FARGO — Since moving there in 2018, Diane Miller has made a name for herself on the Twin Cities music scene, but to celebrate a decade of her hip-hop group D Mills & The Thrills, the Fargo native is bringing it all back home.
The sextet will play its anniversary show at Sanctuary Events Center on May 8.
“Fargo-Moorhead is where my roots are and where I established myself as a musician,” she says.
Miller is looking forward to the show for a variety of reasons, but a little bummed it’s not happening at The Aquarium, the concert hall above Dempsey’s where she served as a talent booker for a while.
“Preferably, it’d be there. It’s our home base, It’s where we’ve had our most incredible shows,” she says. “I love how everybody is so packed in. It’s so different for them to be sitting at tables. It’s so energizing to have people up close. It makes the music more powerful.”
Sanctuary Events Center currently seats guests at tables of four to ensure safe social distancing during the pandemic The Aquarium hosted its first concert in a year last Friday, April 30.
Still, Miller is happy to be playing anywhere after a year when the COVID-19 pandemic stopped performing in front of live audiences.
“I have missed it ever so much,” she says. “Live music is my life. All of a sudden, my life was completely uprooted.”
She now works as the talent booker for Icehouse in Minneapolis. But even after she moved to Minneapolis, D Mills & The Thrills stayed close.
“For me, it didn’t make any sense to disband,” she says.
The group also features Andi Thoreson on vocals and keys, bassist Jason Boynton, Steve Wallevand on trombone and keys, guitarist Josh Reinhardt and drummer Eli Davis.
Return to performing
This isn’t just the group’s 10th anniversary show — it’s the full band’s first show in 18 months. The group had a show booked at the Aquarium last May, but that was canceled due to COVID.
Even with no shows in a year and a half, Miller doesn’t expect any rust for the band.
“It’s so ingrained in all of us. I’ll come up and we’ll rehearse and play this music we all know,” she says.
She says she’ll play to a seated crowd with the same intensity she’d bring to fans right in front of the stage, adding that another benefit of Sanctuary Events Center is more room on stage to dance.
“We’re going to play how we always play, but people will have to enjoy it from a distance,” she says.
While the interaction with the crowd may be different, so is her connection to some of the earlier tunes she wrote.
“Some of these songs are so old they don’t really represent me anymore. But some are so catchy and so fun, it doesn’t matter,” she says.
One unexpected benefit from the COVID shutdown of the live show industry was the singer-songwriter having more time to work on new material. She’s already been working on a six-song solo hip-hop EP that will come out later this year. The album features producers like Haley (formerly known as Haley Bonar), Martin Dosh, Fargo South High School graduate Miles Hanson and former Minnesota State University Moorhead classmate, Pete Johnson.
She also plans on finishing a second EP of more singer-songwriter material.
“I play so many different types of music, but hip-hop has transcended for me and put me on the map in a way the others haven’t,” she says.
While COVID-19 gave her time to work on material, the killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers in 2020 gave her the push to write more.
“I’m an emotional person. I write from the heart. There’s no way what goes on around me wouldn’t impact my music, especially being a person of color and a queer woman,” she says. “There’s always a little political bent to my music.”
For this weekend, however, she’s happy to play the older songs and hip-hop covers that have been getting area crowds on their feet for a decade.
“It’s kind of a big deal to hit this landmark anniversary,” she says. “Just to celebrate that we made it this far is really exciting. Sharing the stage and creative energy is really powerful.”
If you go
What: D Mills & The Thrills 10 year anniversary concert
When: Doors open at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 8; music starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Sanctuary Events Center, 670 Fourth Ave. N., Fargo
Info: Tickets for this ID-only show are $49 for a table of four online at www.etix.com