July 31st, 2008

July 2008 concert: DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at Showbox SoDo

Last Saturday I went to the Showbox SoDo to see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist on their joint "Hard Sell" tour. Opening for them were two hip hop groups, Greyskul [sic] and The Mighty Underdogs.

This was my first time at the Showbox SoDo, a big open warehouse space that seems to have at least as much room as the original ("at the Market") Showbox. Formerly the Fenix, it's been open for almost a year now, and still looks nice and clean. For this all-ages show, the drinking section was fenced off behind the mixing booth situated in the middle of the floor; there's also a partly-enclosed bar in a raised section off to one side, which I did not check out. My only real complaint was that it's big enough that people in the middle of the front area were able to toke up a couple times during the main set, as evidenced by the sudden cloud and stench. The second time it happened, a staff security guard arrived near me and seemed to be trying to peer through the crowd to spot the offenders, but to no avail. To be clear, my complaint is specifically that that stinks and I don't want to be breathing it in; have a little common decency and consideration for your other concert-goers, and keep it outside.

Greyskul are a local rising hip hop group featuring two rappers and a backing DJ. Unfortunately most of their performance was lost on me. Their focus was on the rap of course, but if you don't know it, it's hard to follow along and appreciate what they're doing. For Greyskul it was all shouty rhyme and uninspired rhythm, and I quickly lost interest. I was reminded of the line from "Thou Shalt Always Kill", "Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music," a command they'd do well by heeding.

The Mighty Underdogs are a hip hop supergroup featuring rappers Gift of Gab and Lateef the Truth Speaker with DJ/producer Headnodic. I found their set more interesting and more entertaining, no doubt in part because they made better use of melody in their music. Also, the rapping sounded smoother to me, lacking the shoutiness of Greyskul, and Gift of Gab did some impressive quick rapping that even I could appreciate without knowing the words.

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's "The Hard Sell" set featured the two turntablists playing a live set mixing over 250 original 45-rpm records. The set opened with an amusing '60s-style educational film, which you can view on YouTube, explaining the concept of the set and the parameters: 8 turntables feeding into four mixers, an effects box for echo, and two banks of guitar pedals for loops. The 45s covered the entire range of popular music since their invention in 1949 as well as spoken word, soundtracks, sound effects, and other oddities - such as a sort of doo-whop version of "Eye of the Tiger", or the lyrics of the Gilligan's Island theme sung to the tune of "Stairway to Heaven". At one point they did a sort of "dueling banjos" scratch-off, looping and scratching a heavy tango riff, and they somehow had trash-talking 45s on hand for when one of them screwed up. The set was interesting and enjoyable but not really exciting - I didn't feel a clear flow to the set, no build of energy toward a climax. With no definite songs, there was nothing to anticipate; at times the music was more ambient than melodic. Late in the set, they teased the opening of DJ Shadow's "You Can't Go Home Again" and I hoped for a moment that they'd do a live remix, but instead they went into something else. (Presumably "You Can't Go Home Again" includes some original material by DJ Shadow and not just record samples, making it inappropriate for this show.) Overall it was a good show and I'm glad I went, but I think it could've used a little more focus and energy.

Tonight (Friday August 1) I'm going to try to make it to the Sunset Tavern to see Film School, whom I've missed a couple times already. Then at the end of August things get busy again: I've decided to attend Bumbershoot again this year, to see Beehive and Mono In VCF on Saturday, Sons and Daughters on Sunday, and Battles on Monday, along with whoever else sounds interesting. Kinski are also playing Bumbershoot on Saturday night, but I'm going to pass on their set because Freezepop are back in town that same weekend. Freezepop are at the Penny Arcade Expo on Friday night, but I'd rather see them Saturday (August 30) at El Corazón.

Looking ahead to September, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are at the Showbox (at the Market) on Sunday Sept. 7; Balkan Beat Box make another attempt to play in Seattle, this time at Neumos on Saturday Sept. 13; and I'm most excited that Goldfrapp are making one of their few North American tour stops in Seattle at the Showbox SoDo on Wednesday Sept. 17. I'll be getting tickets for Goldfrapp very soon; they did one of the best shows I saw in 2006, and I have no doubt this show will be just as awesome.