Fighting the Power on Sunset [Hollywood Palladium]

People, people we are the same, No we're not the same, 'Cause we don't know the game, What we need is awareness, we can't get careless. -- ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy

Fight The Power

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit anxious to go to the Art of Rap Festival at the Hollywood Palladium this weekend. Partly for being a little white blonde girl, partly for being at a rap show in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement in a city known for its history of racial discrimination [Rodney King, anyone?]. I didn’t expect anything bad to happen, but neither did all those people who have died recently. I just hoped for a good, clean, awesome show.

My nerves weren’t eased any by the most intense security check I’ve ever experienced. Goodbye lip gloss and eye drops, I hope we are all a little safer now after your sacrifice.

I arrived inside as Mobb Deep was about to take the stage and was impressed with how tight they sounded, though slightly underwhelmed by the lack of visual entertainment as a result of the short set. But people were still coming in, and the cloud of ‘smoke’ was getting bigger and bigger.

Ice-T appeared a short 5 minutes later with everything I was hoping for—demanding that I ‘Raise the ‘W’ along with all my other West Siders, watching a young shirtless dude C-walk across the stage, a bunch of the other artists chilling behind the DJ booth giving handshakes and hugs, all topped off with an older gentleman in a full white suit/white pimp hat getup while dancing to the beat of his own drum. Let’s also not forget Ice-T’s SVU reference because he’s a ‘good motherfucking actor’.

I expected Ice-T to make some political statements regarding the BLM movement, but all he focused on was to ‘keep your head up’ and pray for better in the years to come. There was nothing angry or specific in his verbiage, only the acknowledgment that things aren’t great right now but we can’t let that keep us down. Thank you for that, Ice-T. Thank you.

Next up was EPMD, but after the previous set they got drowned out. I think part of it had to with the fact that their songs are so widely copied that it was hard to remember that they are the originals.

Last up was Public Enemy, the group I was most excited to see [since Naughty by Nature wasn’t playing the LA show]. They did not disappoint! With the familiar holler of ‘Yeeeeaaaa Boy-eee!’ resonating throughout the venue, you just knew that Flava Flav was there to party.

At the end of it all, I walked away with a newfound respect for the genre, and felt a little silly for thinking things would be different from any other type of show. In fact, everyone I met was pretty darn nice. Or really, really high. I love the Hollywood Palladium, but I think a show like this would have benefited from an outdoor setting like one would find at FYF Fest or something along those lines, especially if it means having all the artists perform on one day instead of varying by city. The vibe was just a little off for some reason, even though the artists themselves were fantastic.

Danielle

Danielle

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Too Short and Fat Joe come up short in San Francisco [Regency Ballroom]

Saturday night, the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco was the site of The Summer Classic headlined by Fat Joe and Bay Area’s own Too $hort. The concert was put on by Empire Distribution, a local record label, in honor of CEO and founder Ghazi Shami’s birthday. Billed as The Summer Classic, what those in attendance were treated to was a classic bait and switch.

Fat Joe

The first red flag came earlier Saturday afternoon when the venue sent out a notice stating Fat Joe’s set had been moved up to 840pm so to please arrive early. They were right he did come on at 840pm. Fat Joe did about a 4 minute montage of, ‘All I Do Is Win’, ‘All The Way Up’, ‘What’s Luv’ and ‘Lean Back’.  My use of the word montage is generous at best as we got no more than a minute of the chorus of each song, and he spent more time sweating on stage than actually singing or rapping. Then he called Ghazi the birthday boy out, where they presented each other with platinum plaques for ‘All The Way Up’, and then disappeared stage right. At the time, we assumed this was a great tease of what was to come, as crowd was hyped and yearning for more. Oh how I wish we’d been right. Over the next four hours, yes four hours we were treated to a full slate of ‘up and coming’ artists from Empire, go figure. Stop me if you’ve heard of any of these ‘rising stars’; Tay Way, Show Banga, Rexx Life Raj, J Stalin, Rayven Justice…No? Well then you must know; D-Lo, Colonel Loud, Philthy Rich, or Luke Nasty. Ya, I didn’t think so, me neither. They weren’t all terrible, but in most cases I’ve bought random CD’s from hustlas on the street that have more potential. As midnight closed in, a glimmer or hope shimmered in the building. We noticed the DJ playing some Jim Jones songs. Problem is we didn’t realize until like 3 songs in Jim Jones was on stage ‘performing’. The lack of a leading MC or Hype man throughout the evening often lead to us having no idea who was on stage. And again pretty much only muttering along to the chorus Jim Jones only gave us snippets of ‘Pop Champagne’ and ‘We Fly High’.

All The Way Up

After all that, with only Too $hort left to perform, the crowd still held on for redemption. The hometown hero would surely save the day and get the crowd hella hyphy. Too $hort started out strong performing with an actual band and backup singers. I think we even got two full songs including personal favorite ‘Gettin’ It’ until the performance turned south the way of all others that evening. It veered into the gutter quickly with the 50 year old rapper graphically picking out and hitting on 18 to 19 year old girls in the crowd. I don’t even want to repeat some of the filthy things he was saying. And it wasn’t in jest, and just came off creepy, sounding much more like a petterass than a playa. Also by this point he’d given up rapping, handing off singing duties to his cousin, whoever the f that is, while he smoked blunts and sipped patron from the bottle. By this point it was past 1am and there were probably more cronies and people on stage than were left in the crowd, and we blew the whistle and called it a night and showed ourselves the door.

Too Short

To their credit, I will say the most redeeming thing about the evening was the crowd. They paid good money to be entertained and were going to have a good time no matter what. Any chance they were given, most often when the house DJ played radio hits in between artists, people were getting down. The outfits and the dancing led to some of the best people watching I have ever been a part of. And for so clearly being scammed into a glorified talent showcase everyone maintained a positive and fun vibe.

That being said fuck Empire, what a fucking scam. And to Fat Joe and Too $hort, you should be embarrassed. Both artists are much too successful and talented to need to throw their name on such a pathetic money grab, especially you Todd Shaw aka Too $hort. This is the Bay, the town you came from and the town that built you. You should be most ashamed of all. I would rather catch fucking Pokemon than catch another rap show like this, but we made the best out of it as did all in attendance. And I think I speak for everyone from Saturday night when I say, ‘Happy Birthday Ghazi, F you!’.

Charles

Charles

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Island Reggae Festival 2016 is almost here!

Island Reggae Festival 2016 >> will return next month and will feature yet another lineup of dope artists that vary in style but share the same vibe. The 1-day multi-stage music festival will take place on JUL-9 at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds this year since the gala now in its 5th year has outgrown the amphitheater at Great America it was held at in years past.

Island Reggae Festival

This year on the bill is Collie Buddz, Anuhea, Common Kings, Tarrus Riley, Fiji and much more so definitely get after this extravaganza of Island Reggae culture and lifestyle with great music, arts, delectable grub and a fireworks show at night. You should be recovered from your red, white and blue hangover by then.

[Related: Collie Buddz >> Cali Roots 2015]

So get your tickets here. Jah Bless and Give Tanks and Praise!

marc

marc

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California Roots 2016 >> The Movement Has Grown

Memorial Day weekend isn’t just the traditional start of summer; it’s also the time of the annual California Roots Art & Music Festival in Monterey. The 7th annual installment of this reggae based concert festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds boasted perhaps the most loaded lineup yet, and it did not disappoint. But as we pulled up early Friday afternoon though something felt different. Crowds were a little bigger, lines a little longer, kids a little younger, and stages now had sponsors. Was this the end? Was the secret out?

Give Tanks and Praise

There were honestly no gaps on the bill and I could write about each and every show but, no one wants to read that much, so let me give you the skinny on the highlights of each day. First stop Friday, was the main stage called The Bowl [aptly named for this festival I know.]. Fan Favorite J-Boog took the early 230p slot and I’ve never seen the main infield so crowded so early on Day 1, a combination of the growing scene and an avid fan base. The Boog delivered a strong performance; though I can’t help feeling he would be better suited at a 6p sun setting slot to really put the people in the mood if ya feel me. Though to be honest he probably chose the early bidding to get it out of the way so he could hang out and enjoy the rest of the weekend which I respect as we saw his face on and off stage plenty through Sunday. He mixed songs old and knew with a one of a kind swag. Personal old favorites were ‘Sunshine Girl’, ‘Every Little Thing’ and new jammie ‘Good Cry’ off his most recent EP Rose Petals. As expected he closed down the set with his biggest hit ‘Let’s Do It Again’ with fellow CR performer and tour buddy Hirie assisting on vocals and even remixing in a little Justin Bieber ‘Sorry’. Although it didn’t really make sense, it worked and I must admit I like the Biebs so was a nice twist to an old standard.

Cali Roots 2016

Having not seen them in almost 10 years, Friday’s other stand out for me was The Expendables. They played the 2nd stage at 8p warming up the crowd for headliner Slightly Stoopid to follow. And I must say the hometown favorites still got it. The group from neighboring Santa Cruz has a sound that’s pretty unique to this genre. They rock. Their blend of punk, surf rock and reggae is sublime. They seamlessly can turn it off and on even within the same songs. The guitar riffs and solos in songs like ‘Down, Down, Down’ and ‘Sacrifice’ even sparked the weekend’s only mosh pits. Though they were short lived and in good fun, bodies slamming into each other was a breath of fresh air to the crowd. Although they continue to make new music, the band seemed to know where their bread was buttered and stuck to old hits, with no complaints from this guy. They also were able to overcome muffled mics and levels that were off in general and powered through like true pros. Other highlights of their set include bringing up a random fan from the crowd and letting him play guitar on the romantic stoner ballad ‘Bowl For Two’, as well as rocking out a cool rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Under the Bridge’.

The Expendables

As mentioned, Friday’s headliner was Slightly Stoopid. I have previously been critical of them for being sleepy just not really my jam. So let me be the first to say, ‘I’m sorry Slightly Stoopid!’. They lead one of the most energetic performances from them I’d ever seen, and gosh darn it they play a lot of songs I know every word of and actually really like ‘2 AM’, ‘Officer’, ‘Sweet Honey’. I don’t know where I lost the path but I am glad we’re back together and would gladly see them again! Enjoyed it so much I didn’t take many notes and just got lost in the sound, also we left early to fight the shuttle bus struggle but that will all be covered directly in my feedback card to the festival. All in all a great start to a great weekend that only got greaterest from there.

[Related: Cali Roots 2015]

Saturday, day 2 was supposed to be the down day with the bigger names bookending the weekend’s schedule but there was no rest to be had because it ended up being filled with great shows from start to finish. The Green came hot out of the gates with their Hawaiian styling and a light and fun set. Their performance was highlighted by new music, one new jam featured Eric Rachmany of Rebelution on vocals, and perhaps the song of the summer ‘Mama Roots’ featured the aforementioned J-Boog. The crowd all seemed to have the same reaction after they were done and that was wow, we need to listen to en more.

The Green

Pepper also performed Saturday sprinkling in their frat-tastic party boy image all over the second stage, and that was fun the same way fireball shots are fun. A little goes a long way and ya it’s fun but it’s also terrible. Was cool to see that they still go as hard they probably did 20 years ago. They closed with ‘Ashes’ which is my favorite song of theirs and I loved every second. Damn it, I’m such a sucker for them. Don’t ever change Pepper!

[Related: Pepper >> Getting Spicy in San Francisco]

The real Saturday storyline was the Marley’s! Stephen and Damian Marley both covered the main stage though separately. The half-brothers’ styles couldn’t be more different but are both unmistakably Marley. Listening to Stephen Ragga Marley’s set in the late afternoon had the good vibes and good times feeling of Bob’s Legend album and rightfully so as he covered many of those songs mixing in his own hits ‘Hey Baby’ and ‘Break us Apart’. Of all the Marley children [there’s eleven in all], Stephen’s voice is closest to his father’s and when one closes their eyes they can also hear and feel the same positivity and hopefulness echoing through. Damian on the other hand, his sound felt darker as he closed out Saturday night. The tone felt more rebellious, reflective of his dad’s strong social conscience that was never afraid to call attention to injustice. With the familiar Ethiopian Lion of Judah flag being waved constantly on stage through the show he had the crowd ‘Welcome to JamRock’ing’! Together the two shows covered all that was great about Bob. Stephen lit the torch to carry the legacy on and Damian Jr. Gong burnt one down. Though very different nothing but one love for the brothers Marley at Cali Roots!

Stephen Marley

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Oh where to start?! Sunday’s lineup was straight fyah. Stick Figure to Protoje to Tribal Seeds to Michael Franti and closed out by headliners Rebelution! I’m not sure I could put together a more perfect lineup. Tribal Seeds and Stick Figure I have written about before and are both just so damn good that their respective sets were nowhere near long enough to cover all the fan favorites in their respective catalogues. Protoje who was a relative unknown to most prior to Cali Roots definitely made an impression and was a major highlight on a day full of them. His upbeat, quick tempo style was definitive dancehall reggae at its finest. It would be like if Shaggy actually had talent. Sorry, Shaggy, it wasn’t me. Look up his hits, ‘Who Knows’, ‘Kingston Be Wise’ and ‘Ja’ for a tastes of what I’m talking about. Very well could have been the most memorable show of the weekend on the second stage. Could have.

Stick Figure

[Related: Cali Roots 2014]

Protoje

But it wasn’t. That’s because Michael Franti slayed it yet again. I really didn’t think he could top last year’s performance but then he goes and climbs up in a tree in the middle of the crowd and kept playing without missing a beat. Armed with new music from his new album SOULROCKER he did just that and rocked the crowd’s soul. His lyrics are so positive and genuine that you want to be a part of it and he lets you. With the beach balls bouncing in the crowd and the little kids with face paint being pulled on stage to sing along, it felt more like a Disney movie than a concert. We’re all just Timon and Pumba to Michael Franti’s Simba. Just thinking about that performance still gives me chills and simultaneously gives me hope for a better tomorrow. There’s only one way to see and experience Michael Franti’s music and that is live, and in a tree if possible.

Michael Franti

After all that and we still have Rebelution to close it all out? Is this real life? A personal favorite that I have seen grown from playing backyard bbq’s and dive bars was now headlining the main stage on the biggest of all days at the best Cali Roots yet and they lived up to and deserved every second of it. Also, coming with an arsenal of new music from their album Falling Into Place. The short eleven track release comes preloaded with hits that are so quintessentially Rebelution that they fell right into place in their set on Sunday, even opening up with new song ‘Know It All’. They also worked in my favorite new one ‘Lay My Claim’ and herbalist friendly ‘Inhale Exhale’ to their set. Normally I hate when bands lean on concerts to force feed their fans new music, but not this time. The new music was part of a feeding frenzy and the crowd ate up each last note. The hour and a half set flew by and they could have played for another 90 minutes. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands and not a soul left until the very end, not wanting this show or the weekend to end, but what a way to go out.

California Roots you did it again. This was most definitely the best festival yet. I was worried that it had gotten too big, that it might’ve outgrown itself and its venue. That wasn’t the case, it was still about the music, good vibes and great people. Cali Roots didn’t outgrow anything, it just grew up. Let the countdown until Memorial Day 2017 begin! Jah Bless and Give Tanks and Praise!

Charles

Charles

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Katchafire >> Burning One Down in San Francisco [Social Hall]

Got to katch an irie reggae show on Tuesday at Social Hall in San Francisco. This was a new venue for me and fairly new to the city having just opened in the Fall of 2015. Social Hall in SF is nestled in the foundation of the more famous Regency Ballroom, and I was pleasantly surprised with the digs, more on that in a bit.

Katchafire

The main draw of the evening was the band Katchafire who I had not seen live since 2008 and they’ve come a long way! Their sound isn’t reggae in the traditional sense, but still has a strong island vibe. Melodies take on a much more Polynesian rhythm which is understandable as the five peace ensemble comes from the islands of the Pacific - New Zealand to be specific.

After a less than impressive opener that shall remain nameless [cough, Mystic Roots Band, cough], the smooth island jams were just what the docta ordered. Granted, it had been almost eight years since I last saw them when they were opening for Rebelution in a tiny bar to a crowd of less than a hundred people, but they seemed more grown up. Their on stage persona, how they interacted with the crowd, and just how well they played as musicians, was refined like a well-oiled Rasta machine. It also turned out that I knew and liked way more songs than I remembered like ‘Who You With’, ‘Seriously’ and personal favorite ‘Love Letter’ had me swaying around getting lost in the music in no time. This isn’t political reggae that calls for revolution, this is straight up lovey dovey, baby makin’, sexy reggae and the small crowd was feelin’ it. Maybe it was the low ceilings of the basement venue, the stage that reminded me of a high school battle of the bands or the ample ganja smoke perfuming the air, but they had people of all ages slow dancing and sucking face like teenagers. They wrapped up the night bringing out the aforementioned Mystic Roots and closed it down together with a classic cover of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’. Fun fact, Katchafire is named after The Wailers first album aptly titled, ‘Catch A Fire’. You’re welcome.

Nice little Tuesday with some feel good vibrations and solid people watching at one of the city’s newest live music venues. Selfishly also a great treat for me because Katchafire will be playing this year’s California Roots Festival, but got shafted with a super early Friday slot and wasn’t sure I’d be able to see them. But not to worry, if like me you won’t be able to see them in Monterey, there are still a few more west coast stops of their Burn One Down Tour before they take off for Europe later this summer. Try and Katch them in a city near you, until then, Jah bless and as always ‘Give Tanks and Praise’.

Charles

Charles

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Wild Nothing >> Nocturne in Phoenix [Crescent Ballroom]

Wild Nothing >> made a return to Phoenix proper for the first time in 4 years when the 5 gents from Virginia played downtown on Wednesday night. It was an indie dream spanning the last 6 years of 3 superb albums played live and direct for every walk of hipster ever invented under one roof in the iconic Crescent Ballroom.

Wild Nothing

Portland's fourtet Charlie Hilton opened the show with some somber yet excellent mood music for the soon to be crowded house. Although the entire band is nominated for Worst Hair Ever awards in 2016, the sound was wonderful and pure and looking forward to seeing this band bubble in the near future. Horatio Sanz and Macauly Culkin doppelgangers on keyboard and drums was distracting but fascinating nonetheless.

Next up the headliner Wild Nothing took stage and after a quick humble introduction came a sporadic sequence of songs sprinkled from Gemini, Nocturne and last year's studio release Life Of Pause. The undeniably talented frontman Jack Tatum and his scruffy bandmates played for about 1.5 hours and nailed every goddamn song in that span including 'Shadow' which was probably the pinnacle of the evening for me.

OtterBox.com: The best protection on the market.

The sound was great as always and the hipster crowd's fashion show introducing the summer line of technically wearable fabrics packed the ballroom for the ever so incredible show. Wild Nothing deserves a lot more of a following than they seemingly have. If you haven't given any of the aforementioned albums a listen, do yourself a favor and fucking do it already. You won't be disappointed and you can thank me with some RT's or some shit. Oh and check out what's left of this US tour before they head to Europe this summer. Do it!

marc

marc

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Violent Femmes >> Making American Music Great Again in San Francisco [The Fillmore]

Do you like American Music? I like American Music. Don’t you like American Music baaaby? You know who also likes American Music and can still play the hell out of it? That’s right, the Violent Femmes! And that’s just what they did Tuesday night at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Having never seen them live before, I was more geeked for this show than any in a long time.

Violent Femmes

Little background quickly before I continue. The Femmes have been making music since before I was born, starting the band way back in 1981. If you don’t think you know their music, you’re probably wrong. Whether you were born too soon, or born too late I can guarantee you their most famous song ‘Blister In The Sun’ will strike a familiar chord and was an anthem of teen angst and rebellions for a generation throughout the 80’s. Their contemporaries were bands like The Pixies and The Meat Puppets, and were a huge influence on more recent artists like Beck, Sonic Youth and Jane’s Addiction. Per usual, when in doubt pull up the Spotify and throw on the top ten and make yourself familiar.

[Related: The Pixies in San Francisco]

Anyways back to the show. As I walked up Fillmore Street to the iconic venue of its namesake, the excitement heightened and turned into anxiety. Had I built this up too much in my head? Were they too old to still rock? Was this tour all just a bait and switch to get me to listen to their new album? Luckily my concerns were out to rest out the gate as they led off with the aforementioned ‘Blister In The Sun’ followed immediately and strongly by ‘Kiss Off’. That energy lifted and carried the older crowd all night as they oscillated between new material and old standards. They really mixed it all together perfectly. Even found myself digging some new jams from their new album, We Can Do Anything, which is their first studio album in 15 years!

Violent Femmes

What was strange was how smooth they were able to transition into the new songs because the sound is entirely different. Other than lead singer Gordon Gano’s unmistakable voice, the new tunes have a folksier, lighter almost bluegrass feel. The song ‘I Could Be Anything’ specifically as a key example, as it has such a fun almost silly melody and lyrics even more so. It gave the night a feel of almost two concerts in one. But in a way it was, as these weren’t still the same punk kids from Milwaukee in the 80’s, they’re in their mid-fifties. But I guess they’re right, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel senior citizens still can serve a purpose. Jokes aside, I must say bassist Brian Ritchie has never played better. Slaying on acoustic and electric bass, adding needed contrast on backup vocals and even putting it down on the xylophone on ‘Gone Daddy Gone’, his stage presence and contributions to the band have never shined bigger or brighter than live on stage Tuesday night. They closed out the night with ‘American Music’ as their encore which is a personal favorite and was made even more special as they brought out Jerry Harrison of ‘The Talking Heads’ to help on Xylophone to close out the night.

Expedia.com

So on Tuesday, I got to see an all-time favorite perform and live up to their rightful place in rock and roll lore. Classics were listened to and sung along and danced to poorly. New tunes were introduced and appreciated. Just a good night all around and how could it not be? Add it up, add it up, add it up! It was an iconic band at an iconic venue in an iconic city! Whether you’re into the old hits or want to check out their new stuff, be sure to catch the Violent Femmes on this tour in a city near you before they’re ‘Gone Daddy Gone’ forever!

 
Charles

Charles

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