Written by martin de leon II
Oct 17, 2003 at 08:00 PM
Themselves!It happens. Sounds, like slippery shadows, flame-haired emcees from the scruffy streets of Oakland, shiny beat machines and crooning, cutesy Australians. All in a night\’s (beat) work here in dirty, dirty Dentonia.Hot Boyz: Clue to Kalo, a fifteen-year old lookin’ cool dude from southern Australia, whose delicious record on Mush Records explores the beauty of straight-out-of-the-dryer vocals over the mechanized clicks, cuts and giggles his laptop produces (word to Kraftwerk), gets down for some (emotional) shit. Mark (the guy’s real name) brought his friend Allen on drums and some nice Unabomber lookin’ cat whose name I didn’t catch on guitar/feedback/beard to vibe and educate on the genuineness of creative emotion (word to shitty Emo bands). They quietly rose to the stage and hit the “on” button at around 11:30. Mark began the night’s proceedings, disregarding a thin turnout, by introducing a song he had written that day based on Denton (a sweet gesture, indeed). Warm, breathy vocals (struggling to be heard, thank you Mr. Deaf Ass Soundman) colored the textured feedback gurgling through meticulous drum-work and sweet, bubbly, on-the-shore-in-New Zealand, basslines. A minimalism permeated the set, solidified by the problem with the sound system (but as I later told a giggling Mark, ‘its all we got, yo!’). It was too quiet. Having experienced the thunderous progressive beat structures of Prefuse 73 the night before in this tiny space, I knew those shoe boxes of speakers could take the heat. Nonetheless, as their set silkily evolved, Clue to Kalo represented their former British colony with care, humor and hardcore beauty (exhibited by the heartfelt lyrics such as, ‘I’d like to love you, but I’d like a lot of things’). At various times, through postmodern proggy progressions like the finality of “empty save the oxygen” did they generate loudness, lunacy and FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Interspersed with respectful claps from the crowd of cold folks, Mark, standing lanky and wearing an Oxford steez black sweater, grabbed his trusty toy accordion and wailed away (far more cute than it sounds) during a cut at the beginning of their short set. As he gave honest talks in between songs to sizzle the cooler-than cool crowd on big ass beers, eventually rupturing with his drummer Allen (someone he’s known since he was 14) due to him sleeping with his ex-girlfriend and how a fan in LA told them they were too ‘cool’ on stage to be approached: all lies I tell you. They were humble, enthusiastic, non-jaded musicians. Similar to the glitchfolk of Her Space Holiday (who they share label space with) Clue to Kalo are like an all day hug from an old friend you haven’t seen in ages. Perhaps, it’s something about the water, but those Aussies are on to something. Hey, who’s that bespectacled weird guy in the corner with the flame-red hair, smiling?

The Real: If I had not seen the man myself, I would have certainly thought it a mere fabrication of history: Dose One is one of the sickest mic manipulators in the history of hip-hop music. Just ask his cat, Purple, who I’m sure will concur. While Clue to Kalo was bringin’ a different kind of Southern funk on stage, I waxed philosophical with Dose, vibin’ on his sincerity, sharp wit and intense energy (guy was wiggling and hopping to the excellent choice cuts between sets). After commenting on the greatness of the Austin show (damn you, college creeps!), he disappeared to set up for their much-anticipated gig. The knuckleheaded Anticon fans, wearing their t-shirts, asking for autographs, hugs, words of wisdom and pocket change (not really) were about to be blessed with the art-school, Out of the Box roots of contemporary hip-hop. Indie-Rap Theatricality is the only term I could conjure as Dose, flame-red hair outwardly flowing through the crisp air, hung up a flimsy American flag, just red and white, no stars (I’ll let you discuss that one amongst yourselves) where a projector presented images on the stars’ traditional space (I was getting giddy from the prospect of not having to be told to put my hands in the air during this hip hop show, word to new-school cats, leave it to KRS!). A political critique of consumerism in commercial culture? Or simply an anti-bullshit sentiment from some delicious Bay Area lefties who want a more humanized world? Art and Politics wed freely in between the remaining props (a mirror with the word “behave” printed on it in blood-red, Greek architectural columns with plastic hands placed atop them and finally, the guys, themselves [sorry, that was too easy]). The stage, filled with MPC’s, obscure keyboards, KP’s, mics, wires, props, chairs and a projector was a hint at the madness that was going to ensue. The crowd bulged, as kids came out of crevices, stopped playing Karate Champ upstairs, ran from the bathroom, threw out the weed and put down the bee—okay, maybe not everything, to run out and see what all the hubbub was about. What is very interesting, and must be noted for pure sociological interest (all my Ivy Scholars, I’m lookin’ out for you cats!) that the show was overwhelmingly full of white folk (a multicultural show if I’ve ever seen one). The only reason I bring it up, is cause it’s an interesting topic in the indie community: where my (latin/asian/black/russian/middle-eastern) peeps at?

NONETHELESS, like white shadows, they (Dose, Jel and tour homeskillet, Dax) cut through the crowd and walked up the steps onto the small, cluttered stage. Dressed in suits, Dose One led the b-boy Baptist minister chant for original performance in the world of hip-hop. Jel, on the other hand, a quiet kid, is the Jimmy Page of the MPC, smoothly jittering beats at breakneck speed beneath the layers of noodling, keyboard kissing and trademark nasal wail cut-ups of the other two members. It was a breathtaking show based on the booty shuffle of Jel’s beats coupled with the Ginsberg-on-a-thousand-Red Bulls croon of Dose One’s tommy-gun verbals splattering all over the ears of the attentive, hyped crowd. Beginning the show with nonsensical phrases that tickled the brain, I attempted to stare directly at the tongue of Dose One, psychedelicized by his (rapidfirefreeformWORDBOMBScuttingclaritylikesyllabicblades) rhymes. Crunchy beats sparkled through the shoebox speakers of Rubbergloves, and as I was standing next to the right speaker, the vibrations of these weird humans made me know I was alive. Zipping through songs as if Squarepusher was programming his tongue, Dose, Jel and Dax ran through cuts from their records the no music and them, leaving grooves beat up, pushed, hugged and worn out. Images flickered on a flimsy flag, Jel’s fingers danced atop the MPC and Dax waxed the keys of ebony and ivory with meditation, leaving the main space for Dose to poeticize the history of everything (even mocking the popularity of slam poetry itself calling HBO the “Hebrew Box Office” and confusing the fuck out of people who acted as if they knew what the hell he was talking about). Slowly, articles of clothing came off and by the last track, the dissertation on wack rap poetics, ‘good people check’ a sleeveless Dose had finished the encore the (heart)core crowd wanted to hear. Humbly thanking everyone afterwards and even taking the time to let this jaded writer talk about literature, the new Clouddead record (out in February) and never the camera-shy guy, allowing me to get a Polaroid for my wall of fame (word to Beans last night!).

Mushy beats, 23rd century rappers and huggable Australians: what else could anyone ask for? Thus ended a beautiful night here in the chilly town where we can all toast to the death of midterms. Study sound and sunlight gentle readers for they hold hidden meanings and remember: hip-hop is not dead.