Photo: Tom Murphy Calm
Calm, Reflect June, Tullie, Ancient Mith and Mr. Dibbs & Rob Viktum Wednesday, July 30, 2008 Fox Theatre Better Than: A mainstream hip-hop show.
I’m pretty sure I got to the show on time and Calm opened their set with one of their best songs – “Ginger’s Drumming With Celery Sticks.” It’s a hybrid of Linn Van Hek’s “Intimacy” and deftly incorporates lyrics related to a cyborg from the future saying, “I’ll be back.” Time, the duo’s charismatic frontman, possesses a quick and richly imaginative wit and it comes out in his lyrics and moments of high-minded humor between songs.
Between Time and Awareness they create a beautiful flow of sound and ideas: musical and literary—this act’s lyrics are distinctly poetic in their conception and execution. For their fourth song, Time solicited three words from the audience (spoon, telephone and circus) and he turned them into a song, with Awareness providing a hard funky backdrop of beats and sequencing. They closed with “Walk With Me Galaxy,” a track that also closes Time’s new masterpiece, The Fantastic Reality.
Photo: Tom Murphy Reflect June
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Dallas’s Reflect June had a darkly intense lyrical delivery style that could have been punk rock if not for the deep, rising beats and sparkling synth background. Musically, his sequencers seemed to be in line with the more compelling house music of the last decade. At one point he got some girl on stage to help him with some words he, too, solicited from the audience. It was obvious she’d had a few because she didn’t realize how silly she sounded when she tried to speak like she learned hip hop lingo from songs instead of living it. But Reflect didn’t even kick her off stage once the song was over, he just finished his able set.
Photo: Tom Murphy Tullie
Tullie’s bass had that fluid yet brutally blocky quality that I used to hear on old Arabian Prince records, or maybe DJ Quick. Either way, it’d been a while since I had felt my insides move from the force of a show. Tullie’s vocal style was smooth and even with occasional accents and he reminded me a bit of a more visceral MC 900 Ft. Jesus. His tales of abusive relationships, dreams, hopes, drugs, innocence lost other aspects of the lurid side of human existence was like a hip-hop Less Than Zero but with some hope for redemption at the end rather than bland, jaded hopelessness.
Photo: Tom Murphy Ancient Mith
I’m not sure if Ancient Mith was in a mood or what but he sure seemed to be on fire with aggression in his performance this night. Not that he’s not one of the most passionate hip hop artists that you’ll ever see, but he certainly had an edge for this show. He opened with a mocking version of the American national anthem before going directly into one of his more militant sounding songs. During that track he gave the most confrontational performance of the evening and emphasizing the line, “Back up, there’s no tellin’ what I might do” by leaping nearly into the crowd, nearly into someone at the front of the stage, startling and yet electrifying the poor guy.
The whole show was like that. He came down on to the dance floor, climbed the rail to the first tier and sang into the faces of audience members that far back, slid down the rails on left side of the room, did a more acrobatic version of Chuck Berry’s duck walk and otherwise gyrated about and delivered some of the most righteous lyrics ever penned. He topped it off with what I have to assume was a bit of improvisation where he suggested that in a parallel universe Chuck Norris and George W. Bush were the same person, name checking some of Norris’s dreadful, uber-patriotic movies of the '80s, and brilliantly coming up with a chorus swiped from Milli Vanilli and “Blame it on Hussein.”
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Photo: Tom Murphy Mr. Dibbs and friends
Mr. Dibbs and Rob Viktum basically did a much more ambitious DJ set. They invited as many people on to the stage as could fit and turned the venue into a dance party. They mixed wicked beats and pop hits of the '80s and '90s together and made it all their own, putting familiar sounds into new contexts and drawing upon the collective memory of the audience to make for an inclusive experience for all. I heard Smashing Pumpkins, Eddy Grant, Randy Newman, De La Soul, Run DMC, Salt N Pepa, Sade, The Beatles, Toni Basil, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and countless others. They closed the show in killer fashion with a sing along to Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and turned what was starting to wear on me into a cause for a smile. -- Tom Murphy
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I think Time and Ancient Mith are two of the most gifted lyricists around. Random Detail: The brilliant Christina Castaneda was working the Dirty Laboratory merch table. By the Way: There is great hip-hop in Colorado and it’s always a mind-blower to me that more people don’t give our artists the respect and attention they deserve.
This is the twenty-fifth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)