The key word for the Asher Roth show was "community." In fact, it's almost like it wasn't the Asher Roth show at all. When he wasn't off the stage, deep into the frenzied crowd, the crowd was up on the stage with him, dancing in the forefront with him rapping casually behind them. He interacted fully, forming a constant and genuine connection. He implored everyone to get active (one fan yelled, "We're too high!" which Asher thought was hilarious). He smoked their joints and took shots with them, which sounds like fun, but these small acts of acknowledgement go a long way with a big-name rapper. He also made a habit of taking the phone of people filming to give them a temporary, personal close-up before handing it back.
Roth opened with "Bastermating" and segued seamlessly into "In The Kitchen," both from his latest mixtape, Pabst & Jazz, a well which he wisely dipped into frequently. The tour was obviously conceived with that excellent tape in mind, given that Chuck Inglish and Kids These Days, his two featured openers, are also featured on the tape. These first two songs were produced by Inglish and Ahser, being the gentleman he is, invited him up on stage to soak in the audience's adulation. Inglish rapped earlier for his own set, and he's a good rapper, but the tracks he did for Roth are real standouts.
With Kids These Days and Drop Switch opening, it was a night for live bands. Not surprisingly, those two groups stood out from the others in terms of energy. Even with his reputation, Roth wouldn't have been able to follow without a band of his own; thankfully, he had one, and a good one at that. Their translation of computerized beats to lively, nuanced instrumentation was impressive. Ash's drummer and bassist laid a steady foundation, while his keyboardist managed to capture the beats' most compelling quality, accentuated by scratching from Wreckineyez, which was more musical than is usually possible from a DJ.
Before performing his second ever single, "Lark on my Go-Kart," he asked the crowd who would be able to recite the lyrics and invited two fans up to the stage to trade bars with him. Midway through the set, Roth announced that his next album, Pierre & the Midnight Tornado, would be coming out in January, and he gave a little sneak preview of a song which much more hardcore than what he has done previously. It was a nice change of pace, and he punctuated his this lively display with a spirited dive into the crowd.
In order to draw the show back a little, Roth then invited all the ladies -- literally, all of them -- up on stage to show their moves, and was content to stand behind them (which, in retrospect, was probably not a terrible view), while the women enjoyed the limelight. Moves like this made the show feel less like a show and more like a party, which brought it back to that primary concern, community. In the spirit of partying, Asher also made time for DJ Wrekineyez showcase his juggling skills. He was going under the leg, behind the back, spinning, doing all kinds of crazy stuff to keep the crowd entertained.
To close, though he almost certainly didn't want to, Roth performed his smash hit "I Love College," which, after such a fun show, was enjoyable to even the most cynical listeners. For an encore, Asher deferred to his DJ once again, who picked "A Milli," which Roth famously freestyled over. He acknowledged that "this one's a little dull," and to compensate, walked right into the crowd to perform it. Perhaps a skill he learned from college, Asher Roth knows how to throw one hell of a party.
Kruza Kid opened the night with some impressive energy considering his unenviable 8:30 show time. He worked both the microphone and a sampler admirably and could have handled a larger audience than he got. The Dirty Dirty Troll Pack followed with a set that was not confident enough to be swag rap and not reflective enough to be lyrical. The group seemed to be emulating the A$AP Mob in their content and delivery but didn't have the charisma or energy to back it up. In fairness, the sound guy didn't do them justice, with some mikes blaring far too loud while others were far too quiet. The group did get it together for their final song; if only the others were more like that.
The show really began with local fusion band Drop Switch. The energy difference between them and the Troll Pack was simply staggering. Singer Emma Wallingford and MC Logistixx complement each other extremely well and each have the chops to front a similar group by themselves. But the group really shines because they are just that -- a group, and no single person is elevated above the product. Still, you can't say enough about the drummer Colin Mcnellis. He knows when to get flashy. He knows when to blend in. He really understands the songs well enough to do the little things and make them even better.
Next was Chuck Inglish, who performed alongside DJ Wreckineyez. Chuck definitely held it down but there was a noticeable drop in energy from Drop Switch; a live band would have definitely helped him, and his set was noticeably short. He's preparing to drop his debut solo album, Convertibles, which, considering his immense production skill, should be an exciting release.
Kids These Days also gave a rousing performance. Like Drop Switch, they fuse together a multitude of genres to produce something unique and exhilarating. Kids These Days, though, rely on precisely executed instrumentation from their blues-heavy guitarist and ska-like horns (a trombonist and trumpeter), along with raw energy of their MC, Vic Mensa. The band had excellent crowd control, once splitting the audience as clean as the Red Sea. Their debut full-length, Traphouse Rock, was recently released and it available on their website for free.
Personal Bias: Like many deep into rap, I was not a huge fan of Asher Roth after "I Love College." Pabst & Jazz completely turned me. It is a very impressive mixtape.
Random Detail: There were more mosh pits at this show than I have ever seen at a rap show.
By the Way: Kids These Days played a song that sounded so much like the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind," I thought it was a cover at first.