Tag: Blue Scholars

Summer Solstice Fremont Style: Put on Some Pants Old Man

The annual Summer Solstice Festival in Fremont (a small neighborhood in Seattle) is well-known in the PNW because it is a kooky gathering of strange people celebrating the longest day of the year. How is it celebrated? Well there is the street fair, and a concert, and a parade, and…what am I forgetting? Oh yes, the part where a few thousand people take off their clothing, paint their bodies, and ride naked through the streets of Fremont.

This was my first Solstice Festival but if you live near Seattle you know about the festival because it is covered annually on every news channel. Why is it news? Well, it isn’t really, but if you take a big camera to a parade of naked bike riders you probably don’t look like a pervert, but having spent a little time in a newsroom I can say that is exactly why it is covered each year.

I was not in Fremont to see naked people I was there to see the concert because I am a cultured and responsible member of society. Did I accidentally see naked people riding on bikes? Yes, I tried not to look, and I tried not to take pictures, but somehow it still happened. Will I post pictures of the naked people? No. Okay, I will post one.

There you go. If you want to see more show up next year.

There you go. If you want to see more show up next year. If you click on this picture to enlarge it you may go blind. A notice will also be sent to the NSA.

I was expecting about 50 naked people who would zip by pedaling like they were chasing Lance Armstrong but that did not happen. There were hundreds and hundreds of naked bike riders pedaling like grandmas on a Sunday afternoon, maybe even thousands, most of them with elaborate body paint jobs, but there were also a few old dudes who put on a Viking helmet (and only a Viking helmet) and just started walking down the street.  These old guys didn’t seem to get the whole point of the parade and I’m sure haven’t looked in the mirror in about 25 years. (If you feel the need to be naked in public do everyone a favor and eat a sandwich while standing naked in front of a mirror. If you can’t finish eating the sandwich, then you should put some clothes on and never expose your body to the fresh air.)

I don’t know how long the parade lasted, but since everyone was crowded around the parade route we (yes, I took my daughter to the parade because I am an excellent parent) figured  this was the perfect time to get something to eat before the concert started and avoid the long lines at most of the food booths.

With our bellies full we headed to the main stage area to watch the opening acts. My daughter headed to the front row barricade and I found the beer garden was a great place to kill time.

Cascadia 10 opened the show. How would I describe Cascadia 10? Jazz? I think jazz. I don’t know, there was no singing but there was music so I guess that means it was jazz. My attention span was challenged so I started watching the sparse crowd and this is where I decided that Cascadia 10 was a good jazz group. (Who can really tell these things?)

Dance like nobody is watching.

Dance like nobody is watching.

Cascadia 10 dance party.

Cascadia 10 dance party.

See the guy in the green and yellow shirt? This guy was dancing the way everyone wishes they could. It wasn’t beautiful dancing, it was joyful dancing. The music was flowing through him and he let himself go. I have never been there, the place where your body says, “We are dancing, stop thinking and just dance.” When I dance, which is not often, my brain is usually concerned with telling my body what to do, and then it is also saying, “You look ridiculous moving this way. Move your arms less. Try a little swaying. Just stop. Please, just stop!” Maybe it is me, but I don’t think so. We spend our lives controlling our impulses so allowing our bodies to be released to the wilds of the id feels unnatural. I was a little sad when Cascadia 10 finished up their set and this guy left, but as John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” I am happy right now by just looking at pictures of this guy.

The Flavr Blue (I am sure they know that blue is not a flavor and that flavor has an o in it) was next on the main stage and I was looking forward to hearing them. I have never been a huge fan of the synthesizer/techno music even back in the 80’s when everybody else was listening to Flock of Seagulls, but there is something fresh about The Flavr Blue’s music. Hollis certainly can belt out a tune and the energy of the band got most of the growing crowd moving. About halfway through the set I began to wonder what sport Hollis plays. This may not be what musicians want audience members thinking about, but there are people who just move like athletes and there was something about Hollis’ jumping around that made me think she would be a good athlete.  I decided after some consideration that Hollis is probably a very good tennis player. Her footwork looked strong and I imagine she can cover the net like a boss. Her overhead game probably needs some work, but that is what tennis lessons are for. Hollis, if this singing thing doesn’t work out, I suggest joining the USTA and winning some Grand Slam tournaments.

Hollis, Lace, and Parker: The Flavr Blue

Hollis, Lace, and Parker: The Flavr Blue

It is difficult to put a simple tag on how The Flavr Blue sounds but they are a fusion of electric, hip-hop, and pop. What does that mean? Go here: http://theflavrblue.com/ and see for yourself. Do your ears a favor and download some of their free music. Hollis’ vocal range reminds me of Kate Bush and that is about as good as it gets.

The Physics took the stage as the sun started to finally dip in the sky. If you live closer to the equator, you really don’t know how awesome summers in the mighty PNW are, but let me say the summer day exchange rate makes one Seattle summer day worth four summer days in LA. (This does not mean that I want more people to visit Seattle in the summer. It just means I am lucky and you should stay home and not make it hard for me to find a parking space.)

This was my third Physics’ show and they did another fantastic job, in fact, this was my favorite show so far.

Sun setting, Physics playing, crowd putting their hands in the air.

Sun setting, Physics playing, crowd putting their hands in the air.

I recall how confusing everything was the first time I went to a rap show (you can read about that here) but these days I know a little more about what is going on. (I still have no idea what the computer/DJ guy does, but mysteries like that should never be solved.) Thig Natural is a great lead showman and by the time the sun set he had run through a pretty tight set of seven or eight songs. There is a lot to like about The Physics, but I like their R&B backing sound best. (What does that mean? I’m not sure but you can listen for yourself here: http://thephysicsmusic.com/blog/) There is something Motownish about the their music, but there is also a modern twist that mixes the synthesizer and rapping that doesn’t really sound like anyone else I have heard.

Once The Physics wrapped up their set I turned around to see that I was no longer standing in the back of the crowd, I was surrounded on all sides. Maybe people were waiting for the sun to go down so they didn’t have to slather on sunscreen, or maybe the crowd knew that the Blue Scholars had not performed in Seattle in over a year and did not want to miss the show.

Geo and  DJ Sabzi

Geo and DJ Sabzi

What makes the Blue Scholars great? For me, music with a social consciousness is always better than music about pouring sugar on people, and the Blue Scholars have intelligent lyrics that challenge the status quo. Art must challenge people’s thinking and that is what the Blue Scholars do.

DJ Sabzi and Geo took the stage and put on a fantastic show. I don’t know enough about rapping to enlighten readers about what makes Geo’s style appealing, but here is what I do know, Geo writes poetry that can be rapped. There is a natural iambic rhythm to his lyrics along with creative rhymes that are backed up by DJ Sabzi’s beats and samples. It is everything music should be.

The show had a hard curfew of 11PM (which was too early for those of us attending the show but I suppose the people who live in Fremont 11 was about right). I was left wondering why these two guys are not more widely known. Maybe the lyrics are too PNW-centric, maybe there are things I don’t know about music, but in the end I cannot understand why the Blue Scholars are not famous and Kim Kardashian is.

It was a long day (therefore the extra long blog post) and well worth the hassles with parking, long lines at the bathrooms, and naked people.

 

Rappers + Cameras > Wrappers + Cameras

It was the rainiest May day in Seattle history and where was I? Seattle. I like to attend all the historic weather moments I can. There was the record-breaking heat wave I attended in Europe, the 40 days of 100 degrees when I toiled at the Lemoore Cemetery, and then there was the coldest winter in Spokane history. I have been to them all, and I survived.

I was in Seattle on my Father of the Year tour with my daughter to see the latest Rappers with Cameras show. What is Rappers with Cameras? Well, there are Rappers who take pictures and then the Rappers (Prometheus Brown/Geo and Thig) display the photos and people who like photography and rapping come together and hang out. Stuffed bears are also allowed to attend.

Bear

I’m pretty sure this bear felt awkward. He stood in the corner the entire night and spoke to no one.

My daughter and I arrived early, after spending 12 unsuccessful hours trying to find a free place to park on Capitol Hill on a Saturday night, so that she could interview Geo and Thig for her school newspaper. The event was being held in what I think was a clothing shop. (The shop also sold dishes, plants, knives, books, backpacks, and stuff any hipster would need to be cool.) I am naturally uncomfortable in any retail clothing outlet because I am…how do I say this…a freak of nature and cheap. I am 6’6″ and I only buy clothing that fits and is on sale, so being in a store where you know that everything there is made for normal sized people with money is a little like a Vegan looking at the menu at a rib shack.

Photo Wall

Yes, gentlemen, that’s what a lady’s legs look like.

Anyway, when we arrived I walked around looking at the pictures and price tags on the clothing while my daughter talked with Geo and Thig. I found a rubber raincoat from Sweden for $400, some super ugly shorts for $120, and lots of other stuff that confused me, but since I have lived in a state of confusion for well over 20 years I did not panic, I just went with the flow.

When my daughter finished her interview she introduced me to Geo and Thig. For those of you who are not as hip as I am let me fill in the gaps for you: Geo is also known as Prometheus Brown and he raps for The Bar and for Blue Scholars; Thig is also known as Thig Natural and raps for The Physics. I talked to Geo about photography, his life as a Navy brat, and the Seattle rap scene. Since I know little to nothing about any other city’s rap scene, Seattle’s situation strikes me as unusual. The people involved in music in Seattle are incredibly supportive of each other. Geo thought the cohesiveness was due to the outstanding music programs in local schools and the fact that geographically Seattle is removed from the rest of the country and is able to do their own thing.

Black and White Poloroids

Black and White Polaroid’s of the guests.

It is a little odd that about a two years ago I was a little concerned about my kids going to a rap show at Neumos so I tagged along to protect them from the dangerous world of rap music, and now I find that the concerts and events are one of my favorite family activities. This probably makes some people think I am one of the worst parents in the world.

Geo and Thig

Thig (on the left), Geo (on the right).

More Poloroids

More Polaroids

The crowd at Rappers with Cameras continued to grow as it got later and this is when I realized that if The Smiths (the 1980’s/90’s musical group) were to show up on Capitol Hill they would fit right in. The hipster haircuts and clothing are exactly what Morrissey wore circa 1987. This took me on a circular thinking tangent about whether these people knew who The Smiths were, whether Morrissey knows that the entire hipster movement can be traced back to the video There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, and if Morrissey knew he was responsible for the hipster movement  would it make him sad enough to write really depressing lyrics? (For those of you who don’t know the Smiths, all of Morrissey’s lyrics are depressing.)

Is that Morrisey?

Is that Morrissey?

Around 10:30, the agreed upon time of departure for catching a ferry back to the boondocks, I found my daughter talking to Hollis. (Hollis is one of the featured singers on the Macklemore album and member of the group The Flavor Blue.)  My daughter was attempting to hitch a ride to Corvallis with Hollis for an upcoming show. I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed by my daughter’s initiative or upset that my daughter was acting like she was in a Jack Kerouac novel. I explained that picking up my daughter would probably add about four hours to the trip which, for some reason, did not strike Hollis as the best plan.

We left Rappers with Cameras and ventured back out into the downpour. The drive home was quiet as I thought about how rapidly my daughter has gone from the little girl to young lady. I’m sure my daughter was thinking about something similar, or she might have been thinking, “If I could just get to Portland, then maybe Hollis will pick me up.”

 

 

What I Learned About the Seattle Rap Scene

 

Last week, I wrote a sarcastic little review of a rap concert I attended with my kids. I thought it would be a fun way to preserve the memory for my family and allow some of my blog followers to have a laugh. My intention, and all writers realize this, left my control once I hit the publish button. My blog blew up and I learned a great deal.

 

Lessons Learned:

 

1. The Seattle rap scene is really interconnected, supportive, and for the most part a  positive group. My review was snarky, but the groups themselves seemed to enjoy the review. The review got picked up on social media and I believe almost everyone performing that night read it and had a laugh. I doubt this would be the reaction from most urban rap scenes which made me feel even better about the connection my kids have with this music.

 

2. Prometheus Brown (Bremerton graduate hence the shout out to Bremerton) is a stage name and the group he was performing with that evening is called The Bar. The other members of The Bar are Bambu and DJ InfraRed.  Brown also performs with a group named Blue Scholars (not Blues as I had first written.) This still confuses me a bit because I think of being in a group like being on a team, you can’t just play on two teams, but it speaks to how interconnected the Seattle rap community is. Someone wrote a comment that if I didn’t like The Bar and BFA I could listen to Wiz Khalifa. At first I thought The Bar in question was the club I went to, but it wasn’t. I still have no idea who Wiz Khalifa is and I am not going to Google him either. Ignorance is a gift in this case.

 

3. I am really out of touch with what is fashionable. I made fun of the BFA’s DJ and his fashion choices, but it appears I am the one dressed like a doofus. I watched a video by Macklemore yesterday about shopping at thrift stores. From what I can tell, the new thing is to wear old people’s clothing.

 

4. Social media really works. I blog but I don’t tweet or do anything else that pushes my blog out to more people. My daughter tweeted my blog to somebody and then the thing just snowballed. I think of the internet as a flat world where things are linear, but it isn’t. Twitter connects people one way, Facebook another way, Reddit (never heard of it until last week) another. I follow media in an old-fashioned way. I do one thing at a time, but people who are really connected toss all of the media together like a salad.

 

5. People are passionate about the music they love. While the groups I reviewed didn’t take much offense to what I wrote, the same cannot be said about all of their fans. One person thought I was a closet racist. (I really have nothing against closets. In fact, some of my favorite rooms are closets.) Others didn’t appreciate that I made fun of music that they really love. A few people couldn’t believe how clueless I am. I wasn’t always this clueless, but it happened. A few years ago (the 80s and 90s) I was ahead of the curve, I have the record collection to prove it. I worked as a college radio DJ and did a reggae show every Friday night, but one day I looked in the mirror and I was old.

 

6. Parents shouldn’t be too worried about letting their kids go see groups like The Physics, BFA, and The Bar. I wouldn’t take a bunch of ten year-old girls, but if your kids are listening to the rap music, why not go to a concert and see what it is all about?

 

Two Things I Want My Readers to Learn:

 

1. Buy your music. Don’t steal it off the internet just because you can. If you love music keep it alive. These groups you love deserve it. They are not millionaires, and if they are, it still doesn’t make it okay. I know music can be expensive but you have to feed the things you love. Music and musicians cannot live off of your love (unless your love comes in the form of food.) Supporting artists is a tradition that has been around since Man started developing culture. We would not have the great paintings, music, sculpture, and writings if it were not for patrons of the arts. Become a patron instead of a leech.

 

2. Get to know the reggae branch of the rap tree: Toasting/Dancehall. Yelllowman, and Eek-a-Mouse are pretty good, but when it comes to spoken word music no one was ever better than Linton Kwesi Johnson. If you don’t know him, you should.

 

English: Linton Kwesi Johnson on stage reading...

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