In a week just poppin' with big beats, the dance merchants totally ran things. And without question, the most hyphy display was cheez-tastic troupe Bonde do Role from Brazil at Club Firestone. With their sample-mad brand of funk carioca — an exaggeratedly vulgar explosion of Miami bass, mash-up and Portuguese rap — the spastic trio has become something of a buzz in the indie dance uprising. A vocally driven DJ set with all-out performances by MC/singers Marina Ribatski and Pedro D'eyrot, the affair was a jumping, thumping head-on of live concert and dance party. Positively sweating with unbridled Latin abandon and a wild sense of fun, it was a workout that had the whole floor bouncing.
While Bonde do Role's sound blasts forth from the favelas, Canada's Junior Boys ooze with urban sophistication. Their set at the Social merged the live concert and dance club experiences even more deeply. In a lustrous performance that showcased their diverse palette, the Boys' sleek, smart electronica was bolstered by lots of live instrumentation.
I love rap music. But, to be perfectly candid, most rap shows suck. That's because performance, at least in terms of concert dynamics, is not the strength of many of its modern practitioners. It's a crying shame, but the genre as a whole is suffering from a lack of sensitivity to the nuances of live delivery, relying more and more on imagery and posturing to entertain than actual musical execution.
The boilerplate opening acts for Virginia's Clipse at Firestone did little to dispel this notion. Seriously, there's no conceivable justification for eight MCs to be barking into mics at the same time. Ever. But being just a duo helped the two brothers (literally siblings) that make up Clipse avoid stepping all over each other vocally. The actual rapping is secondary in their music; more credit belongs to the production team of the Neptunes for lending them some of the most elemental and elegantly crafted beats ever constructed. In fact, the distilled perfection of Clipse's minimalism is the purest proof so far that the Neptunes belong in the pantheon of beat-makers.
In other concert happenings, I doff my hat to local band In Passing, not for their booger-eater emo-rock but for providing the stage trick o' the week. Somewhere in the middle of their set, the drummer doused his cymbals in lighter fluid and lit those bad boys on fire. Fuck yeah! It sucked, though, that the glory only lasted about five whole seconds. Sucked even more that they were by far the five most memorable seconds of the entire performance.
Speaking of sweet-ass gimmicks, YouTube sensations OK Go came to Hard Rock Live last week, and it was sorta funny that it was actually a series of moving sidewalks that carried me up to the venue just as they took the stage. The athletic-balletic video to "Here It Goes Again" was pretty damned clever and totally deserved to blow up like it did, but boy, their choreographed dance routines sure know how to cash their creative stores, don't they? Seriously, this band's predictable take on power pop should've shriveled up and died a few years ago.
Headlining was Snow Patrol, who are becoming bland enough for mass consumption and therefore are next in line to inherit Coldplay's adult alternative crown. Besides, "Wow, pretty light show," what exactly is there to say about a performance so perfectly innocuous? There are worse things you could dig, I suppose. But it's a miscarriage of justice when the anemic, pastel pop music of an act like this can sell out one of the city's most capacious music venues while the winning incandescence of Australia's Youth Group could barely populate a small downtown club. The few who came out to see Youth Group were treated to an accomplished display of their shining pop verdure, one good enough that even the players themselves weren't willing to tarnish it with their own sickeningly schmaltzy cover of Alphaville's "Forever Young."
There's the inherent accessibility of pop music, and then there's the arcane likes of Sacramento's Hella. With the original duo recently ballooning to a five-piece band, they churned out mathematical noise and dizzying, Gordian signatures with plenty of frenzy a couple of nights later on the same stage. These dudes are technically gifted, but it was lost in a formless vortex because their freak-out approach gives little thought to matters like order, proportion or negative space. Without focus, their music just receded into the background like white noise after a few minutes. What's worse, the atonal singing of Aaron Ross proved to be a totally pointless addition to the fold. With this grating set, Hella showed that more is definitely firstname.lastname@example.org