Over the Weekend: The Pirate Signal at the Marquis Theater
DJ Beretta, D. Allie, Dante, Air Dubai, Mane Rok and the Pirate Signal
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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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