Light of the Stereo

Light of the Stereo

Monday, May 13, 2013

About Last Night: Saint Warhead @ Branx 05/10

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Last night I experienced my first underground hip hop show and I was fairly surprised by its similarities to your typical rock show. Like most shows the bands started late, the opening acts where equally amazing or mediocre, the mood of the show could have been managed to a more consistent effect by line up choices, and like most shows in Portland, the audience was fickle. Overall though, I had a blast and discovered that for me hip hop is a bit like baseball in the sense that as a recorded media I can take it or leave it but live it’s a uniquely different and captivating beast.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
First to the stage was Tawk Sicc, and though he had some decent beats I wasn’t overly impressed with his performance or energy. Even though it was a short set, he only performed what seemed like a total of 3 songs, spending the rest of his time shouting out the address to his twitter feed and website. Of the few songs he performed I felt all but one lacked any substance relying instead to on self boastful songs about parties with strippers and smoking weed. I know that might be what most main market rap consists of but that’s why it’s deemed soulless and immature. Unfortunately, his final song “Fallen Princess,” was the one that revealed the most of what Tawk Sicc could be. Though yet again about stripper it had the humanistic approach that reminded me of Biz Markie classic “She’s Not Just Another Woman (Monique).” Ultimately, I would have liked to have heard more of these kind of songs, and the truth be told you can tell me your web address a hundred times over but if you don’t blow me away with your music I won’t care enough to check it out.
Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Thankfully the hosting MC, Evert Washington’s, Ripynt must have sense the lack luster mood of the audience, because he rushed the stage and burst into his own little set. The high energy rhymes that assaulted us in the audience were like a cardiac thump direct to the center of our chests. Whimsical and yet honest the rapid fire delivery of his lines was like a pack of black cat fireworks thrown into a kennel of sleeping dogs. It rejuvenated the crowd, drawing them to the stage like moths happy for the warmth of the flames. Thank God for his quick actions. For without them I fear that we as an audience would not have been prepared for the aggressive assault that would follow in the form of Bad Habitat.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Recently I’ve been following Bad Habitat but until this show I hadn’t gotten the chance to see them perform. What a shame, because this band is amazing. A true show stopper, their three-front attack is unrelenting and was the perfect continuation to the building energy of Ripynt’s impromptu set. Driving with an unequaled momentum this band controlled the stage and had the house enthralled. To the fairness of the other bands on the bill they mostly had one poet to their credit while Bad Habitat had three master word smiths at the ready. Some might call that unfair, I just call it brilliant. Add to that the surgical precision of DJ Kut Throat on the turntables and no wonder it seemed like the band had the most numerous following of the night. If you haven’t checked out this band do yourself a favor and pop over to their website or better yet catch their next show with Pharohe Monch at the Hawthorne Theater on June 10th.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
As the show came to its midpoint Quiz Zilla took the stage. Clearly the favorite of ladies in the crowd, Quiz Zilla had the most polished persona of the acts. With a more mainstream than underground feel he certainly played the part of what most might picture as a typical rapper. Musically he was astute, energetic and could play the audience well. I could easily see that of all the bands that preformed Quiz Zilla has the pretence and luck to break into the mainstream market.

Following Quiz Zilla was the most accomplished act of the night, IAME of Portland’s Sandpeople. Tightly polished beats and powerful lines IAME’s set had a bit more mellow tempo and unfortunately due to its place on the bill the crowd was already waning. The music was wonderfully sound and the set performed with professional excellence but the audience was growing impatient for Saint Warhead to take the stage and didn’t give the set the focus that it deserved. I certainly look forward to catching IAME another time where I might see his skill shine a little brighter.

Photo By Mark Lawrence IV
Finally, the time came for Saint Warhead to take the stage and the crowd swelled appropriately. Of all the acts to take the play, Saint Warhead was the most stylistically eclectic, strutting a punk rock aesthetic that was more than just the mohawk. Incorporating live instrumentation, sung vocals and the feats of acrobatic amazement by Soren High this performance was elementally unique and delivered with an energy that rolled over the audience pulling them into the revelry. Highlighting the new album for which we had come to celebrate, proved it was one to take home at all cost.

Overall, what little speed bumps the night had to overcome did not diminish the pure greatness of my first underground hip hop show. If this night is of any indication, Portland’s grassroots hip hop scene might be the most vibrant musical genera presently cultivating in the northwest. So get out of your comfort zone and check out a show or two. If you need some recommendations check out some of the bands I mentioned. You won’t be disappointed.

Cure for the Mondays: Vintage Trouble - "Nancy Lee"

Vintage Trouble - "Nancy Lee"

Vintage doesn't always mean old and dusty.



Like most people, my greatest source of new music is through word of mouth. So after hearing the band Vintage Trouble, I only wished someone had told me about them sooner. Based out of LA, this band is a soul-rock powerhouse that taps the depth of Otis Redding and serves it up with the raw electricity of James Brown. Having spent the better part of the last few years in constant touring, supporting the likes of Joss Stone and playing all the major late night shows the band has made themselves a name. This summer they'll be getting the amazing chance to support not only the Rollingstones but also the Who for a few select dates. If the British gods of rock'n'roll can find a place for this band on their stage, I'm sure that you can find them a place in your heart.