Thursday, October 25, 2012

Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle at The New Parish, Oakland

View From the Front Row, 10/25/12

About two weeks ago, I went and checked out the Arguments With Dreams Tour starring Busdriver, Nocando, and Open Mike Eagle at the New Parish in Oakland CA.  This was the first show of the tour and it had the misfortune of landing on an unexpected Game 5 for the Oakland A's, which probably drew a bit of the sports fanatic Busdriver fans away from the venue.  Still, the show got a pretty good turn out of top notch people, including a bunch of fans from Nappa Valley who I ended up grabbing a beer with before the show.  Later met up with a few awesome friends of mine at the venue, and happened to bump into Doseone, who distributed hugs in the midst of buying a round of drinks for the performers.  I've seen all of the acts on this tour play many times before (hell, I've seen Open Mike Eagle and Busdriver play a couple of times this year alone), but this particular show felt special since it was my first time seeing these three LA rap talents on a proper tour together.  Given their numerous collaborations and similar approaches to hip hop, the sets that these Hellfyre Club MCs offered up had a special chemistry that made for a really dope show.

Open Mike Eagle kicked things off with some smooth melodic styles that quickly roped the crowd in and won them over by the third song.  After an odd electronic intro rap from "4NML HSPTL," he got into the full swing of things with his track "The Processional," where his skillful musical flows and clever lyrics had folks' undivided attention in no time.  I've seen Open Mike Eagle play tiny dive bars like Johnny V's and huge concert halls like the Fillmore, and he always kills it with his unique soft-spoken style and finds charming ways to banter with the crowd.  Highlights of this recent set at the New Parish included "Neighbor" and his verse off of "Why Pianos Break," though he cut his song "I Rock" cruelly short when he realized that it wasn't really speaking to him that night.  Mike Eagle had the crowd do some proper stretching exercises before throwing down some beat manipulation and dropping the track "Free-Writing Exercise," where Nocando joined him on stage to exchange some heated verses.  The two friends I was with had never seen Open Mike Eagle live, and the Nappa Valley kids had never even heard of him before the set at this show.  All of them left converted fans and told me how much they loved Mike's set.  Dope show for sure.

Nocando was next to rock the mic, and he delivered a more loud and aggressive set of songs that worked nicely on the crowd.  Oakland is one of the two places that Nocando claims as home, and he was clearly the touring artist that felt most at home at the New Parish that night.  The way that Nocando pointed out his friends in the crowd and rocked a beat from an iPod that someone handed him in the front row, he may as well have been killing it in his own backyard.  Still, club-oriented joints like "Where's the Money?" and "All Over a Bitch" (which Nocando openly apologized to the ladies for) got folks rowdy in the front row and made the place feel like a proper dancehall.  He also kicked some of the freestyling he's known so well for, and brought Busdriver out for their collaborative number "Two Track Mind."  This was one of Nocando's first shows back in the states after spending some time in Japan, so it was great to see him vibing so well off of Oakland's energy.  Very good set.

Busdriver stepped up as the evening's headliner, and proceeded to show off his zany styles of rapping to the fullest.  He started things off with a series of solo tracks that spanned his body of work, with a particular emphasis on songs that have impressed people live.  Some stand-outs included "Me-Time," "Casting Agent & Cowgirls," "Avantcore" and "Bon Bon Fire," though just about every song he played was solid.  While this part of Busdriver's performance was great, the highlight of the evening was definitely when Nocando joined him on stage to perform a set of songs as Flash Bang Grenada, where the crazy music took on a new life.  Busdriver and Nocando were having a great time playing together, frequently laughing or bugging out over each others flows and lyrics, and the good vibes translated well to the music and to the crowd.  Tracks like "Beat My Bitch" and "Good Cop, Bad Cop" sounded plenty live through the New Parish speakers, and Open Mike Eagle joined the two of them on stage for a rowdy rendition of their excellent track "In a Perfect World."  My friends and I were dancing so hard that at one point my glasses flew off and somehow found their way onto the stage, where Busdriver stumbled upon them and handed them back to me in the front.  Great set that ended a great show.

Fun times for all involved, my friends and I left smiling and sweaty.  Peep the video footage for "In a Perfect World" live below, and please excuse the less than stellar sound quality.  Now, if I could just start a petition here to get Open Mike Eagle to start performing "Haircut" again in his sets, we could round these shows out to perfection.  Not the best song in his catalog or anything, but that track has been great the few times I've seen him play it live!

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