(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Concert review - Macklemore, Whiskey Blanket, MTHDS

14 January 2009, Hodi's Half Note (Ft. Collins, CO)
Sometimes, it all comes down to happenstance. Yesterday afternoon, I surfed the sites for two of our local venues to see who would be playing soon. I saw that Hodi's was having a hip hop "house party" with a band called Whiskey Blanket and the description sounded kind of interesting. Since the show was fairly cheap ($8), I decided to go check it out. Man, am I glad that I did. There was a small crowd, but it was a great show.

Before I go into details, I'll talk briefly about my musical tastes. I listen to all kinds of music including rap and hip hop. When I listen to hip hop and related styles, I'm looking for a number of things: cool (and obscure) samples, lyrical sophistication, dance-worthy beats, and flow. I especially dig a more self-effacing, humorous attitude and genre-stretching mashups. So, De la Soul, Beastie Boys, Tone Loc, and Michael Franti all work well for me. Which doesn't block me from enjoying groups like Public Enemy or NWA - but gangster for its own sake doesn't really move me. Anyway, that gives you the grain of salt you might need for this review.

First up, Macklemore, a rapper out of Seattle. When he started his set, he was so low-key, I thought he was just doing a sound check. Pretty soon though, he had things hopping. It was just him and some pre-recorded beats. Samples were from all over, but included artists like Buffalo Springfield, John Mellencamp, and Nirvana. He stalked the stage, one minute bragging his skills, then dancing a bit, then sharing a more personal tip. White Privilege was one of my favorite songs - he talked about the hip hop scene and how it's an integral part of his self expression, while at the same time acknowledging caucasian appropriation and his own unsettled position as a white rapper. As a white guy whose best musical experience was playing in a reggae band, I can really relate. But it wasn't all serious, though. His red-state parody (in costume with a mullet and fake 'stasche) was hysterical and The Penis Song, where he laments his average stature, also had the crowd laughing. This act alone was worth the price of admission.

But there was more to come. Next up was Whiskey Blanket, from Boulder. Two front guys, Funny Biz and Sloppy Joe traded raps with a great Beastie Boys feel, while a DJ (Steakhouse) scratched and occasionally stepped out to join in the rap. The music was pretty interesting and added a lot of depth but the first time that Sloppy Joe pulled out his violin, everything kicked up a notch. The violin pushed the groove into classical mashup territory, especially when Funny Biz layed down some mad rapid fire beatbox sounds to go with it. Later, Funny Biz pulled out a cello and the two did a relatively modern sounding classical piece (a string duet) that eventually pulled in the beatbox, too. The mix was a little louder and busier, making it a bit harder to hear all the lyrics, but these guys had some nice props for old school jazz (Credible Sources, with a Miles/Monk(?) sample, talking about Monk and Coltrane, and some Ella scat) and also some funnier braggadocio, with Sloppy Joe threatening to make the ladies in the house (and men!) pregnant with the force of his rap. All in all, this was fresh and alive and I really enjoyed it.

The last group was M.T.H.D.S. (Music That Heightens Different Senses) from Vail. This was a full band, with guitar, bass, drums, and two rappers. The truth is that it was turning into an early Thursday morning and I didn't stay for the whole set. I did catch the first 5 or 6 songs and I liked the feel. Musically, they had a hard rock/funky sound, with the rappers mixing on in. I'm not so sure how typical that is, though. When I went to their page, their playlist music was more reggae influenced. In any case, they had a tight groove. Hearing them bring in some reggae would have been a welcome thing, too. On the downside, the vocals were way too muddy and low in the mix, which made it very hard to hear the lyrics. I'd like to catch them again some time and give them a full listen. I did get their CD (along with those of the other bands), so I'll be able to give a fuller review of that.

So: 3pm, no plans for the evening; 4:30, possibility of music; 8:30, sudden decision, YES; 9:30, kick out the jams!

I did pair O'Dells' nitro Cutthroat Porter with this set of music, but alternating Red Bull with Fat Tire would have worked, too.

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