How does a nearly 50-year-old man end up at monthly hip-hop concerts? Well, I’m not sure. I feel a little like Gregor Samsa at times, it’s like I went to bed one day as a young man and woke up with a two kids and a mortgage.
So on Thanksgiving Eve when the rest of the United States was busy prepping for the big feast I was in a line outside the Showbox in Seattle waiting to see Sol and Friends. The show was sold out and apparently Sol is a big deal in Seattle, I know this because the line outside the Showbox at 6:15 was already snaking around the corner. Our 45-minute wait was a colorful one. The Showbox is located right across the street from the Pike Street Market (Yes, the place they throw fish) and between a strip club and Taboo Video that, thank God, would be open on Thanksgiving Day. The people who “live” in this general area are primarily homeless and have fallen on tough times. So as we stood in line we got to meet some of these folks as they worked the line for spare change. Sol had Tweeted or Facebooked or done something with the internet saying that bringing a non-perishable food item would get you some swag at the merch table. (I believe the previous sentence is correct.) So we brought along some boxes of mac and cheese to give to the food bank. The irony of bringing food for the homeless and then refusing to give money to the members of the homeless was not lost on me and I finally broke and decided to offer to buy some dinner for the next homeless person who asked for change. There was a Pho shop right next to where we stood so when the next guy asked for change I said, “I’ll buy you dinner in there.” He looked at the Pho place and then moved on to the next person in line. Now, I know it is difficult to eat Pho. Is it soup? Is it noodles? Can you pick up the bowl and drink, or do you have to use the big spoon? How exactly does one pronounce Pho? Foe? Fu? Maybe the homeless dude had tried Pho and it had been too hot for him, I don’t know, but I do know that I felt better about myself, and that is the important lesson here.
My warm feeling did not last long because it was about 30 degrees outside and 50% of the people waiting in line were idiots. Okay, that is an exaggeration; there was one pack of college/high school boys acting like morons in line. I know that the marijuana cigarettes have been legalized in Washington State and I know that people enjoy smoking these left-handed cigarettes, but I have a real problem with people assuming that you can just light up whenever and wherever you want. I don’t long for the days of Reefer Madness but I wish these kids could show a little class. The thing that made me grumpy was that one of the kids went over to this homeless guy and danced around a bit (he was not a good dancer) and then offered the guy the tail end of his blunt. I wanted to punch the kid, but that would have messed up his Flock of Seagulls hairdo and his parents (who I assume live in Bellevue) would have sued me for attending a hip-hop concert at an advanced age.
Eventually the line began to move and we were inside the venue pretty rapidly. I took all the jackets and sweaters from my crew and went to the over 21 area. My crew pushed their way to the front of the stage and waited for the show to start. I took all the winter clothing and found a seat for it and then found a spot for myself. This is when I realized I had forgotten my earplugs. I realized this because I could feel a chunk of wax vibrating inside my ear canal. It wasn’t even loud yet and I was already beginning to wonder if I should go to the bathroom and stuff some TP into my ears, but I decided to live la vida loca and just damage my hearing a bit more.
Soon the venue was packed and my seat was pretty good, Dave B was the opening act and through some stroke of luck, I just happened to be sitting next to his sister. She was a very nice young lady and not happy that Dave did not have water backstage. I saved her seat and she got Dave some water and then he began his performance.
Dave B had a lot of energy and got the crowd to put their hands in the air and dance around like they just didn’t care. The big problem with Dave’s performance was his DJ.
Now I am ignorant when it come to what the DJ does exactly, but from my perspective here are the job requirements: push buttons on a computer, turn some records and do some scratching, and know what song comes next. This is probably oversimplifying the job, but Dave B’s DJ seemed to lack one of these skills: knowing what song was next. I am not saying I could do better because: 1. I don’t know any of Dave B’s tunes, 2. I don’t know how to make a computer do anything other than collect the words I type and connect to one of the tubes of the interwebs. But, if I were being paid to DJ an event I would write down the songs we were going to play and then play them in that order.
Since Dave B and his DJ were not on the same song, there were several breaks that kind of killed Dave’s momentum. It was like watching the last three minutes of an NBA game, a little action, a timeout, a little action, another timeout, and then finally Dave B’s set was over. He seemed to take the problems in stride and therefore I decided that Dave B’s parents had done a good job of preparing him for life, it didn’t hurt that his sister seemed like a very nice person also.
The next act up was Sam Lachow and I wasn’t sure what to expect because I knew next to nothing about him, so when a dude in a sleeveless parka came onstage I thought that might be Sam. Sleeveless parka dude had a sax and was standing off on the left side of the stage looking awkward, but then a DJ got behind the turntables and started to play some music. Parka dude was dancing a little bit and I believe he had his eyes closed. Dancing with your eyes closed is a dangerous thing because even though you can’t see anything, people can see you. So unless you are a real dancing machine, I suggest keeping the old eyeballs open. Dancing sleeveless parka dude was not a dancing machine; he was like a seventh grade boy dancing by himself to ABBA’s Greatest Hits. I know that men like me who cannot dance should not toss stones at other men who cannot dance, but if you stand up on a stage and look like you making love to your saxophone while wearing a parka, somebody has to stop you while your pants are still on.
The dancing saxophone playing sleeveless parka dude thing only got stranger as the DJ soon was having technical difficulties and had to retrieve Dave B’s DJ to connect some cables or something, this took a bit longer than it should have and soon the dancing saxophone playing sleeveless parka dude was left onstage with no music playing. You could see that he was wondering what he should do. He had a couple options: stand there like a pine tree in a windstorm, leave the stage, or bust out with some Careless Whisper. Maybe he didn’t know Careless Whisper, but if he had started playing that, the crowd would have gone nuts. Instead he stood there like the last kid to get picked up after little league practice.
Eventually all the wires were connected and it looked like I would finally get to see Sam Lachow in action, the music was bumping, the crowd was fired up, and then the strangest collection of people ever to take the stage at a rap concert took the stage. The sleeveless parka dude was there, a tall guy who looked like he just wandered out of the Cascade mountains after a year-long hike, a lady dressed in a camo jumpsuit wearing a backpack, a dude with a backwards baseball hat, and a guy who looked like he stepped off the set of the 1988 movie Colors. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but let’s just say it was an odd cross-section of people and completely breaks any stereotype an old guy like me might have about what rappers look like.
Sam, the guy in the backwards hat, was really very entertaining and could spit the old rhymes. The crowd was really pumped and the entire place was jumping. It was so loud that the little piece of earwax rattled out of my ear. Sam seems to have quite a following of guys who wear their hats backwards. I am not a fan of the backward hat look. In my opinion the only person to pull it off was Ken Griffey Jr., so unless you are Junior, turn your hat around and let the bill of the hat do its job. I tell people that I have never seen a smart person wearing a hat like that, but there are probably exceptions to this scientific fact.
Overlooking Sam’s fashion faux pas, I must say that his set was really, really entertaining. I not only enjoyed the cornucopia of characters that he invited on to the stage, I also enjoyed his music.
Sam wrapped up his set and the crowd began to prepare for Sol’s appearance. During this time I had a few moments to think about whether Sam’s music was rap or hip-hop, or something completely different. Music is changing and moving in directions that simple labels don’t seem to fit any longer. I don’t really know the difference between rap and hip-hop because I have not seen a scientific mapping of the genres, for all I know they could be in the same Kingdom and Phylum (Biology class has finally paid off with this obscure reference). Anyway, I decided that Sam’s music might be something a little different from other hip-hop I have heard and decided that I would coin the term “Frat Rap™” because that is what it seemed like to me. Maybe it was the backwards hat, maybe it was the sax dude, maybe it was just me since I don’t know what I am talking about.
The stagehands came out, cleared away the opening acts’ stuff and got the stage ready for Sol. DJ Nphared (who spun the vinyl for The Bar when I last saw him) manned the turntables and computer, a drummer hopped up behind a full set of drums, and then some dude who was obviously lost made his way on stage to play electric bass. Now I don’t like to stereotype people (if you have read this far you know this is a lie, but it sounds better if I say this before I write what I am about to write), but the bass player looked like he fell off the cover of a Lynyrd Skynyrd Album from 1975. This guy’s hair was Marsha Brady long and he has probably had more trouble getting into rap venues than any person in the history of mankind. “I’m with the band” isn’t going to cut it when you look like that and are trying to get backstage. Sol later announced that this hippie was his best friend so I should probably assume other people aren’t as narrow-minded as me.
Well, while DJ Nphared pumped up the volume well past 11, Sol snuck around behind the stage to make his surprise entrance. The surprise entrance is easy once you have reached the big-time because you can get one of those elevators to lift you right in the middle of the stage, but when you are at the Showbox you have to get someone with a flashlight to show you where the surprise spot is, and that kind of kills the surprise.
Whether people were surprised or not didn’t matter because once the spotlight hit Sol the crowd lost their minds. Sol did the whole, “Seattle” thing where everyone yells because we are in Seattle and that is what you do when someone on stage yells the city’s name. The band then started playing and the crowd started hopping around and acting like they were spiking volleyballs in unison. It really was pretty exciting. I even moved a little bit while sitting on my barstool.
The highlight of Sol’s set was when nearly every rapper in the greater King County area hopped up on stage to rap about their enjoyment of the wacky weed. (Sir Mixalot was not there, but he should be working on a new version of his big butt song, I could write part of it for him… “I like big bud and I cannot lie.” Okay, the rest is up to you, Sir.) The wacky weed song seemed to bring out the need for everyone in the Showbox with a marijuana cigarette to light up. I felt super old at this point. I am not a prohibitionist, but I also don’t like to breathe in smoke in any form, so I sat on my little bar stool taking mini-breaths like a two-year-old. My body is a temple, a temple for hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, and French fries, not for second-hand smoke.
After the smoke cleared and the various rappers left the stage Sol closed out the evening with a number of songs that the entire crowd at the Showbox knew, well, almost everyone. I have not memorized any of his lyrics, that portion of my brain is already full of 50 years of music. The rest of the crowd was really into the songs though.
It’s at times like this that I wish the whole world could be infused with the energy of a concert crowd. Music has such a transcendent quality that can draw us together it should be required that world leaders attend a few concerts together. The world would be a better place. From what I gathered Sol thinks so too. He took a few opportunities to talk to the crowd between songs and spoke about his travels and how music has a unique ability to cross cultural boundaries and draw us together. At least that is what I think he was saying.
The evening came to an end with an encore and it wasn’t long before I was being yelled at by the security to get moving and stop standing on the stairs. I realize that if you are a security guy you probably want people to clear out as quickly as possible after the concert is over, but old people like me break hips all the time when trying to move too fast, so take a deep breath buddy and get another neck tattoo.
We gathered the crew back together and I handed back the sweaters and jackets and we made our way to the ferry. As we waited for the 12:45 ferry we all agreed that the concert was awesome and that it was a great way to spend Thanksgiving Eve.
Categories: Concert Reviews