The other two times I’ve seen Nora En Pure play were in the dark and sweaty confines of the Yuma tent at Coachella and nested deep in the trees at Electric Forest. Suffice to say, this was a drastically different looking and behaving crowd than the ones at those earlier appearances. More suits and gowns, more clothing in general, less dancing, more alcohol…but the room’s décor did have a festival feel to it, from the black and iridescent streamers hanging from the ceiling to the over-sized lampshade chandeliers to the saturated color washes from banks of LED’s, the temporary room had a good vibe.
(Head HERE for the photo gallery if you’re not the wordy type)
It was a peculiar world to step foot into for a few hours. Once we got in, we made our way past the silent auction, through a sandwich of bars and throngs of people dressed up in costume-like outfits, through a tent walking past Minneapolis’ mayor, several Minnesota Vikings players, across an outdoor patio flanked by bars on all sides, and finally up a set of white carpeted stairs into a tent with transparent walls. I’m a seasoned veteran of the basics of that experience, the worming through impossible crowds of inebriated, blissfully unaware people to get into a tent to hear music, but as many parallels as it shared with my past experiences, the overall feel was still rather alien.
This was an annual fundraising event benefitting the Walker Art Center, and it was clear that the organizers pulled out all the stops for its guests who ponied up anywhere from $125-$2500 per person to attend, not to mention additional donations, an auction, and the aforementioned plethora of bars. Oh, and live music that consisted of local favorite Har Mar Superstar, Nora En Pure, and Biz Markie.
When I finally got through all of the people and stepped foot in the bougiest tent I’ve ever seen, I was a little shocked to find Nora En Pure, perched at a long table above a sign that said, “ENTERTAINMENT,” playing to a dance floor entirely devoid of people. I was baffled, but this is sadly nothing new with Minneapolis. This city is rife with diehard music fans, but that doesn’t seem to carry over into the electronic music scene. A lot of acts come through that sell out larger venues the day tickets go on sale play smaller venues in Minneapolis to below-capacity crowds, even at a well-used venue with a quaint capacity of 280.
It was nice to pretend for a couple songs that Nora En Pure had traveled all the way to Minneapolis to play for my partner and me. But it was also a little sad, since many producers feed off the energy of the crowd and without that, it felt a little deflating. Gradually, people trickled in and slowly, but surely filled the dance floor and the energy increased as each group got into the music. Nora curates a journey in her sets, feathering together originals, remixes, and songs that she digs together. It’s funny, she’s obviously practiced and played enough that she’s comfortable with the sequencing, which if you don’t know what’s actually involved, could look like she’s just standing there pressing a few buttons every now and then.
As per usual, she saved Lake Arrowhead for the latter part of her set. Once that lovely, bliss AF track concluded and transitioned into the next track, Biz Markie trudged across the stage to the set of turntables set up for him and began to get his side of things set up. In my experience, the person taking over usually has a quick word with the person they’re taking over for. That did not happen at this show. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Once he’d gotten everything ready to go, Biz unceremoniously dropped into the middle of a song and quickly cut out Nora’s side of things. Based on the facial expressions of Nora and the tech who was helping out with gear, it was indeed out of the ordinary and not appreciated at all. Sensing some kind of call to decorum, Biz grabbed the mic and yelled, “Hey everybody, give it up for-“ and he looked over at her, clearly realizing that he didn’t know her name, then finished, “This nice lady!” The audience cheered, but it felt like it just make the awkwardness worse.
Nora was clearly miffed, but didn’t slam things around or stomp like I would have. She just got her things together and got out as quickly as she could, though that wasn’t quite fast enough to avoid Biz’s short lived attempt at initiating a Skol chant, appealing to Vikings and their fans.
The remainder of Biz Markie’s set, at least the part that I saw, was a little hard to watch. I don’t know if everybody was too drunk or what, but he played a barrage of 90’s hip-hop and R&B, songs everybody’s heard a thousand times, and it seems like nobody really knew the words and very few people in attendance could clap to a beat. Biz even commented at one point, “Do y’all even know the lyrics?”
We left shortly after, eager to get away from the fervor of whatever the hell that was and to escape before he even got close to ‘Just a Friend.’ Maybe it was the poor manners, during the changeover, maybe I’d just had enough, but the tail end of our experience felt like a deflating balloon rather than reaching an apex or leaving on a high note.
Still, I think it’ll be the blissful journey that Nora put together that I’ll hold onto, that I will remember when I think back on this experience, and I hope that goes for the other attendees as well.
I work, live and play in Minneapolis.
I try to tell the story of the people that create music and experiences through pictures as well as through words.