View From the Front Row, 11/16/10
Last Friday, I drove out to San Francisco with a friend to check out Doomtree and Rec League at Slim's. Doomtree has been my favorite indie rap group for a minute now, with outstanding releases from every member and stellar work as a group, not to mention a reputation for putting on great shows. I've seen them individually and in groups many times at this point, but this "Wings + Teeth" tour is the first nation-wide tour to feature every member of the group in the same spot, which was some cause for excitement in my book. Rec League have also torn down the spot wherever they've performed and are one of the Bay Area's finer live acts in my experience, so things were looking extra strong in the line-up department for this gig.
It had been a while since I'd been to Slim's, and generally my experiences there haven't been the most favorable. The place was packed and the crowd was difficult to maneuver through, but the stage was less high than I remember it being and the sound was good. Rec League came out as the opener and killed it, as they tend to do in concert, though the Doomtree-centric crowd seemed to need a couple of songs before they were convinced. Rec League's party anthems did end up catching people's attention once the dance vibes got going, and folks who weren't having fun yet were driven to cheer along when Rob Rush did his shirtless solo track/dance-off routine. Haji P, who I hadn't seen live before, was also in attendance repping Rec League and did some really fun tracks of his own. It felt different watching them in the throng of such a packed crowd, but I was glad to see other people in attendance enjoying the performance. Rec League handed out a gang of free CDs to all the lucky folks hanging around the front row as well, which certainly went appreciated.
Doomtree kicked off their set as a collective with solo performances from their heavy-hitting producers Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak, both of whom put out pretty strong solo albums this year. Their warm-up act was the weakest link of the evening's performances, as the bass was cranked a little too high to do justice to Paper Tiger's solo numbers and Lazerbeak's warbly indie rock vocals seemed a little off in a live setting. Things were quickly remedied by the appearance of the rest of the Doomtree squad, however, at which point things started getting really live. Out of the collective, P.O.S and Dessa have the strongest and most devoted followings at this point - P.O.S from constant touring and skill, Dessa from widespread critical acclaim and talent. There was a not a point in the evening when people weren't fiercely cheering for these two, though all of the MCs were very well received and had the crowd going nuts. Mike Mictlan was definitely a live wire on stage, though in my experiences seeing him live his abundant energy and drive are sometimes poured so hard into a single song that he can lose steam quickly. Fortunately, the pacing of the evening and the way that the MCs alternated from song to song prevented this from happening, and Mike's performances of "Oh My God" and "Slow Burn" were amazing. Cecil Otter also did his thing and has perhaps the most interesting fanbase to watch out of any of the Doomtree crew - a following smaller than that of Dessa or P.O.S, but one in which all the fans chant along to almost every line of his songs (myself included). He didn't do "Black Rose," which is my favorite track of his to see live, but he did kick "Traveling Dunk Tank" with P.O.S as well as a new song from his upcoming album that sounded incredible. Out of all the Doomtree MCs, Sims was one of my favorite performers at this particular show. He really brought his A-game in terms of energy and style, and kicked mostly new songs from his upcoming Lazerbeak-produced album "Bad Time Zoo" that sounded amazing. Dessa and P.O.S were both on point, of course, with Dessa's awesome spoken word fast-rap love verse and Hallelujah song wowing the crowd as usual. There was also a moment where she let her hair loose where you could just hear all the male indie rap fans heart collectively skipping a beat, haha! P.O.S played some favorites like "Drumroll" and a number of crew songs, including the awesome "Low Light Low Life" with Dessa and Sims as an encore.
Another great show from Doomtree all around. Here is some footage from the front of new songs by Cecil Otter and Sims, both of which sound amazing: