View From the Front Row, 9/10/11
Last night, I rolled down to the Old Princeton Landing in Half Moon Bay to check out the second installment of Maleko's "Fresh" series, starring Knives & Gasoline, Avatar, Abnormal and supposedly Joe Dub. Unfortunately, Joe Dub ended up being a no-show, which was the one major disappointment of the evening. I'm a big fan of Joe's music and have never seen him live, so I'd be lying if I said that he wasn't one of the names on the line-up that prompted me to make the drive. Still, a bunch of other exciting talent was in full effect at Old Princeton Landing, and the spot was packed with a really awesome crowd of vibrant Bay Area folk, including plenty of friends and family of the performers.
Panik the Skinnyman and his group Knomadic Souls opened things up with a very brief set of about three or four songs. I wasn't familiar with their music and guess that they're part of Half Moon Bay's local scene, but their stuff sounded pretty good and got the rap part of the night off on the right foot. Panik's solo numbers were decent, but were overshadowed by the Knomadic Souls material, which had him and his MC partner chopping it up pretty fiercely with their flows. Could have done without the bare-chested flashing of the Knomadic Souls tattoo though! Major props go out to Panik the Skinnyman for giving the DJ so much love prior to his performance as well. He was grooving to the classic hip hop jams and bugging out every time a fresh old school beat came on.
Abnormal, a group consisting of Maleko, Administer Raj, and Space Ranger, were the next act to perform. They took the stage wearing matching workman uniforms with their MC names stenciled on the back, and struck a unified B-boy stance to flash their names to the crowd prior to getting busy. The visual aspect of their set didn't end there, as Maleko whipped out a pillow during his verse on their first song while referencing pillows in his lyrics. These three gents definitely fall on the intellectual side of the hip hop spectrum, so naturally their verses contained lots of abstract imagery and strange flows. They kicked quite a few acapellas to highlight their brainy lyrics, and took turns performing collaborative numbers with one another. It was good to see a full set from them, since I remember Maleko and Raj only having time to play a few short numbers at the end of the last "Fresh" event Unfair given the amount of work these guys have been putting in over the years. Glad they got some shine at this one.
Avatar was the next to rock the mic, and he put on a solid set of mostly new numbers with a couple of old jams thrown in for good measure. As far as the hip hop side of the evening goes, Avatar's set was the most impressive and intense of the bunch, with his speedy complex flows and energy standing out amongst the evening's MCs. I'd seen Avatar play not too long ago with his group Speak Easy at the "I <3 Neila" Benefit in LA, but this was my first time seeing him play solo since his tour with Xololanxinxo in 2009, and I must say his live show has really improved since then. Maybe it's just because the new material's sounding extra dope, but Avatar's set had a really nice flow to it that made the whole performance sound very cohesive. Out of the older numbers, he knocked it out the park with "Tear Jerker" and also covered his verse from "St. Patty's Day" off of Speak Easy's album, which is always a sure-fire winner in a live setting. Strong set from the homie, be on the look-out for Avatar's upcoming solo album cus' it's bound to be bangin'.
The group I was most curious to see live was the headliner Knives & Gasoline, an awesome post-rock project from the venerable LA hip hop producer Deeskee and adorable* punk rock singer Stacey Dee. I'm a fan of their album "Love Songs for Crime Scenes," but was uncertain how well it would translate to a live setting given the downtempo nature of a lot of the songs. Well, Knives & Gasoline's performance ended up being the highlight of the evening and was everything that a fan of the music that these two make could hope for. One thing that I liked about seeing this group live is that it gave Stacey Dee the opportunity to showcase her talents as a live performer, with Deeskee playing the silent mastermind behind the scenes on his laptop. I've seen Stacey's punk bands the Angry Amputees and Compton SF play before, and while they definitely have some searing live sets, no one member of the group stands out. With Knives & Gasoline, Stacey has the stage to herself, and she vibes off of Deeskee's instrumentation well while pulling some entertaining tricks of her own. There were lots of highlights in Knives & Gasoline's set, including an awesome rendition of their cover song "Cry Little Sister" that breathed new life into the song via Stacey's raspy vocals. "Trainwreck" got people dancing with its catchy horns and rhythms while "The Night is Young" left folks reeling in a state of bliss. Stacey had a ton of friends in attendance, and she got into the crowd for "Breadcrumbs" and addressed her singing to different people she knew with a smile. And speaking of friendship, it was fun to see Stacey and Deeskee bicker on stage in a way that only long-time friends can... Deeskee tossed a lime from his drink at Stacey at one point, and she picked up Maleko's pillow in response and turned to him in a menacing manner. No ensuing pillow fight. but I guarantee you the thought was there. Knives & Gasoline closed their set with an excellent rendition of "Stage Coach Road" that had Stacey Dee going all "Coyote Ugly" on the crowd. She got up on the bar counter and had the whole audience clapping their hands and stomping their feet in time to the Western tune. Great set from these two, check'em out if you get a chance!
A really fun and memorable show at the Old Princeton Landing, despite the lack of Joe Dub. Was great to meet Deeskee and catch up with some other folks, good times! Some video footage below:
Avatar kicking a new track of his:
Knives & Gasoline playing one of my favorite songs of theirs, "The Night is Young":
*inside joke. She *is* pretty dang adorable though!