It really seemed like the whole thing might fall apart. It was well past midnight. Travis Egedy as Pictureplane, who followed two hours worth of dubstep, started his set by saying, "Do you guys like dubstep?" (half-hearted cheering from a crowd that was generally unresponsive, verbally at least, the entire night) "That's cool. I'm not going to be playing any." Das Racist, meanwhile, hadn't made it to the venue yet.
But the whole thing did not fall apart. Pictureplane lost a bunch of people who probably hang out a lot in LoDo, but the substantial crowd that remained packed closer to the stage than they'd been all night. Das Racist, meanwhile, did finally wander in at around 12:45 a.m.
And what a scene they wandered into. This was an unconventionally constructed show, sponsored by a medical marijuana dispensary and assembled by a friend of the owner of the medical marijuana dispensary, whose taste is certainly unusual: Half the bill came from places like Vinyl, the other half from places like Rhinoceropolis. At the start of Pictureplane's set (12:15 a.m.), the crowd was maybe split 50/50 between enthusiasts of the two.
There were extra-circulars, as well. Live art, a weird PVC hut set up by a tobacco company where could exchange your contact info for a free beer, and, most incredibly, barely-dressed stage dancers -- incredible because they dutifully danced through every set of the night, including Pictureplane's, who likes to do things like dedicate songs to the color turquoise and talk about the future.
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Not that he's opposed to dancing, but it's safe to assume that there has never been hired eye candy present during one of his sets before. Further comedy derived from the dancers' attempts at keeping up with Pictureplane's fractured beats and blurry samples. Their bail-out move, in moments when you could not begrudge their inability to figure out where the downbeats where, was to simply turn around and show off their asses thusly:
Pictureplane played until he ran out of material sometime shortly after 1:00 a.m. At this point, the headliners were in various states of disarray. Heems had taken one of his own band's T-shirts from the merch table and put it on. Dap was wandering silently through the venue. And Kool A.D. was sitting by himself in the green room messing around on his phone. it seemed like there was no way Das Racist's set would be anything other than a hilarious shitshow. They took the stage at 1:15 a.m. and dispelled that notion in about thirty seconds. Holy shit are these guys good.
In a recent interview with Spin, Dap described the song "Combination Taco Bell and Pizza Hut" as "a Trojan horse that allowed DR to enter American pop culture." They didn't play it. Instead, they played a number of the songs that are densely layered with encyclopedic references and effortless rhetorical gymnastics. Which is pretty much every song except "Taco Bell and Pizza Hut."
After Kool A.D. had dumped half a bottle of champagne on the first couple rows of the crowd, they started into "Who's That? Brooown!" Other than that, the Billy Joel-sampling "You Oughta Know," and the particularly incredible "Hugo Chavez," most of the material came from their most recent mixtape, Sit Down, Man.
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Noticeably absent was the boi-1da-produced "hahahaha jk?" which probably qualifies as the hit from that mixtape. Maybe they just stay away from songs everyone's heard as part of their generally antagonistic agenda. Or maybe they had to play an abbreviated set and that one just didn't make the cut. With Das Racist, the line between intent and accident is incredibly blurry.
They are all magnetic on stage. Heems played the relative straight man, relying mostly on his considerable rapping prowess to do the work for him. Kool A.D. spent most of his time wandering around the stage, drinking sloppily from his champagne bottle, putting his arms around his bandmates and anyone else who happened to be on stage (a Casselman's employee mopping up the spilled booze, the dancers, etc.). Still, when he had a verse, there was nothing sloppy about it. All three of these guys seem to be able to flip that switch whenever they want.
Dap is ostensibly the group's hype man, but he is exactly as crucial to the live show as either of the two MCs. His most important job is to be ridiculous, to spend at least as much time doubled over/on the ground as upright, to perform willfully awkward dance moves, to air hump. The girl standing in front of me said she found the whole thing sexy, and Dap the sexiest. He echoed lines, yelled random things into the microphone, and at one point, was handed all three mikes in order to do what can only be described as a hype-man solo. Pictureplane, who was "DJ" for Das Racist, was even happier than usual about that:
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: There is no level on which I don't enjoy Das Racist. And Pictureplane, as always, is awesome. By The Way: Not sure how much money this thing ended up raising for the C3 initiative, but Natural Remedies Dispensary deserves a lot of credit for funding the show. It was a great event, beginning to end, and I'm sure they lost money of their own in order to make this happen and help a charity. Random Detail: Pictureplane and Das Racist met when they were both playing shows at Yale University. Draw your own conclusions.