Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Richie Cunning, Pep Love & Melina Jones at the Elbo Room, SF

View From the Front Row, 11/16/11

Wait wait wait, two Rec League-related show reviews in the span of a single month? What is this, one of the recommended blogs on Routine Fly's website or something? Naw, but for reals, if I'm showing a concert bias here, it's only because these crazy San Francisco motherfuckers know how to throw a really live show. And this jam, which occured on 11/11/11 and which I'm late in reviewing here, fit that bill pretty damn well.

When I rolled up to Elbo Room and saw a line out the door, I knew it wasn't going to be your average handful-of-people type turnout event. Lines outside the Elbo Room were an unheard of phenomenon to me until this show, and the spot was packed with one of the biggest crowds I've ever seen there before the music even started. Lots of Rec League regulars were in the spot, with some additional family members and 11/11 bar-hoppers thrown into the mix.

Melina Jones was the first person to perform, and she put on a good warm-up set that had her having a lot of fun on stage and getting the crowd properly hyped for the music. I wasn't too familiar with her stuff but had heard of her through her collaborations with the underrated Bay Area producer Deedot, whose soulful boom bap production is a good compliment to Melina's style. Her rapping had a cheerful melodic quality to it that was fun to rock out to live, though she indulged in a bit too much call-and-response banter with the audience between songs. Still, she was having fun and so was the crowd, which was surprisingly full of people who had traveled a good distance to see her. Melina's set got off to a bit of a bumpy start when she asked the DJ to rewind the intro music he was playing so she could rock a verse over it, and it took a bit of time for the DJ to catch on to what she was asking, but aside from that the set was smooth sailing. Fun opening act that tested the noise levels that the packed house was capable of.

Pep Love of Heiroglyphics came on to rock it next, and he kicked a smooth set that showcased his laid back natural style and cadences. It was strange to see a veteran MC like Pep Love right in the middle of a bill of modern lesser-known rappers, and stranger still to see the crowd's rather apathetic reaction to him. To be fair, while Pep Love definitely rocked steady with his flow, he was not as fun an act to watch live as some of the evening's other rap types, plus he hasn't released any new material in a minute. You'd think that the Heiro emblem on the show flyer would be one of the major draws of the event, but apparently the crowd was mostly there for either Richie Cunning or Melina Jones. Pep Love's set started decently and got better and better as it went on. He worked his way through tracks from "Ascension" as well as some funky new material from his upcoming album due out in 2012. His performance felt like the polar opposite of Melina Jones' show - all rapping and songs with little to no crowd interaction. It was still a nice set of songs from a skilled rapper, and I was surprised there weren't more hardcore fans in attendance chanting along to his lyrics by heart.

Richie Cunning closed things out as the evening's headliner, and he shut shit down with the best set of the night. I've seen Rec League and Richie Cunning live countless times at this point, but it's great that the group sets and solo sets differ and that they can continue to switch things up with each show. Richie had the energetic masses eating out of his hand, to the point where his performance of "One Dollar Wonder" had at least six people tossing dollar bills on stage. He covered a number of his illest songs, including a couple of tracks not typically played at Rec League's group shows like "Work It Out" and "Pure Imagination." Of course, some of the standard Richie heaters like "1906" and "Richie Cunning's Day Off" were covered as well to great effect. A few new songs were also aired to the appreciative crowd, including a joint produced by Domino of Heiroglyphics that had Domino himself come up on stage to introduce the song in order to get folks properly hyped for it. Apparently, Richie Cunning and Domino have a collab album in the works, and the track that was played sounded fresh with some hilarious Richie quotables. Of course, no Elbo Room 11/11 party would be complete without a few Rec League collabo numbers, and Rob Rush, QM and Haji P joined Richie on stage for a few crazy party songs. Richie even played "The City" as an encore, repping San Francisco to the fullest. Good times, major props to DJ Bad DJ for holding down the mix and interludes despite being drunk since before the show had started!

All in all, this was a party of epic proportions that proved once again that Rec League are the guys you want to dance away your special occasions with.

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