I began the second day of A3C by hitting the Old Fourth Ward. Walking down Edgewood, I noticed street crowds were sparse. Maybe its being 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon had something to do with it.
Blocked at the intersection of Boulevard and Edgewood, the street was littered with food trucks and wandering patrons. Just before Noni’s, I saw a huge stage with artist booths set up; unfortunately, I was just too early to catch any of the action.
Walking toward Noni’s, I noticed another outdoor stage, tucked away in a corner. Walking back there, I stood and watched live art demonstrations. Once I reached the stage, I waited for something to happen, but was greeted only by nondescript trap music and folks just standing around. I decided to leave and head to Little 5 Points’ infamous Star Community Bar.
That proved a wise decision.
At the Star Bar, MCs from all over the country took the stage, earnestly performing ten-minute sets and all holding their own. It was difficult to catch all their names, but every artist was good. You know how you can never understand what someone is saying when they talk on stage? Maybe I’m just deaf from 20-plus years of rock shows.
The day’s standout was undoubtedly Giles. He had a confidence, style and vibe distinct from everyone else’s. Beyond just his lyrics and his beats, he also had an interesting fashion. He had a bit of a crazy look in his eyes as he commanded the stage.
Later that night I trekked down to 529 in East Atlanta Village. MCs got short sets here too, grabbing the mic and taking turns. It was even harder to hear in the 529 space, so as you might guess, I didn’t get any names there, either. The standout artist here was a guy from Toronto, who had the whole club moving and dancing.
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My first A3C experience was great. It brought out veteran artists and gave unknown artists a showcase for their talents. It filled a community’s venues and gave fans of real hip-hop nationwide an opportunity to get together. I only saw a fraction of the action, but what I did see was fun and celebrated a love of hip hop.
When MusicGrid asked if I wanted to cover the A3C Festival I said yes. But I’ll be honest with you, hip hop hasn’t been in my rotation in years. My relationship with hip hop soured somewhere around 2000 and, “Sippin on some Syrup.” Biggie, Tupac, Run DMC, Guru, Tribe, Wu-Tang, KRS-One, those were my guys. I loved their voices, their tracks, their intelligence, their whole vibe. They brought a message, something to say. When hip hop veered down the road into more materialism and misogyny and less into clever word-play and artistry, I lost interest.
So I went to the Variety Playhouse Thursday night with an open mind. I wanted to see Pharoahe Monch and Ghost Face Killer, but those were the only names I knew. Planting myself at the front of the stage, I watched MC’s: Jean Grae, Dres the Beatnik, Big Rock, Brown Bag Allstars, Skyzoo and of course, Pharoahe Monch and Ghostface Killah.
Dres the Beatnik and DJ Evil Dee moved the show along like a pro all night. While hip hop shows can be boring compared to rock shows, 3 dudes screaming into mics with only a backing track. Hip hop shows have the advantage of practically zero setup time between acts. Dres engaged the crowd with 90’s hip hop classics until the next MC came to the stage.
Of all the unknown artists, Brown Bag Allstars surprised me the most. Comparisons to Beastie Boys are given, since they’re all white guy crew, but there’s some Pharcyde and Tribe Called Quest in there as well. Their tracks real hip hop with cracking snares and muffled kicks. Their word-play and stage presence kept the crowd interested.
Another surprise was Jean Grae. I’ll admit I’d never heard of her but her skill and experience were evident from the start. She commanded the crowd to buy her drinks and they appeared within seconds. Shortly after that, a whole bottle of liquor appeared from the crowd, someone brought in to give. Grae brought out a vocalist on her last few songs who added a lot to the performance.
Another unknown for me was Skyzoo. Bringing a trumpet player on stage with him proved a nice touch. Skyzoo’s vibe was a bit low key, I wasn’t quite feeling what he put down.
By far, the best MC of the night, for me, was Pharoahe Monch. Mostly known for his hit with Mos Def and Nate Dogg, and his work with Organized Konfusion, he brought so much emotion and intensity to the stage. By the end of his set he had sweat through his clothes.
The last MC of the night was Ghostface Killah, who needs no intro. The Variety Playhouse was smoked out by this time. Clouds of marijuana smoke were filling the theater and folks were smoking with impunity. It was like a 90’s time warp. Ghostface came out with a bang and proceeded to rock the packed house.
I can sum up the night and gladly say, hip hop is far from dead. Hip hop has always been an underground phenomenon. The true innovation always remained out of the mainstream focus. The innovation continues with old school players but also with new artists who grab the mic for the love of it. Also, A3C deserves a shout for creating something worthwhile that real hip hop lovers and artists can use to promote their music.
John Baizley of Baroness designed this limited edition poster that you can cop a select local record stores on Black Friday.
Make sure you check out the list of titles being released exclusively for Black Friday, which contains such gems as a black-on-black edition of the “…Like Clockwork” LP.
We’re proud to present a new series of local concert reviews, courtesy of our own James Staubes. There’s more where this came from, so y’all enjoy.
It’s about the songs. Even if you have different players on the stage, than on the record. If the songs are good, they’ll hold up just fine.
I’ve been a fan of Dwight Yoakam since his 1993 record, “This Time.” I got hooked by the killer guitars of Pete Anderson, the great lyrics and the mixture of blues, rock n’ roll and Buck Owens/Bakersfield country. Dwight approached country with different attitude from those in Nashville. He and Lyle Lovett claimed the west coast as their turf in the 90’s.
I’ve seen Dwight so many times I’ve nearly lost count but I believe this was my fourth show, and it was the best yet. His band was so tight, pro-level tight. I’ve only seen a few bands pull off this level of skill, knowledge and grace. Frank Black, Son Volt and The Ramones, they did it. Basically the last note of each song is the first note for the next song. It’s relentless. Yoakam and his band did this for 2 straight hours.
Dwight knows you want to hear the hits: Thousand Miles From Nowhere, Fast as You, Suspicious Minds, Guitars, Cadillacs, Honky Tonk Man, I sang Dixie, Little Sister and on and on. He could play for 4 hours and still have half his catalog unplayed.
Of course he has “new material.” At a recent Aimee Mann show she made a joke about the phrase, “new material.” Her brother asked, “Are you going to play ‘new material?’” She replied, “Well yeh my career is kinda based on that!”
Good thing for Dwight his latest record, “3 Pears,” is filled with good “new material.” They rocked, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” and took it down a notch for the floor tom groove, “Waterfalls.”
Going in I was dubious that Dwight could pull of the songs without his longtime collaborator Pete Anderson. Anderson was fundamental to Yoakam’s sound. However guitar-ace Eddie Perez nailed every one of Anderson’s parts, even throwing in his own flashes to prove he wasn’t just a robot.
The highlight of the show was, “Turn It on, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose.” Perez nailed the guitar solo, then on cue he slung the guitar behind his back, the guitar tech handed him the mandolin and he played the solo without missing a beat. In the second verse Dwight sings, “If a tear should fall, if I should whisper her name, to some stranger I’m holding while we’re dancing to an old Buck Owens song.” At the moment the band launched into a Buck Owens medley of 2 songs, making the song a real time narrative of itself. I wondered if they were going to go back. At the end of, “Act Naturally,” they eased back into the end of, “Turn Me Loose.” It was truly awe inspiring.
This show was probably the closest I’ve ever come to a real honky tonk party. Everyone had a great time, judging by the amount of alcohol being consumed. I walked out of the show completely inspired and amazed. Seeing a pro band that tight, with that much skill, finesse and ease, playing great songs with a great singer? Unfortunately it’s something we see too little of lately. Dwight Yoakam showed how its done.
Correction 11/13/13: Eugene Edwards was on guitar with Dwight Yoakam, not Eddie Perez. Thanks to @Cyclamen71 for the correction.
"I don’t give a fuck about radio, never have. My radio is the streets. If niggas are driving down the street playing it and it’s banging in the club, that beats the radio for me because the radio is so fraudulent. It follows what’s going on as opposed to leading. Back when we came on, the radio used to break records and be the first one to play shit. Now, they listen to what’s hot in Atlanta and then they make it hot wherever they at. That’s a known fact. They go national with that shit. That is what it is and that’s why we don’t focus on radio. We focus on the emotion. It ain’t about a selling, it’s about a feeling."
Snoop Dogg talks
about his upcoming collaborative project with Dâm-Funk, 7 Days of Funk
. (via pitchfork
Snoop isn’t known for being percipient, but this rules.
Sigur Rós (at Chastain Park Amphitheater)
True story: be the next person to review any of these albums, and we’ll ship that CD straight to your door.
An evening with @thecoathangers. #little5fest (at Star Community Bar)