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Occurs on Saturday June 15 2024

Approximate running time: 2 hours


Big Top Chautauqua Tent Venue
32525 Ski Hill Road
Bayfield WI 54814

Event Notes



Saturday, June 15, 2024
Doors Open: 5:30PM
Show: 7:30PM

Tickets: $29/$39/$44

Blue Canvas Club Presale: Tue, Apr 2, 2024 - 12:00PM CT
General Public Sale: Tue, Apr 9, 2024 - 12:00PM CT

Sponsored by: Gretchen Dahlberg

"Language was my first love," says Dessa, and her work as a musician, writer, and speaker is studded with memorable turns of phrase. Her style is also defined by empathetic curiosity--an interest in finding unlikely connections between seemingly disparate people and ideas. Over the course of her career, she’s partnered with neuroscientists, shadow puppeteers, a dentist, a traveling circus, and musicians of all stripes: subway bucket drummers, flamenco palmas, a Chinese pipa master, and a Zimbabwean mbira player. Her work on stage and on the page is often funny, usually clever, and sometimes melancholy: poignancy tempered by wry wit delivered in a cocktail dress paired with combat boots.

Dessa’s musical career began in earnest when she was asked to join Minneapolis’ Doomtree collective, the hip-hop crew known for bold production, charismatic lyricists, and explosive live shows. She started touring hard as a solo act after her 2010 release  A Badly Broken Code . Since then, she’s worked across sounds and styles; her albums include rap bangers; acappella arrangements; and big, catchy pop hooks. On the invitation of Lin-Manuel Miranda, she contributed a track to gold record  The HamiltonMixtape . She’s also co-composed work for full choirs and cut a live album with the GRAMMY-winning Minnesota Orchestra. 

Dessa grew up in the 80s in South Minneapolis as a strong-willed, cerebral, sometimes troubled kid. Both parents were musical—her father played classical guitar and the medieval lute; her mom came up in the Bronx in an apartment where someone (or everyone) was constantly singing. In school, Dessa was studious, with special interest in biological science and creative writing. After earning a philosophy degree, she began competing on the slam poetry circuit where she connected with members of the local hip hop scene. Her songs are the product of this nonconventional trajectory: she remains part academic and part hip hop artist, with moments of playful braggadocio offset by flashes of arresting candor. Dessa’s formative professional years were spent adhering to the DIY model of indie artists: passing flyers hand to hand, touring the world in a grimy van, and learning how to run a business from her backpack. She’s now performed at gritty underground rock clubs in Central Europe; velvet-lined theaters in Australia and China; standing a top a chair in South Africa, and at top-tier festivals like Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest.

Between tours, and sometimes backstage, Dessa continued to write poems, essays, and short stories. Her written work has been published inthe New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, and in literary journals around the country. She’s released three short literary collections, most recently  Tits on the Moon , a collection of stage poems published by Rain Taxi and Doom tree Press. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review and her first audio play was produced by 45 North in London. In 2018, Dutton Books (Penguin Random House) published Dessa’s memoir,  My Own Devices , which tells the story of her life, career, and an ambitious plan to fall out of love. She delivered a TED Talk in Hong Kong titled “Can We Choose to Fall out Love?” that has notched more than 4 million views. 

Across formats, Dessa’s work embodies ferocity, intelligence, and tenderness. NPR’s All Songs Considered hailed her as a “a national treasure.” The LA Times says simply she “sounds like no one else.” You can listen to her music—including her 2023 full-length album Bury the Lede —read her writing, and check out the tour schedule at  or find her on Instagram as Dessa, and on Facebook and Twitter as dessadarling.

Dessa - Hurricane Party (Official Music Video)

Ticket Fees

*Plus applicable taxes and fees

  • 5.5% State and local sales tax
  • $4 Facility Fee per ticket (facility fee is used for tent, building, and grounds needs)
  • 3% Processing and handling fee per order.
  • ALL TICKET SALES ARE FINAL. No refunds or exchanges will be given.


By purchasing a ticket to this event, you and your party agree to abide by the following conditions:

  • Attendees grant unrestricted rights & licenses for use of their likeness in any form of public broadcast and production, and for promotional purposes
  • Big Top Chautauqua reserves the right to refuse admission or evict anyone from the venue premises due to disorderly behavior without issuing a refund.
  • Big Top Chautauqua reserves the right to search all persons, packages, bags, and other items entering venue grounds and/or other properties owned by Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua. The safety of our guests, volunteers, staff, and artists are top priority.
  • All venue policies and procedures are subject to change without notice.

Make an annual donation of $125 or more and receive exclusive access to ticket pre-sales, usually a week before the general public. Learn more about the Blue Canvas Club HERE

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