Broods Deliver Moody Nocturnal Set in San Francisco

Words by Brandon Diaz | Photos by Ashleigh Reddy

Supporting the release of their self-titled EP, the fresh-faced duo Broods brought the cool kids out for a swaying beats and retro looks. In their second appearance in San Francisco in as many months, the New Zealand Duo played to an intimate sold out crowd at The Independent.

The night began with an eyebrow-arching performance by L.A. songstress (and all around badass) Meg Myers. Wearing a loose fitting black blouse and dangerously cut black chonies, Myers swam through anguish and seduction as she churned out tunes, alternating between guitar and bass with cuts off her new EP, Make a Shadow.

With a legitimate backing band to support (including an electric cellist), it was hard to avoid the collective hypnosis of Myers’ set which included the weighty track, “Heart Heart Head,” where Myers dramatically queried “How do I get off on the weekend?” The young crowd followed intently as she sang with poise, bracing for combustion, earning her a rush to the merch table following the set.

Broods – appearing to be barely passed prom – hit the stage shortly after 10PM accompanied by a young drummer with a cool pompadour hair-do, immediately morphing the soundscape into a moody labyrinth with the ambient “Never Gonna Change.”

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The Roots Give History Lesson in Chilling Performance

The Roots

By Chelsea Whitaker

The second I stepped into the small, intimate space of the Public Theater for the final night of The Roots performance inspired by their album  …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, I knew this was no ordinary concert. There was orchestral seating for a small string quartet, a minimal drum set, a jumble of nooses hanging over the stage, and balloon animals in nets ready to fall over the audience . I immediately flashed back to the many experimental theater performances I have attended in my years living in New York. Politicized randomness thrown on top of musical performance can go very wrong – but if anyone can bring it all together, it’s The Roots crew.

Questlove and legendary sampling artist Jeremy Ellis took the stage first, cloaked in darkness. A distorted sample of Nina Simone‘s “The Theme from the Middle of the Night” was mixed live by Jeremy on a Maschine while Questlove blended the overall sound, recreating the introduction the album live. As the mournful music rose, a wiry frame of dancer Storyboard P – dressed in an Ed Hardy jacket-  entered and grabbed a giant balloon. He used it as an umbrella as the net of brightly colored balloons opened and fell onto the stage and the first row. Sounds of a thunderstorm accompanied the fall, created live by a didgeridoo player and the beat-boxing of Rahzel, who stood off the side in a Pelle Pelle jacket. As Storyboard danced somewhat frantically, the balloons began to pop. The colorful rainbow of plastic became reminiscent of gunshots. The symbolism of the bedazzled jacket, the Jim Crow era samples, and the violent soundscape combined to set a dark tone for the show.

Black Thought emerged from the shadows in a large hood, walking to the microphone and delivering a monologue that would feel at home at a Nuyorican Poetry Slam. He dove straight in – calling out slavery, the 70′s and the history of hip hop as one grim and poignant cycle of poverty and despair.

Between these monologues, Questlove, Jeremy and the string quartet delivered striking musical soundscapes, which blended into songs from their new album. Black Thought’s verses – although he didn’t spit them live – were given a deeper power in the context of the overall performance. “Understand” was a standout moment breeding the gap between entertaining hip hop. The lyrics proclaimed “People ask for God, ’til the day he comes, see God’s face they turn around and run” while organ chords plunked out the melody. Everyone was feeling the tent-revival vibe - The Root’s were our preachers, saving us from the toxic music we all thought we wanted.

One song that was truly touching was “The Coming.” The simple piano was a sharp dichotomy to the complexity of the previous songs. A pure female voice sang “They don’t remember… was it coming was it going? Were they running from the sun?” out into the dark theater. It was the redemption we were waiting for, the reclaimed innocence after the fall. Personally, I think this vocal would be amazing on an extended remix, drawing out the melody and giving the song more broad appeal.

The audience was head-nodding along to the powerful beats, and just as church-like atmosphere became overwhelming, the band’s lead guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas took the stage. He immediately began shredding to the beat, his fingers moving deftly up and down the guitar neck. This man owned the stage as a rockstar, waking us from the spell cast by Questlove. The upbeat and funky “Tomorrow” began to play, reminding us all that music was, in fact, fun. Audience members began to pick up the balloons and toss them around the theater. The show ended on this positive note, leaving us all exhilarated and emotionally exhausted.

It’s not often I go to the theater – and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But The Roots managed to teach a lesson in history, music theory, and the African-American experience seamlessly.  It’s remarkable that after playing the Tonight Show into millions of American homes, the Roots can still be so compelling and relevant. Their success has allowed them freedom – something most artists aspire to. It’s a testament to The Roots’ genius that they use this privilage to showcase the enslavement of music today, letting their audience taste freedom for a precious 2 hours in a dark theater.

M.I.A. Brings the Noise to a Warehouse in Queens

MIA

by Chelsea Whitaker

Since her debut album back in 2005, M.I.A has made a career out of being the bad girl rockstar. Her creative mix of street fashion and high couture combine with her genre bending rap-pop songs to make her a trendsetter in the best sense of the word. She brought this compelling energy to the brand new Knockdown Center, located deep into Queens. The converted glass factory-turned-venue is in a wholly industrial district, nestled among autobody shops and Chinese importing warehouses.  There was no alcohol available at the venue due to a permitting issue, but this did not stop the raving dance party that M.I.A. inspires.

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Iggy Azalea Makes It Bounce in Brooklyn

Iggy Azalea at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Words by Chelsea Whitaker

Iggy Azalea has learned how to be a superstar. Everything about her sold out show in Brooklyn – the art deco South Beach themed set, the choreographed dancers, her flawless rapping – was polished, professional and ready to live up to the expectations of her rabid “Azelians”, as well as silence the skeptical critics.

With her hit single “Fancy” climbing the charts, Iggy is finally taking her place as a genre-transcendent artist. She walks the line between rapper and pop star, ratchet and iconic. And her are fans eating it up, seizing the opportunity to come to shows, buying merchandise and singing along to every line.

A warm-up DJ set of perfectly mixed disco and deep house by Lauren Flax – a star in her own right – got the crowd into a girl power groove. When the dancers came out through the “Hotel Iggy door”, followed by Iggy herself, every phone and every hand was in the air. Iggy paused, posed and said “Stop. Think about it” just before dropping into the Steve Aoki produced “Beat Down”. It was immediately obvious she was practiced and ready – every word was clear, and her voice was powerful even without backing vocals (something some other rappers could certainly learn from).

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The Flatbush Zombies Keep the Party Going Even When the Music Stops

zombies

By Chelsea Whitaker

Thirty minutes before the Converse Rubber Tracks show featuring Flatbush Zombies, the line snaked already around the corner of Wythe avenue. The crowd skewed young – Brooklyn kids in black leather, camouflage, and hypebeast-worthy sneakers. One enterprising teen tried to sell me a lukewarm Heineken of a Herschel backpack. The show was free, but the investment to grab tickets and wait on a street corner dissuaded the more fickle fans. These kids were here to party – hard.

The event catered to this with a DJ set between each act by Nick Catchdubs – who co-founded Fools Gold Records with A-Trak. His ability to play a solid mix of the most popular hip hop tracks turned the Music Hall of Williamsburg into a massive moshpit party. I think some of the bros in the moshpit had a religious experience during his version of “Pop That”, which blended into a heavy trap beat punctuated by air horns and the “Fool’s Gold” drop. People were crowd-surfing and kick-fighting to tracks by Waka Flocka Flame and Kanye West way before the Zombies took the stage.

A$AP Nast came onstage in an unexpected appearance, heralded by six dudes in hoodies yelling “ASAP!” and throwing water bottles into the crowd. People quickly realized how wild Nast and A$AP Mob get, and I was struck by how many of Nast’s songs I knew. He played “Black Mane” and the crowd was singing along to every NSFW word. Nast ended with a performance of “Trillmatic”, an internet favorite that lightened the vibe and reminded us that Nast does, indeed, have bars as well as antics.

Eventually, eager fans started getting antsy for the Zombies. A spontaneous group-rap of “Thug Waffle” broke out amongst some bros, and it was surprisingly good. Just before the Zombies took the stage, cheesy dollar store graveyard decorations were set up on the stage, and a giant sticky spiderweb was thrown over the crowd.

With the theatrical elements in place, Zombie Juice jumped on stage. Erick “Arc” Elliott and Meechy Darko emerged from the sideline, with Meech wearing a ski mask. The trio’s strong chemistry was amplified by the fact Erick serves as producer on many of their songs. I have seen the Zombies before, and I knew what to expect: crowd surfing, mosh pits, blunt smoke and a compelling medley of spitfire lyricism. But this was all put to the test when the Zombie was forced to go acapella.

Two songs in, the music suddenly cut out. Meech jumped on the mic said he ‘spilled his 40 oz’ on the DJ’s computer… and it was dead. Despite the lack of instrumentals, the guys were devoted to the performance, spitting verses a cappella to enthrall the awestruck crowd until another computer was found. It was a moment I was glad to see – the energy and delivery of the Zombies made the a cappella verses in some ways more compelling than even the mixtape tracks.

For the rest of the show, the crowd sang, smoked and crowd surfed right along with Meech, Juice and Erick. At one point, a kind fan passed a blunt onstage to Meech, who welcomed it with deep inhalations. To take the party to the next level, Bodega Bamz joined the Zombies onstage for their song together “Thrilla”. The “New New York” whipped up the crowd into a frenzy. I guarantee more than a few people in the moshpit woke up the next morning with gnarly bruises acquired during this song.

The performance ended with Meech saying that he felt like it “wasn’t their best performance” – referring to him computer issue forcing us to endure 128 kHz instrumentals. Maybe he was right – the sound was a bit off. But the crowd energy was vibrant in spite of, or maybe because of, the intimate a cappella portion and the hours of waiting. The fans came out to turn up with rockstars, but in the end it felt a lot more like a house party with the coolest kids in Brooklyn – where the turn up doesn’t stop, even when the music does.