View From the Front Row, 1/20/11
The other night, I went and caught the "Company of Wolves" tour featuring Sadistik, Sarx, A_Rival and Woke With a Plan over at Kimo's in San Francisco. I wasn't that familiar with the headliner Safistik's music, but had heard of him through his collaborations with some of Mac Lethal's producers as well as his touring credits, and was curious to hear what he sounded like. David Downey Jr. of Woke With a Plan is also a buddy of mine that I hadn't had a chance to see live yet, so rolling out to this was a must.
I had only been to Kimo's once before this when I tried to see K-the-I??? live, but due to some complication in scheduling and unannounced cancellations I ended up almost buying a ticket to the wrong show (K-the-I??? later played at Elbo Room, which I did make it out to). A similarly funny and awkward experience happened to me at the Kimo's ticketing counter this time around - the kind lady working there asked me who I came to see, and when I said it was a tie between Sadistik and Woke With a Plan she made me pick one while both artists were present and listening in the background! I ended up choosing Woke With a Plan because of the personal affiliation, but chatted it up with pretty much everyone and bought one of Sadistik's EPs later on. The crowd and music space were predictably tiny, amounting to maybe 10 people at the height of the evening's festivities, but the sound quality was very good and the low turn out didn't prevent everyone from having a good time.
Woke With a Plan was the first act to take the stage, with David Downey Jr. on vocals, Topher M Lewis on keys/samples, and Randy Ziady-Huling on turntables. To preface my slightly biased thoughts, I should note that David Downey Jr. and his buddies are some of the nicest, most down-to-earth rap dudes that you're ever likely to meet and hang out with. I was curious to see how their music would translate to a live setting since their "Friday Morning EP" (available at Amoeba Music or CDbaby) is pretty low key and personal... not really the sort of stuff you'd expect to make for an entertaining show. Fortunately, Woke With a Plan really had their act together and put on a very focused and engaging set, which incorporated severed head props, megaphones, humorous film dialogue sampling, personal interjections and plenty of chemistry between the three performers. David Downey Jr. seemed very animated in his rapping despite the small showing of people, and the ways that he vibed off of Topher and Randy's contributions was great. A strong set by these three that solidified my appreciation for their music, check'em out in the Bay Area if you get a chance.
A_Rival was the next performer to get on stage, and was the act I was most skeptical about since I seem to recall hearing his album and not being a fan of it. Maybe I need to revisit his music or maybe he's a horse of a different color on stage, but A_Rival put on a very entertaining set of 8-bit video game tunes and funky dance maneuvers. One of the best parts of his performance was seeing how much fun he and his buddy DJ Circuit were having on stage, as they were frequently grinning ear to ear and cracking each other up over their tunes. Two highlight musical moments may have been DJ Circuit's scratch routine over the music from "Duck Hunt" and A_Rival's "Last Boss" cheater-diss song finale. A very good set that had Sadistik bugging out over how cool it was.
Speaking of Sadistik, the tour headliner decided to perform next due to some tequila-related complications, and he definitely poured his heart out for the handful of fans in the room surrounding him. The subject matter of Sadistik's songs struck me as very emotionally based, with lots of tracks about exes and relationships gone awry, and his taste in beats definitely leaned towards the grandiose and symphonic. I was surprised by just how passionately he got into his rapping, as from the first track onward he was spitting in a lively and energetic way that can only come from lots of touring experience. He shared some very personal tidbits of information about certain tracks with the tiny crowd that won't be repeated here out of respect for the privacy of the people his songs deal with, but needless to say it was some pretty intimate shit. Impressive set.
Sarx came out to perform last in light of Sadistik needing to get his drank on, and put on a nice set as well. Out of the various performers, Sarx was the only one that I knew nothing about, but tours like this one are a good way of becoming acquainted with new artists and Sarx had some cool material for sure. His rapping wasn't nearly as lively as Sadistik's or A_Rival's, but he had a certain soulful quality to his vocals that added a bit of originality to his tracks, and his subject matter seemed more varied than the acts before him. He also performed two Lazerbeak-produced numbers that were good, and ended things with a cool Armageddon party style joint. Plus, he was wearing a Threadless Tee design that I used as my desktop background for a couple of years, which gives him instant props in my book! Much respect.
All in all, this was a dope and intimate show that made up for the New Years Oakland Metro debacle that I kicked my 2011 off with (that show will never get a write-up on here, for the record. Doseone and Jel deserve better!). Good performances all around.
Here's a bit of live footage of Sadistik and Woke With a Plan:
Sadistik "Ashes to Ashley" (snippet):
Woke With a Plan "Move"(?):