Over the Weekend: The Pirate Signal at the Marquis Theater

Over the Weekend: The Pirate Signal at the Marquis Theater

DJ Beretta, D. Allie, Dante, Air Dubai, Mane Rok and the Pirate Signal

March 13, 2009
Marquis Theater
Better Than: Puking up green beer outside Scruffy Murphy's

Entering the Marquis Theater on Larimer Street on Saturday night was like stepping into a warm, dry bungalow after being drenched by freezing rain. In this case, however, the warm, dry bungalow was the eclectic, soulful mixing of DJ Beretta -- which provided the ideal ramp-up into a night of exceptional live hip-hop -- and the freezing rain was the melee of stumbling, staggering St. Patrick's Day revelers who transformed Larimer into a cacophonous, turbulent sea of green.

D. Allie and Dante
D. Allie and Dante

Beretta's unobtrusive yet creative set warmed the stage for the

appearance of Detroit rappers D. Allie and Dante, two exceptionally

hardworking MCs who deftly balance between good-time party music and

conscious rap. As the only out-of-towners on the bill, the Michiganders

were at a distinct disadvantage, but they overcame it with easy stage

charisma, impassioned delivery, forceful flow and an irrepressible

sense of fun. Most important, the visitors made sincere efforts to

connect with the people of Denver. Dante wrote names on the back of his

hand so that he could shout them out from the stage. He also led the

crowd in a little Stroll-like slide step, choreographed to James

Brown's "Please Please Please," for no reason other than crowd

engagement. Both rappers ended up in the crowd at various points during

their sets, and could be seen before and after the show, talking to

random passersby on the street, handing out postcards, stickers, T-shirts and even CDs while getting to know folks and being

good-natured hustlers. These talented, talkative wordsmiths definitely

made their mark on Denver.

Air Dubai
Air Dubai

Next up was the

blazing Denver duo of Air Dubai, who caught me completely by surprise.

While the vibe of the pair's stunning 2008 debut,

Mane Rok
Mane Rok

ManeLine frontman Mane Rok rarely performs solo, so Saturday night was a special treat for fans of

his potent and pumped-up style, and he did not disappoint. The

introspective yet expressive MC hit the boards forcefully over a heavy

rock beat from DJ A-What!, gruffly delivering his vitriolic and insightful

rhymes. Performing a few favorite ManeLine tracks as well as some

fiery new songs, Mane Rok acted as the ideal energetic bridge from the

opening acts to the headliner, further heating up the crowd without

peaking too soon. Though his own energy flagged a bit as the evening

wore on, special guests like 3 the Hardway's A.V.I.U.S. boosted the MC

up and gave his set the powerful thrust it needed. Occasional technical

difficulties made the vocals difficult to discern at times, but thanks

to Mane Rok's confident, intense stage presence, the meaning remained

largely intact.

Yonnas Abraham of the Pirate Signal
Yonnas Abraham of the Pirate Signal

Speaking of confident, intense

stage presence, there are few Denver performers in any genre who can

touch the Pirate Signal's Yonnas Abraham. Like a man possessed, Yonnas

simultaneously menaced the crowd and beckoned them to come closer with

his infectious energy. Watching him perform, it's not to hard to

imagine Yonnas as an award-winning actor or the leader of a sketchy

religious cult. Given his talent for wordplay, the latter seems more

likely. His eyes blazed, veins bulged and syllables flew, while A-What!

adroitly pumped up his tracks and scratching to keep pace with the

incendiary MC. Though Yonnas apologized to the crowd for being "more

passionate than precise," nothing about the Pirate Signal's set seemed

haphazard. Yonnas bobbed and weaved between the profound and the

playful -- quoting Tribe Called Quest one moment and Rob Base the next

-- while A-What! athletically scratched up thunderous beats, almost

effortlessly accomplishing what many conscious hip-hop acts strive for:

engaging both the body and the mind. 

Personal Bias: While

I've found the sound at the Marquis to be hit and miss, I really

appreciate the venue's commitment to hosting all-ages events. The

energy can't be beat.

Random Detail: When

the Pirate Signal was booked to play the Sundance Film Festival earlier

this year, A-what!'s schedule didn't allow him to go along, so DJ

Beretta filled in.

By the Way: The

Pirate Signal -- as well as Yonnas's new project with DJ Hot to Death

-- are opening for a diverse bunch of touring acts in the weeks to

come: Zion I, the Presets, Crookers and Too Short! Visit the group's MySpace page for more info.

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