Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Hipster Extravaganza

The live artist I tend to enjoy the most are the ones that I happen to stumble upon, somehow, accidentally. Maybe while wandering into a bar for a drink (how I first heard Ryan Scott or Melody Gardot) or as opening acts for other bands.

On Wednesday my friend and I went to Peter Hadar's "Hipster Extravaganza" (I'm not even sure he knew why he chose to call it that because the crowd, the venue and the artists were anything but hipster) at SOB’s with the slight promise of seeing Janelle Monae perform even though I had to scour the interweb to find even just a small hint that she might be there. There was obliviously as well the pull of seeing Mishal Moore, the youtube chanteuse that has been making her name known through hard work the modern way, figuring out a way to make the most well known video sight her bitch. I'd briefly perused Hadar's Myspace page and found the songs satisfactory, upon a brief listen, with the added benefit of his being the writer for Carl Thompson.

The first artist to go up on the stage was a young rapper, that I'd love to write about but I can't remember anything about him. His face draws a blank, I can't even think of his name. Not to say I didn't think that he wasn't talented at the time, but he did not have the added benefit of having a stage presence and the over all night of talented performers who seemed to have their shows a little more polished and on point just generally overshadowed him all together. I did feel for the guy. He was playing to what at the time was a luke warm crowd.

Mishal Moore came next and I have one word to describe that girl's voice: breathtaking. The beauty with which she sings is enough to arrest your attention in a way that I don't feel many artist can. Its soulful, its gentle, its strong, and it can stand on its own without being overproduced. Hearing her voice feels intimate, making me witsh simultaneously that I was seeing her perform as the headlining act (they only allowed two songs) and that I was in a much smaller venue. She came out, meekly proclaiming herself as a non guitarist and asked the audience "How many of you heard of me through youtube?" and played two of her YouTube hits. "I Put a Spell on You" by Screaming Jay Hawkins has forever been one of my least favorite songs (right up there with "The Little Drummer Boy"), and the fact that its played in televised ice skating showcases repeatedly and at one too many Halloween parties has not ever helped the song ease into something that I might casually enjoy. Not even hearing Nina Simone singing it can save it for me. BUT hearing Moore belt the tune was enough to change my mind, I've been singing her rendition repeatedly for the past two days. From her the song becomes less the annoyingly gimmicky song that it seemed in my youth but an actual plea for love. Her next song was titled "Make Up Sex". I'd heard the song on YouTube but I enjoyed it much more in person. Although I have to agree with my friend upon a better listen there were times that I felt the lyrics lagged, especially when she gets to lines "I will wrap my hands around your neck/ slowly let them fall to your stomach/ the butterflies will make you rise/underneath the sheets all night" But I can honestly say that the rest of the makes me want to over look the small fault for the bigger picture. I wanted suddenly to find a lover to start a fight just so I could potentially make up again. Also, I would definitely recommend that everyone check out her Sunday songs on Youtube, before she gets famous and it’s not free.
I'm definitely a lover of hip-hop when its done right, which everyone knows so often is not the case, but every so often you get a chance to see someone new and fresh at the beginning of their career that you know could potentially change the game. Blitz the Ambassador is one such MC. Fresh, Fresh, Fresh. Listening to Blitz, I wasn't just blown away by the full band, or the innovative crisps rhymes, but it was his clarity. To see an MC for the first time, lacking a certain familiarity with their music its so important to be able to actually understand what they're saying so that the message can actually come through. A dope beat is a dope beat, and someone may sound great and put on a good show, but if you have to strain to understand what they're saying its just not as effective to me. Then to have someone who's voice was so clear and then to find out that they were dope, that they were spitting lyrics that were political and sometimes funny but always true. I would definitely go on to say that he was the most skilled performer at the show (and probably the most well known having opened for KRS-1 this summer at Prospect Park and Slum Village at South Paw he's been making a name for himself) He worked the dead crowd up and even got a little audience participation from the otherwise quiet and small crowd. He performed his song Hypocrisy among others.

Next up was Shae Fiol from Portland Oregon. God, this girl went up on the stage alone following what was at the time the best performance of the night thus far and worked it as well. Now, I know if you've been reading this long you're beginning to think, well you just liked everyone but I'd definitely invite you to take a listen to her music and believe it for yourself. I wasn't quite expecting her to be so awesome when she walked out in her "Hipster Extravaganza" socks. I only say that because I was so moved by the entire performance of Blitz that he seemed like a hard act to follow. Fiol held herown beautifully. She likewise kept the crowds energy up with her folky jazzy songs. Her voice is sort of like a better version of Esthero. Her last song: Catch a Ride is the type of song I wish I'd had on repeat all summer.

After that was 8th W1 and Peter Hadar, who performed separately but with the same band. First off, I can't begin to talk about their performances without first acknowledging the talented band, a better than average funk/jazz quartet. They stole the show during 8th W1's performance.

First off let me start by saying that I might have been slightly put off by 8th W1 due to the fact that he was standing behind me during Fiol's performance talking and cajoling much louder than necessary, so my opinion of him prior to his getting on stage was not to high. That being said, his performance seemed lackluster. From Moore to Blitz to Fiol the roster seemed to be a group of incredibly talented, if not eclectic group of performers. So I'm not saying that I didn't feel that he was talented, I think he was, but I just didn't feel he was the most talented of the bunch. And his cocky attitude did not particularly help, if you want to have an ego like Mr. West, then you sure had better have his talent to back it up. I've gone to his myspace to listen to a few of his songs, and I enjoyed the two that were there, but his lack of stage presence killed it for me, that and the fact that half the time I missed most of his lyrics into the mike, it was easy just to focus simply on the band as they place their jazz hooks.

Finally I wanted most of all to be impressed by Peter Hadar. I check out his myspace page briefly preceding the show, which I liked all the time. And he'd assembled a wonderful line-up of artist's in an event as the headliner so I wanted him to bring it. Again, Hadar didn't live up to the rest of gang that followed him. I strained to stay interested in his average voice, to songs that I thought could possibly been above average had they been sang by someone else. His voice was merely average considering the wealth of talent that is on the airwaves in the R and B category. I definitely hate saying harsh things about someone just at the beginning of their career, but while he looked good on stage and seemed really to get into the songs his lack of vocal dexterity quickly made me lose interest. I wanted him to be as good as all the names under the roster of singers he's worked for. I have to commend him on the other hand for assembling a mostly sick show. He definitely has an ear for talent. Tried though we might, we actually ended up leaving before he finished his last few songs.

All and all it was a wonderful night. One worth writing about, had a great time and found some new music in the process as well.

*the gift bags contained clear rolling papers
**photos courtesy of brandon king

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