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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.