View From the Front Row, 10/14/10
So last week, I went to see Sapient and Al-One of Sandpeople with bunch of opening acts I'd never heard of at the Rockit Room in San Francisco. This was my first time trekking out to the Rockit Room, and for those who haven't heard of it, it's a secluded little venue located in the Northern hilly area of San Fran around 5th Ave. and Clement. Kind of a nice location with some good Chinese restaurants (spotted myself some dim sum for only 4 bucks) and a really awesome book store (Green Apple Books, whattup?), though it is very far removed from the places I generally go to shows. The bar itself is a nice spot as well, with an upstairs area that hosts a surprisingly large stage and crowd danc efloor. The bartender was kind enough to treat me to a drink since she was slow to get to me, which I thought was extra nice... hope I left her a tip, I can't remember!
Anyway, as for the performers: Toast was listed as the opening act on the flier, which set an alarm off on my quality meter. When I last saw Toast open for Ceschi's Fake Four Summer tour, they were so laughably bad that I figured that they were just Kirby Dominant's bitches for the night... but apparently, two white girls making club music about having their periods have enough of a following to book other gigs around town. Thankfully, they were working late and had to drop out of the opening act line-up, opting instead to close-out the evening as the final act. What a relief! I even told Sapient how big a relief it was when I talked to him before the show, haha.
Eliquate was the first act to take the stage, and they did their thing live band style with a drummer, bassist, and a couple guitarists. They all seemed like really young dudes, probably in the middle of their college educations and just trying to get their respective grooves on, but their set worked quite well and they should be applauded for crafting some pretty solid music. There were definitely some key funky tracks with catchy melodies that they executed really well, and the support and enthusiasm of their many friends in attendance was infectious as well. Cool opening set.
Knowble was the next to kick it live, and his performance was slightly better than his poor choice of rap moniker, though not by a very large margin. He continually referenced the fact that A-Plus of Heiroglyphics did some of his beats, name-dropping Heiro every time one of said beats came on, but to be honest those beats were the best part of his set. Apparently, he's part of some West Coast group called Serendipity Project, which I've vaguely heard of before... Anyway, his rapping was decent, but it didn't really stand out to me in any way and got boring to listen to after a while, especially after Eliquate's live set. Not a terrible performance though, just nothing really memorable.
Addamantium the Plumber, who easily defeats Knowble in the "Worst rap moniker I have heard in the past decade" competition, went up to perform next and put on the worst set I have seen since watching MC Peg Leg open for Sleep at the Pier 23 Cafe. Pretty damn abysmal... Addamantium mentioned at one point that it was his first performance ever, but also said that his performances had never gone this badly in the past. Past rehearsals maybe? I couldn't tell if he was joking about the "first show ever" thing or not, but for his sake I hope that he wasn't, because he clearly has a lot of room for improvement. No stage presence, boring flow that pretty bites Cage's style, no ability to engage the crowd or even hold their attention for the course of his set. Thumbs down to Addamantium the Plumber.
Al-One and his rapper pal whose name I didn't catch performed next, and they definitely came with a strong set that re-sparked some interest in the scattered crowd. I think the two of them were performing under the group moniker Good Biz since they handed me a free CD with that artist name on it, but I can't be sure. Anyway, Al-One is one of the members of Seattle's Sandpeople collective, which has gotten a pretty good buzz in the NW underground circuit these last few years. It was clear from his set that he'd been doing shows for a while and knew how to get rowdy on stage and get the audience involved. In terms of straight-up rapping skill, I'd say he was the best MC of the evening as well. His songs didn't get quite as much love from the crowd as they should have (I should note that he wasn't even listed in the line-up, what the heck?), but the crowd was still a lot more appreciative than they were for the last two acts. Solid set.
Sapient took over when Al-One left the stage, and suddenly the venue seemed a lot more packed with people. Sapient has built a pretty good rep for himself in the underground, with a staggering work ethic that amounts to about three solo albums a year, not counting his production work for Sandpeople or Luckyiam of Living Legends. I looked on my iPod the other day and somehow I have about 160 songs that this guy has produced on there, which Sapient jokingly mentioned is about a third of his catalog when I chatted with him. Anyway, Sapient live is very similar to listening to Sapient on record. He's a good song writer, but not a super charismatic MC, though his banging beats do make up for most of his shortcomings. Hearing Sapient's intricate production work bang loudly out of a club speaker system made the set worthwhile, especially with a room full of supportive fans who knew the lyrics to his songs. The performance wasn't groundbreaking, but pretty much met my expectations. Good set.
Didn't stick around for the acts that went on after Sapient (if you heard Toast, you wouldn't stick around either), but overall it was a pretty good show with some ups and downs. Glad I got to see a few of the Sandpeople live. Here's some Sapient live footage for ya: