The Coup & People Under The Stairs at the Middle East, 12/5/2012
DEVO - Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA
Go Here:Read an interview with Boots Riley, by old friend and excellent writer Tom Andes. -- @The Rumpus
A very happy confluence of events led me to lie to Chris Portugal at The Coup / People Under the Stairs show. The first thing that had to happen was that the original venue for People Under the Stairs had to be unprepared to open. That venue is the Sinclair in Cambridge. It's apparently still not open as they're shuffling shows to TT's and the Royale.
The Sinclair is owned by Bowery Boston, owners of the Royale (nee The Roxy). This is the venue's first problem. We'll see how it goes once they actually open, it's right in Harvard Sq. so it should be fairly convenient.
The second thing that had to happen was that the Coup adds PUTS to the bill at the last minute! This made for an excellent lineup and solved a difficult problem for me in that I no longer felt bad about having to choose between two of my favorite hip hop groups.
Thirdly, someone had to identify me as the sound guy for the show. This is the least likely of the three coincidences. As it happens, I am pretty much anti-the-sound-guy. I look like Rick Rubin, a lot. The sound guy looks like Mike Ehrmantrout, a lot. You do the math on that one.
So anyway, here's Thes One walking at me in an empty club before the show. He says: "Hi, I'm Chris from People Under the Stairs, are you running sound for us this evening"? I hear: "Hi, I'm Chris from People Under the Stairs, are you enjoying yourself this evening"?
Here's where you need to know something else. I can't hear that well, so if someone's not right next to me when they start talking, or I'm not paying attention to them, I do two things. First, I lean in (especially if they're a lot shorter than me, as Portugal is). Second, I say "Yes, hi, what?". Third (optional, if I don't know them), I stick my hand out for a handshake, to get them closer so I can hear them better.
So that basically gave away one of the main moves I do to mask the fact that I can't hear.
Natalie had to jump in and say "No! No no no no.... He's half-deaf, he didn't hear you, he's not your sound guy, sorry". Lulz all around. Portugal walks away muttering "Then why did he say 'yes'"? I like confusing small people from out of town, it's one of my hobbies.
Turns out, I totally could have run sound for them. 4 vocal mics, 2 people, 1.5 turntables, an MPC (which was sitting on one of the turntables). Done. I would just make a pleasant looking pattern out of all the sliders and set all knobs to "half". Toy as necessary. How hard could it be :-)
As it happens, very hard, but we'll get there.
The lineup was pretty eclectic and all over the place. We started with Evan Greer, who, due to my slow-wittedness, I took no photos of. She was great. Social justice & queer rights based folk music, plus rapping. They only did like 3 songs though, so I didn't grab my camera like a dullard, go listen, the music's good, it's witty, and it's activisty.
Next there was Kev Choice doing a short solo set. He is a pretty amazing pianist trained in classical and jazz and has been touring keyboardist for some pretty big tours. He'd come out rapping, then slide behind his keyboard, lay down some crazy stuff over there, then come back and rap more. If there's any justice, 30 years from now he'll be like "Rick Wakeman" big, or "Bernie Worrell" big.
Ruby Ridge was a thing that happened. Remember before when I asked how hard it could be to run sound for PUTS? Their sound just didn't ever work out, and it was an odd fit, in my opinion, on this bill. Between busted vocal mic & effects thereof, the stage being really dark, and some frantic laptoppery, it just wasn't a fair shake, which is a shame. Go listen to some music, and if you like it, go see them. They seem like people I'd want to like live, probably, they just had lots of tech issues and the crowd didn't really seem to know what to do with them, which isn't surprising considering the co headliners.
Then Japanther came and injected a whole bunch of energy into everyone all at once. They were fun, 2 man Ramonesey punk, fast and short. They had good lyrics and fit lots of songs into a shortened timeframe.
People Under The Stairs came out and did a pretty regular-length set, which was good considering how much schedule shuffling had to go on to make this show happen (doors were at 6, Evan Greer was on promptly at 7, and everyone stuck to a very tight schedule).
They had the crowd bouncing the entire time, and people went nuts for Acid Raindrops and Beer, which they should, because those are awesome. If you don't have it, get Lifestyle Marketing, I could listen to jingles all day.
The crowd thinned somewhat after PUTS, which I expected, but a lot of their fans stuck around for The Coup, and they should be glad they did. This was one of the most fun shows we've gone to this year. Boots Riley is pretty much a spaz on stage, which we knew, and gives so much of that energy to the crowd. I ended up in a corner behind the main speakers, so the vocals didn't sound so great, but I was leaning on the stage, which was good for me. Out in front of that same speaker was a totally different ballgame I know, and the whole night sounded excellent, thanks to Mike Ehrmantrout.
Everyone seemed to be super into the new Coup material, considering the CD just came out not too long ago. The band was tight and we learned about a Silk-E solo record coming out, which everyone should probably grab.
Here are a few photos. I got shit for photos because everyone was too busy moving around and the artists were all over the place. This is a good thing. I could sit all night and shoot dour motionless J&M Chain and get the perfect light coming through the perfect haircut, or I could get some hail mary shots in the middle of a bouncing crowd. I know which I'll choose every single time: