Tag: Macklemore

Too Old For Hip-Hop? Father’s Day in Seattle

How did I turn into a Rap/Hip-Hop aficionado? I had kids. Technically my wife had the kids, I just…well I will assume you know how that happened. If not, there are better websites to learn about such things than this one. (If you can’t figure that out I don’t want you procreating anyway.)

My kids have taught me many things over time: how to repair car bumpers with duct tape, how to use YouTube for any type of home repair, and they have introduced me the Seattle Rap scene. I have written several times about Macklemore (who is no longer a Seattle secret) and I have attended a few other Rap concerts because I was a bit paranoid that my kids were going to end up in a knife fight between rival gangs like the Sharks and the Jets, but so far our concerts have all been pretty tame events compared to what I expected. So this year for Father’s Day my daughter decided that it would be great for me to celebrate by taking her and a friend to see  Shelton Harris. Shelton Harris is not a family friend, he is one of the multitude of Seattle rap artists hoping to ride alongside the wave created by Macklemore. So on Sunday, when I traditionally celebrate Father’s Day by  sitting on the couch, watching the US Open and falling asleep, I was on my way to Seattle to attend a rap concert at The Crocodile. The Crocodile is one of Seattle’s most famous clubs and at one time was the center of the universe when Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the world with their flannel shirts and unwashed hair.

The month's line-up...also known people I did not know made a living off of music.

The month’s line-up…also known people I did not know made a living off of music.

These days the Crocodile is hosting groups who fall into the categories of “groups that I did not know existed” and Queensryche. The world has many ways of letting you know that your time is numbered here on Planet Earth (gray hair, aches in parts of your body that have previously been unknown, and the sudden discovery that all the bands you would have killed to see in the 1980s are suddenly playing at a local casino) but pop culture has the cruelest way of informing you that the world has moved on and it is time to get rid of your acid-washed jeans.

The Crocodile is in Bell Town (just north of the city center and ferry docks) and so we had a pleasant stroll through the downtown area. It was a lovely day and it was a nice walk. As we got closer to the venue we had what I later described as a Sesame Street moment. Remember the song “One of these things is not like the Other” from Sesame Street? Well, we were walking by four homeless people and three of them fit my stereotype of homeless people but the fourth guy was wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt tucked into his Docker’s shorts and had on Sperry Topsiders. I know Bell Town is a bit of trendy area but it isn’t often I see 50 year-old preppy dudes sitting on the street. This preppy guy was very friendly (drunk) and said, “How’s your day going?” I said it was just dandy and moved on. Ten feet later we walked by a Tattoo parlor and a young lady leaned out the doorway and shouted, “They’re ready for you, Dad.” The preppy/homeless guy got up off the street and said goodbye to his new friends and headed into the shop. What a great way to spend Father’s Day: drunk and getting a tattoo.

About a block later I made a friend myself. We crossed the street and were waiting for the light to change when I was approached by a ginger haired young man who was raising his fist toward me. I wasn’t sure if I was about to be slow-motion assaulted by a drunk leprechaun or what was going on. So I politely asked, “What’s going on here?”  He said, “I’m not sure.” So I gave him a fist bump. When life gives you gifts like that what else can you do but fist bump a drunk leprechaun.

We arrived at the Crocodile about thirty minutes before the venue was scheduled to open so we could stand in a very short line and so I could overhear the knuckleheads in the front of the line talk about how much pot they have smoked over the course of their short lives. Maybe I shouldn’t eavesdrop on people standing in a concert line, but what else is there to do when waiting in a line? That’s right people, when I am not actively doing something I am pulling an NSA and listening in on your most private conversations. As 7PM approached we could hear the music being bumped inside the club and just before 7 Grynch walked by. How did I know it was Grynch? My daughter’s friend yelled out, “Hey it’s Grynch.” At which point I looked for a green guy with a little heart, but instead I saw a dude with a shaved head who looked more like a computer programmer than a Seattle rapper. After the Grynch sighting we were allowed in the venue and I put in my ear plugs. I don’t wear ear plugs because I don’t like the music, I wear them because I value my hearing and some day when I am 80 I want to be able to hear. People do think you are weird when you wear ear plugs to a concert, but I got out of 8th grade a long time ago and I no longer care if people think I look weird.

The Crocodile was a little cleaner than I expected and people were very friendly. One of the bouncers told me that I could

The upstairs bar.

The upstairs bar.

head upstairs where I could get a drink and be able “to see everything” from there. He was either indicating that he knew I was a parent who wanted to make sure to keep an eye on his kid or that there was a mystical realm where all knowledge was stored just 20 feet above the stage. I wasn’t any smarter when I got upstairs and just to prove how dumb I was I ordered a Coke from the bar when there was a Coke machine 10 inches from me.

The next hour was painful, I was able to sit down and sip my Coke, but the DJ was doing everything to make me wish I was watching Phil Mickelson choke away another US Open. First off, I am certain that the DJ was competent at what he was doing, but when the crowd starts checking their email while you are trying to fire up the crowd it is time to come up with a new strategy. Play something that doesn’t cause the crowd to look like commuters waiting for a train (Hanson’s Mmm Bop might work). The music was loud enough to shake my growing adipose layer but that was the only moving my body was even tempted to do. I found myself longing for the days of DJ Gillian from the group Brothers From Another. That guy really confused me, but at least he knew what his job was: get the crowd fired up and wearing clothing so trendy that people my age will make fun of you. The DJ at the Crocodile was wearing a Mariners jersey and standing behind his turntables and computers playing song after song hoping that the crowd would suddenly decide to pay attention.

During the day he models, but at night he becomes...Rapper Mike Champoix.

During the day he models, but at night he becomes…Rapper Mike Champoux.

Finally an Abercrombie and Fitch model took over the stage and the show really got underway. Rapper Mike Champoux came out, grabbed his crotch 12,000 times, and turned the crowd from a disinterested group of blue faced Facebook updaters into a swirling mass of arms being waved in the air. There was only one thing I didn’t like about Mr. Champoux’s performance and that was his video crew recording the performance on an iPad. Of the multitude of ways of recording performances these days, I would put using an iPad right next to using a Super 8 camera. Video crews (even if it is a single person) should be inconspicuous. When you walk around the stage wearing a backpack and carrying a video monitor to record something, you are not inconspicuous.

Anyway, Mr. Champoux put on a good show, I would describe his rapping style as smoothish or flowy, which in my book is good. He had a couple guests come on stage with him: Grynch and a singer who’s name escaped me because I was wearing ear plugs. His set was entertaining and he got bonus points for introducing his parents, thanking them for their support, and wishing his dad a happy Father’s Day.

Kung Foo Grip isn't just for GI Joe anymore.

Kung Foo Grip isn’t just for GI Joe anymore.

Up next was Kung Foo Grip. They were not smoothish or flowy. They were a little more on the loud and yelly spectrum. The two rappers sported some sweet hairdos and I think if they ever want to break into the big time the DJ needs to take one for the team and get a Jheri Curl so the group’s hairdos will span the spectrum, but maybe I am wrong. The crowd did seem to enjoy the performance even though there were a couple times the DJ with the afro wanted the crowd to be quiet and listen to the words. I’m all for spoken word poetry, but I think there are better spots  for that than a Hip-Hop concert. I’m sure there are groups of hipsters with ironic mustaches at some local coffee shop in Bell Town who would love to be quiet and listen to the words, but a group of 150 kids who are attending a concert may not be the best group for “listening to the words.”

Kung Foo Grip finished their set and released their grasp of the stage around 10PM. This is when I began to worry about the ferry system of Washington State. I knew there was a ferry at 11:15 and then one at 12:45. If I didn’t have to be at work at 7:30 in the morning these thoughts would not have entered my mind, but since the DJ spent an hour playing his record collection we were now forced with a decision that no one wants to make: leave during the headlining act, or stay for the whole thing and get home around 3AM. I texted my daughter that if we wanted to catch the 11:15 ferry we would have to leave at 10:50 and then race walk to catch it.

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Shelton Harris is not blue. I am just not a great photographer.

Shelton Harris took the stage at around 10:20 and I could instantly tell why people say he might be the next big performer from Seattle, because he is pretty good at the old rapping thing. He does appear to be pretty young and I could find out how old he is by doing an ounce of research, but I am not going to do that, I will just say that he looked to be somewhere between the ages of 17-22. He has a great stage confidence for someone that young. He pumped up the crowd, joked around a bit, and then gave out great energy while performing. His DJ (Tyler Dopps) had tight beats (I don’t know what that means, but it was said on the drive home so I assume it is true) and his lyrical meter was solid. (I really dislike it when a rapper forces words to fit the meter. Find a better word, or a different word, or stop rapping.)

Unfortunately we had to leave about halfway through Shelton’s set, and it really was unfortunate because the ferry was about 15 minutes late and we could have stayed longer if we had known the ferry was behind schedule. It was also disappointing because I really do think this young man is on his way up. There are always bumps in the road for performers and the best people don’t always have the most success, but Shelton Harris does seem to have that je ne sais quoi that it takes to make it.

Hey, Macklemore, can I come to your Pizza Party?

My son and daughter have grown up in a family of two English teachers so it is not unusual for all of us to talk about fictional characters as if they are real. My children have not suffered because of this phenomenon, but there have been times when it has confused my kids.  The tables have not only turned, the tables have been upturned as my children have gotten older. The world they exist within is not the same world I grew up in, but like any supremely cool parent (sarcasm intended) I have tried to allow them to exist within this alternative universe while doing my best to educate myself about this other place. It is why I have attended my first rap concerts, learned to text message, watched the stupidest television shows ever produced, and kept my fingers crossed that I wasn’t a terrible parent.

This past week I learned a few more things: 1. Each year Seattle rapper Macklemore has a pizza party for his fans, 2. There is always a contest to get into the pizza party, and 3. Columbia City is not a bad place to spend three hours if you have not been invited to Macklemore’s pizza party but your daughter has.

On Tuesday morning, I received an email from my wife (we still like to communicate the old-fashioned way) that informed me that Owour sent a text to my daughter and invited her to Macklemore’s pizza party. I knew who Owour was because my daughter talks about these Seattle rap folks by first name, and I have seen him on television several times jumping around with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as they played that “funky” music the children love so much.

The invitation was an unexpected and generous act that caught us unprepared. The party started a 6PM and was in an area of Seattle that my wife and I were not familiar with, so that meant I would be going. I get to venture into the unknown because I am taller than my wife and don’t mind getting lost.

We live a bit away from Seattle so it was a dash to make it to Columbia City in time, it didn’t help that the Mariners were having a game downtown, but we made it to the pizza party in time for my daughter and her invited guest to stand in line for a few minutes before being swept in through the VIP entrance. It was a little like taking her to the airport and dropping her off for a three-hour trip to some place fantastic. I know enough about the band to know that she was in a safe place with some great people.

Here is what her evening was like:

The line to get into the world premire pizza party.

The line to get into the world premiere pizza party.

Em, Jon, Ray

My daughter with the director of the Thrift Shop video (Jon Jon), and Ray Dalton.

Shoes

Macklemore’s shoes. I believe those are Ryan Lewis’ shoes to the right.

same love

Macklemore, Mary Lambert and Owour performing Same Love.

While my evening was not as glamorous, I did manage to survive. I ate an entire pizza in about ten minutes. Wandered down to Starbucks and watched some old ladies knit up a storm.

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This is before Charlotte arrived. Once Charlotte showed up some serious knitting went down.

I found a great eyeless gnome.

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My son was afraid of gnomes when he was younger, so I took a picture of this guy and sent it off to my son with this message, “Is this under your bed?”

I ate a small plate of nachos.

IMG_0525

After the pizza, I could not finish the entire plate of nachos.

After the pizza, the coffee at Starbucks, the discovery of the gnome, and the plate of nachos, I still had about an hour to waste. So I wandered aimlessly around the streets until it got dark. I did discover a “Gentleman’s Club” just down the street but decided that even though I am a gentleman, I should probably skip that one. (I did not have my top hat and tails with me.)

My daughter eventually emerged from the party and by all accounts had a great evening. She saw the world premiere of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ new video, met lots of people, witnessed a mini-concert, and most importantly had an experience that she will remember forever.

If there is one thing life has taught me it is that experiences are priceless. My greatest regrets are when I passed up opportunities to do something because it was slightly inconvenient or cost more than I was willing to pay. I look back on those handful of opportunities with the knowledge that the $40 I saved by not seeing Pink Floyd in Auckland was wasted someplace not as memorable, the $75 I didn’t want to spend to rebook my flight to include a Fijian stop-over probably got spent on rice and beans in Spokane, and the chance to drive to LA to see Linton Kwesi Johnson in concert would have made me tired for work on Monday, but it would have created a memory that I still have today. It is those moments I regret, but those are the moments that help to remind me that driving to Seattle on a Tuesday night and getting back late was worth it even if the only thing I got was heartburn and a great big hug from my daughter.

Here’s the new video if you were curious.

A Parent Guide for Rap Concerts

The view from the Loser Seats.

Now that I am a hip, trendsetting parent who takes their kids to rap concerts I thought I would toss out some parenting tips for those of you taking your kids to a rap concert.

  1. Leave the Kindle at home. I know you need to read the third book of Fifty Shades of Grey, but reading while at a rap concert is just wrong. Updating your Facebook page on your smart phone during the concert is okay. In fact, some people will get a real hoot from it if you post pictures or make snarky comments about your experiences while at the concert, but a Kindle? You might as well be wearing a cape and a wizard hat and carrying around a copy of one of the Harry Potter books. Nothing says “Nerd” like a Kindle at a rap concert.
  2. Do not try to dance at any point. Don’t do it. You might think you are moving in a fluid and striking way, but you are not. You are no longer able to move your hips in a fashion that will entice the opposite sex, and if you could, your kids would just think that is gross. So, stand if you must, but realize there are lots of people around you with smart phones who could record your gyrations and post them on YouTube. Nothing will lose you more cool points with your kids than showing up as the next viral video called, “Momma shakes her money-maker.” Clapping along with the song is just fine, but make sure you can keep a beat if you are going to clap.
  3. Once in the concert venue, don’t force your kids to hold your hand or sit next to you. If they want to do that fine, but let them go. They may get a little bruised or squashed if they decide to smash into the ball of human flesh in front of the stage, but most kids like this. Chaperone a high school dance and you will understand that being smashed into a big ball of human flesh is what kids do today. While we parents were mastering the finer dance moves like swinging your arms and hopping like a pogo stick, today’s kids are mastering the pressing of the flesh. Sure it turns them into a sweaty mess, but remember being a teenager? There are very few times when you are allowed to let loose the sweaty mess, so relax and let them get sweaty.
  4. Don’t be shocked if you hear a couple potty words. I saw one parent look like he was slapped in the face when one of the performers said a bad word. You are at a rap concert not at holy mass at the Vatican. Potty language and rap go together like peanut butter and jelly, like Starsky and Hutch, like the Northwest and Rain…you are going to hear some offensive language at a rap concert. Get over it and move on with your life. If you kid has ears and can breathe, he/she will have heard those words before and it won’t kill them. I would bet they even have said a few of those words.
  5. Don’t try to ask too many questions at the concert. Your kid is there to enjoy the concert not to play tour guide for you. I try to save all of my questions for the ride home. For example here were my questions on the ride home Friday night: 1. What was that DeeOne dude wearing on his head? From where I was sitting it looked like a gray traffic cone. 2.Can you be a one-man army if you have a DJ? Doesn’t that make you a two-man army? 3. Did you see how tall that lady was who sang that one song? Do you think she was seven feet tall?  I didn’t think she really sang that song? Isn’t she auto-tuned? 4. Do you think Macklemore has really read Outliers? 5. What was the deal with the little guy wearing the Where’s Waldo tank top? What was his name? Buffalo what?
  6. Don’t dress up for the concert. You are not going to see Itzhak Pearlman at Benaroya Hall. Leave the fancy clothing at home. Dress for comfort, you are not going to impress anyone anyway. If you are one of those people who worry about being dressed too informally then wear black. Black pants, black shirt, black shoes. Black covers many sins and it will make you look slimmer.
  7. Listen to a little of the music before going to the concert. You can even watch some videos on the Internets. You might actually find a few songs that you like. I can say that my attitude about rap music changed a great deal once I started to listen to it again. I had given up on rap once it turned into Big Pants MCHammer vs Gangster, but today’s hip-hop has a multitude of messages and styles. So even old folks like you and me can find someone out there that is pretty fly.
  8. Finally, sit in the Loser Seats. If the concert promoter provides seats way in the back, those seats are there for you. That’s right, you are no longer cool, or hip, or really very important. Once you bought those tickets your importance diminished a great deal. Accept it and realize that you can relax with the other losers away from the majority of the noise.

The poet as prophet: An evening with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (There is no crying at a rap concert)

Macklemore returned home last night to begin a 50-city tour of his recently released album The Heist. The album is the number one album on iTunes and last night’s concert at the WAMU Theater was one of those moments in life when things just come together: The album rising to the top, Macklemore kicking off his tour in his hometown, and over 7,500 members of his Shark Face Gang attending the sold out concert.

I am certain that most of the attendees had a great night, but I must say that my evening ended up being more of an opportunity to reflect on the role of the artist in society. This might sound like an odd reaction to a concert that had all of the markings of a full-scale attack on my senses, but when it was over there was a moment in the concert that will stay with me forever, a moment when I was genuinely moved to tears. Every so often things conspire and come together in a way that is more powerful than simple fate, Thomas Hardy writes of this phenomenon is his poem The Convergence of the Twain. The waste and opulence of the Titanic and its meeting with the uncompromising forces of nature. These two opposing forces are brought together in the poem in an epic collision that accentuates our human weaknesses and flaws. The concert provided a moment like this last night.

Scientist, Paul Dirac once said, “In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in the case of poetry, it’s the exact opposite!” In other words, poetry reveals a truth that is directly before us, one that all of us see, but just cannot express. For me Macklemore has done this with his song Same Love. The song relates a truth; marriage equality is a human right that can no longer be denied to couples of the same-sex. Bigotry and hatred can be masked in many ways, but a pointy white hood is a pointy white hood. Mask it in religion or mask it in tradition, either way the hood must come off and people must see the face of truth.

The concert had been roaring along for a good 45 minutes before Macklemore stopped, brought out a stool to sit on and then talked about what he called “the most important song I have ever written.” This was not hubris; it was the truth. He has written songs about several important social issues, but this one is situated perfectly in time and place. In Washington we will be voting very soon to see if marriage equality will be recognized in our state.

The song starts off with what can only be described as a church organ playing a sustained note, soon followed up with some plunking on a piano. Macklemore begins the lyrics to the song relating his earliest memories and fears of homosexuality and slowly begins to connect the opposing ideas of religious love and institutional bigotry and how these two forces can no longer control the debate about a human right that should be available to all people. When vocalist Mary Lambert blasted out her chorus and the crowd responded by singing in unison, Lambert was visibly moved. She paused, lowered her head, and tried to gain composure.  When Lambert could not draw the air into her lungs to sing the next note the crowd lifted her, sang her words, “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to. My love…my love… my love. She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm.” The words that were probably written in a small notebook somewhere in Seattle had converged at this moment: The words of Macklemore, the voice of Mary Lambert, and the crowd of thousands singing along. It was in that moment when the beauty of the human heart was revealed. The simple truth, the power of language, the elevation of the spirit, all converged at that moment to lift all 7,500 of us. We floated above the casual concerns of the earth for several minutes, all of us joined together in the common bond of love. The bond we all seek and explore in our many different journeys held us together and brought the air into our lungs as we sang together. Heaven must be as lovely as that moment.  The crowd lifted the musician who had lifted them. It was a perfect moment. There is no other way to express it. When the human soul is raised to an expression of love and communion like it did Friday night, what can one say?

The role of the artist in society is to uncover a truth that has been sitting before us but has gone unnoticed before. The poet’s job in his/her artistic pursuit is to breathe life and emotion into this truth so that when the truth is laid bare before us it is undeniable.

The artist reveals himself unapologetically. Bearing his soul, his frailties, and his imperfections to the audience so that we can see those truths in our lives also. His role in society as a truth-teller cannot be overlooked. There is no more important job on the earth. The artist may not be as valued as those so-called “job creators” but holding a looking glass up to society is the artist’s responsibility. Most of us shrink from the thought of baring our souls honestly and completely. Red Smith said that writing was easy; you just sat down at a typewriter open a vein and bleed.  Macklemore’s gift is that he hasn’t just opened a vein; he has taken out a surgical knife and opened a hole from his neck to his bellybutton. His blackened secrets come out as purging, hot blood: His struggles with addiction, his relapse, his fight for artistic freedom, and his personal connection to the issue of marriage equality. He heaps his guts on the stage. He also plays court jester to the crowd, turning that mirror on the obsession of the hip-hop culture with shoes and clothing. His ability to point out our nation’s mania with consumer goods in a song like Thrift Store is brilliant, but in a venue where T-shirts are sold for $25-$45 Macklemore manages to strike the right playful tone.

I won’t be joining the Shark Face Gang anytime soon (the sweatshirts were already sold out), but I can say that this Macklemore fellow has what it takes to be called Artist.

 

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...

Who’s Too Old For a Rap Concert: Part 2

The first act of the night was Brothers From Another and here is where I admit my ignorance: I don’t really know when the group started playing. The DJ was onstage playing records and trying to get the crowd to “put their hands in the air.” He would prance around for a little bit and then grab the mic and give some instructions like he was an aerobics instructor in a bad outfit. I could not get past his hat. It was a blue camouflage canvas hat shaped like the one Gilligan wore on his island. It is the type of hat that I cannot take seriously. Maybe if you live in a retirement home in Arizona you can wear a hat like that, but if you are between the ages of 8-65 you should not wear a hat like this unless it is a joke. Anyway, Gilligan danced around for about two songs and just as I was about to decide he was Brothers From Another (which would be a great name for a solo act) two other guys jumped onstage and started rapping.

How old did I feel at this point? Pretty old. The two kids rapping were probably born last week and everyone else in the crowd was younger than them. They did their best to rhyme  and put on a show, but I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to poetry. I’d take Keats over Vanilla Ice any day. I am certain that the finer points in meter, scansion, and slant rhyme would be lost on the Brothers, but I will admit I was entertained. At one point one of the brothers had a cousin come onstage to rap a charming tune, “You ain’t gonna drink my drank for free,” or something like that. Now, whether this cousin was in fact a biological cousin or not could not be determined, but he did bring the median age of people on stage into double digits.

Brothers? On the left: short brother, on the right: tall brother, in the back: Gilligan. Not the best picture in the world, but I’ll let my words paint the picture.

The Brothers finished their set and I thought they did just fine for an opening act. One of the sad things about being an opening act in a smaller club is that when your part of the show is over there is no place to go. So for the rest of the night I saw Gilligan, short brother, and tall brother wandering around like the Israelites looking for the promised land.

Between acts I watched the man with the worst job in the world: the security guy in charge of keeping the alcohol upstairs and the minors downstairs. He had to watch a door, watch the stairs, and check every person passing by for ID. His job only got harder as the night went on. What’s worse than a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt? How about a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt who has had three umbrella drinks.

The second act was set up and ready to roll by about 10PM. These days 10PM is when I set my book down on my bedside table and go nighty-night, but for some reason I wasn’t really tired yet. Maybe it was the espresso, maybe it was because my brain was being concussed by sound waves. Act number two is still a mystery to me. There was one guy named Prometheus (I hope this is his real name and not a stage name), one guy whose name is still unknown, and then there was DJ InfraRed. The name of the group? I don’t know. After the concert my daughter tried to explain the situation to me, but it was like listening to my mom explain how I was related to some person that lives in Florida.

One of the rappers is from the group Blue Scholars and the other two guys were from other groups, so it was either a rap super group or three guys doing rap karaoke.

Rap Super Group?

These guys were good. Now I don’t know what the hell they were saying, but they had great energy, got the crowd going, and put on a show worthy of my attention post 10PM. There was one moment that confused me. Prometheus said he was going to be taking it on the road to Bremerton. Now if you are in Seattle why would you aspire to go to Bremerton? For those of you outside the Northwest I will try to make a comparison. Let’s say you are in New York City doing a rap concert and then for some reason you say, “I’m going be taking this on the road to Rochester.” Maybe I missed something, but heading to Bremerton isn’t really a move in the right direction career-wise, unless you want to get a job in the ship yard. I imagine those jobs pay well and have better hours than rap star.

The rap trio then asked for requests from the crowd, I almost always request Blue Velvet or Just a Gigolo when called upon in situations like this, but I figured DJ InfraRed probably left those albums at home, so I left it up the youngsters in the crowd to shout out requests. One young lady standing near me started yelling, “Rasheeda Jones, Rasheeda Jones…” like she was Biz Markie‘s sister. She kind of looked like Biz Markie too, except in a skirt. Anyway, the group then busted into Rasheeda Jones. Biz Markie’s sister took full credit for the song and would not shut up about it. Act two came to an end and the +21 year olds headed upstairs to get oiled up for the final act of the night: The Physics.

Between sets one of the security guys went to stand in front of the big fan near me and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but the dude was not bathed in sweet-smelling nectar. No he smelled like hot dogs. If I smelled like hot dogs I would not stand in front of a fan, unless I was trying to entice people into a life of cannibalism. There are two ways to go when smelling like a hot dog: 1. put on a lot of Old Spice, 2. embrace your inner hot dog and rub a cut onion all over your body.

The final act took the stage around 11:15, and when I say took the stage I mean they filled the stage. The stage was not huge but I estimate there are 12,000 people in The Physics. Okay, maybe not 12,000. The number of Physics falls somewhere between MC Hammer‘s stage act and Public Enemy’s (not counting people dressed in military outfits.) To be more exact: two vocalists, two rappers, one DJ, one guy playing a keyboard, and one guy playing a guitar.

The Physics (and a few members of the crowd).

The Physics were good. I have even listened to their album Tomorrow People and liked it. The show was going along just fine until they had members of the audience join them onstage to dance around. I kept wondering if the stage could hold all that funkiness. It did, but at the end of the song, when everyone was supposed to head back to the floor, one girl stood on the stage texting while everyone else followed the rules. She just kept texting away as the guitarist tried his best to shoo her away, but she would have none of it. She then interrupted the lead rapper to take a picture. I am not a violent person, but I found myself wishing someone would attack this self-centered moron or at least take her phone and throw it into the crowd where it could be stomped on repeatedly.

The show did go on but we left before it was over. We had to catch the 12:45 ferry back home, so we did not see the end of the show. My children reported a Macklemore sighting, so I assume he hopped on stage with The Physics at some point in the evening, but I cannot report this as fact. I can say that Capitol Hill is still busy at 12:30 in the morning and I did enjoy my first rap concert.

Heading back home on the ferry. The Emerald City is just as lovely at night.

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