiple albums all the way until 2015 when she started to experience issues with cognition and motor functions. After scans and MRIs of her brain, it was determined she had a rare brain condition known as Moyamoya.
After the diagnosis, and two surgeries later she was free of Moyamoya, but had lost her ability to speak or comprehend music and throughout 3 months, slowly gained her ability to do both once again. It’s a fascinating story of perseverance over a disease that took away her ability to do what she loved the most. You can read the whole story here.
Fast Forward to today, and you wouldn’t know anything was wrong if it weren’t for the story being on the internet. Lee adeptly hyped the crowd up throughout her whole set. At the same time, the light show was simple yet effective and looked extremely unique with the Zhu’s Dune set silhouetted in the background.
Some songs that made an appearance were “Realla” which featured the then up and coming Anderson Paak, “No Way” which features Isaiah Rashad and Joey Purp. As well as multiple remixes of old 90s rap hits and new rap hits. It was an excellent set that kept the crowd engaged and excited throughout, and had the energy of a headlining set. I was particularly a fan of the old school west coast rap, you can’t go wrong with that, and the crowd showed it.
After TOKiMONSTA was ZHU. ZHU is another fascinating artist that I had the pleasure of seeing at Electric Forest earlier this year. ZHU’s rise to fame was somewhat unconventional because he wasn’t just discovered by the right producer, or had a track go completely go viral, but instead established a strong personal brand that stayed with fans and resonated with them.
Unfortunately, I do not have any professional photos of his set due to a moratorium on DSLRs, but you’ll have to bear with my description of the set. The tour ZHU is on is called “Dune” styled after, you guessed it, a desert. He’s touring in support of his most recent album “Ringos Desert.” The set consisted of a massive pyramid video board flanked by two smaller ones that projected cryptic images throughout the set.
The set was characterized as a journey through the desert with messaged being displayed on the screen welcoming the audience to the desert or telling more of the story. There were also sections where two accompanying band members (A saxophone and electric guitar player) had a duel in front of the central pyramid. The saxophone totally won, but I’m also biased. ZHU also brought a drink shaker on stage and poured himself a martini in a toast to Prince, as they were playing a set in the legendary mainroom, a stage that Prince put on the map as a music venue.
ZHU’s set was characterized by songs mostly off his Ringos Desert album with songs like “My Life” and “Love That Hurts” getting featured. There were also features from his previous albums like “Working for It” and “Faded” the song that put ZHU on the map.
Overall, TOKiMONSTA and ZHU’s sets were strong performances and were showed why First Ave was completely sold out that night. I would recommend both artists if you’re into electronic house music. It was an awesome night that featured house music that was on the lighter side of the intensity scale