Good Music / Bad Music

Tag: MPC

Kid Koala / Modifi / Telepath – Knoxville, TN – 10.10.2009

by on Oct.12, 2009, under Good Music, Video

kid koalaAs far as multi-act live shows go, it’s rare that one comes along that is definitively awesome from beginning to end. Sometimes the acts may all be quality, but the in-between time breaks the flow of the evening. Sometimes the headliner is all that’s worth giving one’s time to. Sometimes it turns out to be the same case for the supporting acts. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like a show, so much as just some stuff going on. Audience can play a part, too. Sometimes a lack of audience enthusiasm can wreck the energy of the thing. And yet sometimes too much enthusiasm can distract from the thing on the stage. I’m so very glad to acknowledge that not one of these circumstances played out as such the other night at Knoxville’s Club Catalyst.

modifiEverything kicked off a little after 10PM with local DJ, Modifi. I have followed Modifi for several years now. At least since his humble beginnings in garage rock bands around town. I’ve watched him evolve from a decent guitarist into an incredibly skillful turner of the turntables. (You can download one of his earlier releases, as DJ Simon Belmont, here.) On this evening, he had at his disposal two said turntables, a laptop and the necessary mixer. Perhaps he was harboring more on that table, as he’s been known to use an MPC and other goodies from time to time. I couldn’t elevate my perspective enough to tell for certain. Whatever he had, though, he used it well.

Without veering hard into pop territory, Modifi kept the music moving as any good DJ should. There was a touch of M.I.A. and T.I. here and there, but never as a standalone. The more modern servings were cushioned all around by Modifi’s own signature beats, as well as elements of classics and obscurities alike. As his set went on, it became difficult to discern what was coming from where anyway.

After a relatively swift and smooth transition, Kid Koala took the stage. His set up was mostly minimal. Three turntables and a mixer. No computer. No beat machines. Not even headphones. There was, however, a video projector displaying his set up (and all that he did with it) on a large screen above his head. This allowed for a more defined audience focus on his ability, pure and simple, and not just the music, itself. We were not in a position to merely dance, but to admire and be awed.

His set moved primarily between rock, hip hop and jazz. Meshing it all together, he did some tricky maneuvers. There was the usual exchanging of records and sliding of faders one would expect. Also, though, there were drops and juggles that could only be executed by a man who knows his music very very well. When I say, “knows his music,” I am not intending to pay respects solely to a knowledge of songs. Sure, he has good taste, but he literally knows his music. He knows not only what is tonal with what, but specifically where on his records those tones occur, bouncing the needle appropriately.

Among the more memorably novel aspects of his set were an ode to Louis Armstrong, an onstage remix of the White Stripes and the spacey, ambiance drenched work over of “Moon River,” dedicated to his mother. There was also the matter of a girl named Dawn. Dawn was celebrating her birthday at the show by heckling Kid Koala. Apparently she was expecting something more pop and less “turntable crap,” and so the Kid bantered with her from the stage. This lead to her taking to the stage, barely saving herself from a potentially nasty fall, and actually turning off one of the turntables by accident. The crowd booed her, but Koala was endlessly diplomatic and gentlemanly toward the southern, drunken birthday girl. By the end of the set, she was dancing her ass off like everyone else, even returning to the stage again to prove it.

telepathThe aforementioned “Moon River” closed the set out. After another brief, seemingly seamless intermission, Telepath took to the stage. Their equipment (guitars, drums and electronics) had already been set up on the stage, allowing them to dive right in. Their music complimented Modifi and Kid Koala well, as did their fairly decent light show. Where Kid Koala’s act was very forward and driving, Telepath worked it down into something that sat back and grooved. The dancing bodies continued to dance, but now without having to think or focus as much. It all drifted into the realms of a casual love in.

There’s not much to say about Telepath aside from the fact that it’s great music (and their guitarist has crazy Eraserhead hair). I hesitate to label them as a “jam band” though they obviously do jam around in their songs. If they are of such a classification, though, they are of a new school. This is not the sleeper shit popularized by the Grateful Dead and driven into the ground by Widespread Panic. No. This is tolerable. This is good because it’s really good…not because you are on drugs. (Though I couldn’t imagine the drugs not helping, I guess.)

Walking away from that show, I felt as though I was leaving some big shit event. It felt like something people attended with absolutely no doubt about its freshness. Call it an energy in the air. Call it an exceeded expectation, or a perfect surprise for some, perhaps. Whatever it was, it all equated out to a perfect storm of entertainment and a truly stellar evening for all involved. Even Dawn.

Kid Koala’s Ode to Louis Armstrong:

Kid Koala’s interaction with Dawn, the drunk heckler:

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Busdriver – Knoxville, TN – 9.22.2009

by on Sep.23, 2009, under Good Music, mp3, Video

busdriverHip hop shows, perhaps more so than other music performances, are very hit or miss. A group can either dress it up, like Outkast, or dumb it down, like Grand Buffet. The best of these offer something more than a dude and his homeys rattling off karaoke. Live instruments are always a plus. A good DJ who knows what he’s doing can win me over. Sometimes all you need are twenty or more people on stage, falling over each other or humping or whatever. There are a million ways to go on the stage. Prior to his performance, I was hoping hard that Busdriver (real name Regan John Farquhar) would not be lazily rhyming over an iPod hooked into a d/i box.

And thankfully, he didn’t.

What he did do, was take the stage at the Pilot Light rather unexpectedly, during the time that most of us thought was going to be an intermission between Abstract Rude and himself. There was hardly anyone in the room. I even thought to myself from outside, “Why the hell would the DJ be playing Busdriver if the guy’s taking the stage in a few minutes?” Ah, but there he was, crowned with Christmas lights and doing what he does. As the people outside slowly realized the show was moving on without them, they gathered round and the intensity of it all increased.

Verbally, he is pretty amazing. Far beyond all the autotuned garbage on the radio, Busdriver’s voice is distinct and his skill is often quick and always precise. Backing up that voice was a thunderous onslaught of beats and samples, which he controlled, in part, by himself. He also had a guy, apparently named Matt, at the back of the stage, working what looked like an MPC and occasional guitar. Matt seemed uncomfortable, at first, but eventually was right there with it. I can’t say he seemed to miss a beat, regardless.

One of the beautiful aspects of this set was the truly punk rock ethic to it. As Matt beat his pads, Busdriver pressed buttons and twisted knobs, throwing the whole thing into a frequent and intentional disarray. The cacophony of noise never failed to segue nicely into bouncy and epic beats, evening everything out and working the room into a frenzy.

My only complaint of the evening was the song, “Avantcore,” which I had no idea was so popular around here. It began with some strange disjunctive omission of notes here and there, which seemed interesting at first. The problem is that it never really got going. It seemed to drag on much slower than I’ve ever heard on disc. I’m not sure if this was an intentional choice by the artist, but it was iffy on the stage. Thankfully, the energy of all else made well up for this single snafu of the evening.

This tour is to promote Busdriver’s new record, Jhelli Beam. Hopefully I’ll get a review of it in soon enough.

Here is the video for “Me Time,” the first single from Jhelli Beam:

Here are the rest of his tourdates, in case you want to catch him near you (and you should):

SEP 23 – BIRMINGHAM, AL @ BOTTLETREE
SEP 24 – BATON ROUGE, LA @ CHELSEAS
SEP 25 – DALLAS, TX @ THE CAVERN
SEP 26 – AUSTIN, TX @ RED 7
SEP 27 – HOUSTON, TX @ WALTERS ON WASHINGTON
SEP 28 – SAN ANTONIO, TX @ ROCK BOTTOM
SEP 30 – EL PASO, TX @ BLACK MARKET
OCT 01 – TEMPE, AZ @ CLUB RED

Lastly, here are some MP3’s:

MP3: “Avantcore” by Busdriver
MP3: “Buy 1 Style Get the 2nd Free” by Busdriver

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