Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Footprint in Hip-Hop Tour hits DC

By Ben Cantlupe

On Friday, July 24th, security at the 9:30 club in DC was tight. All bags were being checked, and all persons were being patted down. A line was forming around the block, promising a full capacity show, and no one was taking chances on the night that former members of the rap super-group Wu-Tang Clan were rolling into town. The night’s performance was part of the Footprint in Hip-Hop Tour, consisting of opening act Duo Live (pronounced ‘liv’), lyrical master and former Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, and headlining superstars Redman and Methodman (also former Wu-Tang member). The show was like a time warp back into the 1990s, when the hip-hop culture was ruled by big shirts and low pants, thick beats and hardcore rap. All of the performers reiterated the theme of ‘real hip-hop’ vs. ‘today’s hip-hop’ during their sets, and from the audience response they were most definitely preaching to the choir.

Duo Live was first to take the stage, and they did so with confidence and good humor, considering they seemed relatively unknown to the crowd. DJ Sid V manned his turntables on a platform at the back of the stage, and MC Fre took to the front, accompanied by a woman in a wife beater and bright yellow pants. Her name is Chloe and she was announced as the first hype-girl in the game. The group, later joined on stage briefly by rapper Bill Young, put on a show worthy of being on the tour. DJ Sid V threw down simple and raw beats in their elements but perfectly complemented MC Fre’s formidable flow and stage presence. They performed one song that is supposed to be in a new mix-tape the Brooklyn-based duo is working on, adding to their already impressive arsenal of underground mix-tapes which contributed greatly to their current success. At a few key points during their performance, Duo Live showed how they like to give life to the show. MC Fre delivered a verse or two of one-song acapella. During their R&B-like song “Princess,” a girl from the crowd was brought up on stage, given a tiara and crowned princess for the night, then MC Fre and Chloe shared champagne mid-song. Towards the closing of the set, Chloe downed the better part of a forty, and then started singing as if it were a bottle of water. Although it seemed most of the crowd didn’t know what to think of Duo Live when they took the stage, the group met with a more welcoming reception as they were leaving.

The next act was a stranger to no one in the club. Ghostface Killah hit the stage in an oversized red shirt, oversized jeans riding close to his knees, with a white towel resting around his shoulders. He took immediate control of all aspects of the show, giving directions to the crowd, ordering certain lights to go on or off, and giving lengthy speeches in between songs. After one song, Ghost talked about his disgust for music on the radio and how ‘real hip-hop’ has conceded it’s crown to meaningless noise. He also had a somewhat backwards way of performing his songs; he would cut them short and hit the most popular parts of three or four songs within five-minute segments. Nevertheless, the crowd seemed to love every minute of the performance and showed their love with Wu-tang signs and crowd participation. The two DJs who were backing Ghostface had an opportunity to show off their skills during a DJ scratch battle in the middle of the set, which was incredible. Ghost finished his set with a tribute to “the man who taught me all the dance moves I know,” Michael Jackson. Blips of some of M.J.’s biggest hits from The Jackson Five and his solo work were played by the DJ while Ghostface busted out the moves he apparently learned from the master himself.

Unfortunately Ghost’s moves weren’t nearly as impressive (or hilarious) than those of headliners Redman and Methodman. The dynamic duo moved all around the stage, sometimes using choreographed dance, sometimes grooving to the beat, sometimes just flailing themselves about like rabid animals (crumping anybody?). Redman seemed to be the crazier of the two. He did most of the talking in between songs, pumped the crowd up, threw his water bottles, and also liked to get in the face of front-row audience members. His mohawk haircut probably helped project that image. Methodman did his part to hype the crowd too, starting Wu-tang chants and stage diving into the outstretched arms of the fans below. Every time a beat dropped and a new song began, the club roared as if it were a stadium at capacity. Red and Meth performed a lot of newer material, promoting Blackout 2, the sequel to their original collaborative effort as a duo. They did not neglect their old popular songs though, making sure to keep the veteran fans engaged. And engaged they were until the end of the show, leaving a sweet retrospective taste in the mouths of all of the attending fans at 9:30 club.

I had a chance to talk to Duo Live after the show and see what they had to say about DC and the Footprint in Hip-Hop Tour. According to Fre, they had been working on writing and recording music for two years before this tour, and playing members of Wu-Tang is “a dream come true.” “DC was the first place we came to outside of New York when we were starting out,” he said. “For a minute it felt like a job, but now we are approaching our music from a younger perspective and love every minute.” Duo Live have been putting music together since 1989, and since then they have been trying to be the “voice of the voice,” speaking to blue-collar, working class people.

The Footprint in Hip-Hop tour continues until mid-August, finishing in San Francisco. Fans of ‘real hip-hop’ should not miss this team-up of masters.

Official Redman website www.funkdoc.com

Official Method Man website www.method-man.com

Ghostface Killah on myspace www.myspace.com/ghostface

Official Duo Live website www.redemptionmusicgroup.com

RX Bandits hit the road with new release

By Ben Cantlupe

This summer, RX Bandits and Dredg are touring the US together, promoting their recent album releases. Texas based Zechs Marquise jumped on the tour for a couple weeks, and will be parting ways to tour on their own during August. On Tuesday, July 28th, the three groups performed at Recher Theatre in Towson, MD.

Zechs Marquise was first to take the stage. Their first official studio release, called Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare, dropped in spring of 2008 and has since been picking up speed in sales and reviews. The group’s live performance stretched the songs to a point where some of them were almost un-recognizable to ears familiar with the album. Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez, the Zech’s bass player, commented about the drastic difference in performance. “We try to give a whole different vibe when recording versus the performance.” Most of the songs opened up into extended solo sections, with the guitarists giving searing improvisations over bass and drum grooves or arranged hits. Zechs Marquise has a distinct sound although they like to play with spacey guitar effects and tonally ambiguous melodies. The instrumental group received cheers and applause from the captivated audience. Marfred stated that Zech’s “goal has been one new fan in every city.” If that is the case, they exceeded well over expectation on Tuesday night.

Next up to play was prog-rock RX Bandits. They were clearly the band most of the audience showed up for, not only from the excitement of the packed room when they started playing, but also from the “Bandits’ Bandits” shirt-wearers scattered amongst the pit. Their set was very percussion based with drum intros and all-member inclusive drum jams. Most of the songs they played were from the newer albums, namely their last release …And the Battle Begun and Mandala which dropped on the 21st of this month. The singers soulful vocal melodies were matched in intensity by the lead guitarist/keyboardist’s virtuosic solos and the drummer’s tireless execution of the band’s practically break-less set. The song “Only For the Night,” appropriately the last song of the set, was most definitely the crowd favorite. The crowd almost buried the speakers because so many sang along with the lyrics. Solo sections and a couple breakdowns elongated the song, and finally members of Zech’s Marquise came out for another percussive congregation dubbed “Zech’s Bandits,” which concluded in a mini drum off then a huge finish of the song and the set.

RX Bandits and Dredg traded off headlining sets during their tour, and it was Dredg’s turn at Recher. Unfortunately for them, it seemed as if they might have benefited from not headlining. Almost half the crowd left the show following RX Bandits. Dredg released a new album entitled The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion at the beginning of this summer. The group performed a few of the hits from that album, including “I Don’t Know,” which is representative of their introspective anthems. Dredg plays music that is very bass and drum heavy, with the guitar usually either furiously strumming or picking at chords note by note. The singer was the most eclectic member of the group. He had wailing vocals like Coheed and Cambria, though not quite as high-pitched. He had dance moves like Jack Black, though not as hilarious. Occasionally he laid his guitar on a table and played it horizontally like a steel guitar, achieving eerie yet interesting sounds. The fans that stayed for the headliners never regretted it, and the night closed on a positive note.

On August 1st, Zechs Marquise parts ways with Dredg and RX Bandits to tour solo. As Tall As Lions will be filling in the empty spot on the Dredg/RX tour. This is no excuse to miss any of the bands if they make it to your town. An extra ticket is worth the shows that you won’t want to miss.

Official Zech’s Marquise Website www.zechsmarquise.com

Official Dredg Website: www.dredg.com

Official RX Bandits Website: www.rxbandits.com