Posted by: Joe | July 31, 2007

Hip-Hop Lives!

It was a cherry-popping day for me on Sunday–a bunch of firsts:

  • first visit to Historic Fort York
  • first outdoor concert
  • first live hip-hop concert
  • first time standing in line for over an hour for a $6 hamburger.

Fort York reminds me very much of the St. Andrews Blockhouse, where I spent uncountable hours playing as a kid. That shouldn’t have been surprising–both sites were built to defend strategic positions from US attack during the War of 1812. So even though I’d never been there before, I felt instantly comfortable. I was barely able to resist the urge to climb around on the cannons.

The weather was perfect–I laid out in the sun, evened out the tan, and finished a book all while enjoying the show. Unfortunately I didn’t arrive in time to see Apostle of Hustle, but did see most of Montreal’s The Dears. They seemed to have a much more enthusiastic set of followers than I would have expected.

Next up were Tegan & Sara, who I just started listening to recently. The Con is a great album, and if you think the revelation that Tegan and Sara are identical twins didn’t make me enjoy their set even more, well, you just don’t know me. “Nineteen” didn’t really jump out at me on the album, but it was great live. “Back In Your Head” is the other track to check out–they’re on Conan O’Brien tonight.

The New Pornographers (sans Neko Case) were up next, and ripped through a business-like, rapid-fire set of their hits along with a scattering of Challengers tracks. Kathryn Calder is a more than adequate substitute for Case (great voice: check; teh cute: check). Kathryn and her band Immaculate Machine are at The ‘Shoe tomorrow night–if I’m not completely wiped from training I may run down and check them out.

I think putting Bad Brains and their hardcore/punk/reggae fusion next was a mistake. I realize that Bedouin Soundclash is a big name here in Toronto, but they just can’t follow Bad Brains.  CAN’T.  The crowd was seriously pumped up after their set, and Bedouin Soundclash was just a downer.  I think they went through their entire damn back catalog, when at this point in the day everybody was ready for the headliners.

Which leads me to my only complaint of the day–it took me from the time Bad Brains left the stage, through Bedouin Soundclash’s entire set to get through the grill vendor’s line.  For real–it was well over an hour.  Note to the organizers:  know your audience.  When you have The New Porn/Bad Brains/Bedouin Soundclash/The Roots going back-to-back-to-back-to-back, that means there is going to be a metric fuckton of weed. Ergo, by 8pm you’re going to have a VERY hungry crowd.  They needed an order of magnitude more people serving food.

If I could pick only one hip-hop act to see live, without question it would be….Public Enemy.  But The Roots are a very close second.  One of the best live shows around, they’re not known as “The Legendary” Roots for nothing.  Their set was worth the $50 ticket price alone. I’ve seen a lot of live rap broadcasts, and without fail they have sounded like crap.  The Roots bring the funk, and bring it *tight*.

Their sound is old school rap, very jazz and funk influenced–much like PE, minus the samples and Flava Flav‘s trademark clocks.  How many rap acts could get away with a 10 minute bass solo in the middle of the show?  And have the crowd EAT IT UP?  Kanye can’t pull off that shit.

As a bonus, DJ Maseo and Posdnuos (2/3 of De La Soul) joined in for a couple songs.  Maseo even came out from behind the wheels of steel to don his MC hat for a song, displaying playful, lighthearted skills on the mic.  Hip-hop isn’t dead–you’ve just got to do some digging to find the real deal.

Definitely one of the most satisfying sets I’ve seen in a long time.  The newly pimped CN Tower rising behind the stage was a nice effect too.

Summary: Great day… if next year’s lineup is remotely close to this year I’ll be first in line.

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