Home Live Review Live Review: Dessa @ Black Cat — 10/21/23

Live Review: Dessa @ Black Cat — 10/21/23

Live Review: Dessa @ Black Cat — 10/21/23
Dessa enters the audience to sing "Crush" amid a crowd of smart phone flashlight-bearing fans at DC's Black Cat on Oct. 21, 2023. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

Fresh off the long-awaited drop of her latest solo album Bury the Lede, Dessa, the indie rapper and writer, recently set the stage ablaze at DC’s renowned Black Cat, marking a triumphant close to the East Coast leg of her tour.

Backed by the talented multi-instrumentalist Joshua Holmgren on keys and vocals, along with the enchanting Aviva Jaye on harp and vocals, Dessa’s live performance at Black Cat was a testament to her artistry and stage presence, leaving the audience awestruck and inspired.

Produced with longtime collaborators and friends Lazerbeak (Doomtree, Lizzo) and Andy Thompson (Taylor Swift, Dan Wilson), Bury the Lede is an 11-track project of hard-hitting rap verses, big, catchy pop hooks, and a couple melancholic tracks. In an interview with PEOPLE Magazine, Dessa explains that she started casually working on the project at some point in 2021 or 2022 with the intention of producing an EP, but over time the project turned into a full-blown album touching on the same themes she’s been fascinated with since she put out her first solo release in 2005, False Hopes.

“[My music has this] fascination with love and death, which are related because I think there’s a particular kind of bravery to love in the shadow of mortality,” Dessa told PEOPLE. “To love knowing that you will lose… that is not a problem that I solve and move on from. That is a problem that solves me. I think that is the fundamental discomfort of the human condition.”

Stream Bury the Lede by Dessa on Spotify.

Described on her Bandcamp profile page as a “writer and touring musician” with a “quick wit, sharp pen, and soft heart,” Dessa’s artistic journey has been a compelling evolution from her early days of DIY basement hip hop shows to the grandeur of Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall. Her eclectic career has seamlessly woven through various artistic and intellectual pursuits, including lecturing at Georgetown, delivering a Ted Talk in Hong Kong, and contributing to renowned publications like The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic, while also penning a memoir, My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love. A true polymath, Dessa embodies a rare trifecta of intellectual prowess, creative finesse, and undeniable charisma.

On Oct. 21, Dessa’s performance at the Black Cat was more than just a hip hop show; it was a journey through the complexities of human emotion, a celebration of resilience, and a testament to the transformative power of music. As her tour continues on to a swing through the Midwest in November including a stop in her native Minneapolis, Dessa’s indomitable spirit and creative brilliance are bound to leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all those fortunate enough to witness her live.

Jumprope/Grade School Games
Call Off Your Ghost
Good Grief
Warsaw / Velodrome
Skeleton Key
I Already Like You
The Body (poem)
Momento Mori
Terry Gross
Tell Me Again
Fighting Fish
Dixon’s Girl
How To Stage Dive (poem)
Hurricane Party
Fire Drills

5 Out of 6

Enjoy some photos of Dessa performing at DC’s Black Cat on Oct. 21, 2023 as captured through the lens of Parklife DC photographer, Ari Strauss. All images copyrighted by Ari Strauss.


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