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Drinking for breast cancer

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It's usually not a good sign when you get to a venue at the appointed showtime and the only folks there are the musicians, the promoter, and the bartenders -- unless, of course, you're itching to just drink a lot and avoid people altogether. A showcase of some hip-hop acts from the Chicago-based indie label Galapagos 4 at Amos' SouthEnd was one of those shows. The ski-cap clad crowd did eventually start to show up, if a bit fashionably late. They might not have been all that punctual, but they were enthusiastic and then some (some of them might seemed to have done a little rolling of another variety before they arrived, which might help to explain things).

Yes, a lot of the cats on Galapagos 4 are whiter that Pat McCrory after Hugh McColl walks in the room, and yes, one of the label's stars, Offwhyte, looks more like Ichiro Suzuki than a feared MC. You'd be surprised, though, at how much talent these kids, raised from birth on hip hop culture -- including the great parts of hip hop culture, like social action -- really have. The fact that a great label like this plays a showcase at a club like Amos' instead of a larger venue also says something else. It says that our culture prefers the bullets "n' bling of the major label rappers. That the major label rap scene is subtly racist in their portrayal of hip-hop culture. And that we, as a people (and, to the record companies, as a demographic) probably play a big part in that.

Herewith I offer an invitation for folks to check out the occasional show you don't know jack-shit about. You'd be surprised what you can learn, even from some saggy-panted kids about half your age. (Not the least of which is that you should immediately invest in white T-shirts and Dickies stock.)

Interesting Idea for a Festival Award: RiRa's "Halfway to St. Patrick's Day" festival last weekend (This could turn into a bad trend -- next stop: Arbor Day Eve!). Incidentally, the U2 cover band UU2 was providing some of the entertainment that evening (as if Bono wasn't annoying enough, we now have a Bono impersonator). Personally, we endorse the idea of The Evening Muse's Joe Kuhlmann, who wants to form a bluegrass U2 cover band. The name? Y'all2.

From the outside, it might look like a lot of fun to get into shows for free. And I suppose it is, except for two exceptions: one, when the band sucks and you'd like to be back at home in your underwear watching TV; and two, benefit concerts. Bob Graham and Missi Ivie and a host of volunteers put on the third annual Spread Your Wings benefit concert this year at the Neighborhood Theatre, with all monies being donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. As usual, I was waved through, as I'm "on the list." Immediately, I feel like a damn cheapskate, and people start looking at me like I'm a big walking carcinogen or something. What to do? I discreetly drop some bills on the table -- whoopsy! -- as I search for my ID, and all is again well.

Conscience duly sated, I took a seat. One of the bands I really wanted to see, The Avett Brothers, were almost done by the time I arrived -- they had to jet out early to make another big-time gig, this one at the Cabarrus County Fair later that night.

Up next was Malcolm Holcombe, who is either crazy, drunk, or a genius, depending on who you ask (some might say all of the above). The long-haired singer/songwriter had a microphone set up at chair level. In typical Holcombe fashion, he then proceeded to stand for most of the show, bent at the waist to sing into the crotch-level mic. No complaints here about his music, though. You write songs like Holcombe, and I don't care if you hang from the ceiling like a bat.

The Austin, TX-based band The Gourds closed the show, and their drunken take on punk/roots/bluegrass had people dancing in the aisles. Toward the end, the band even consented to play their odd-bird version of Snoop Dogg's gangsta classic "Gin and Juice." By now, most folks had probably forgotten they were at a benefit, which, I think, is the whole point. As bad as it sounds, people will spend like fools if they're having a good time. Judging by the number of "empties" I saw in the trashcans as I left, this whole breast cancer thing better watch out.

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