Last night Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom hosted a night of dub-stepping, electronic, jam band and drum and bass-infused mayhem with headliners MiMosa and Two Fresh selling out the newly renovated venue. MiMosa and friends Raw Russ, Brothers Past, Two Fresh and Sacred Science flooded ear drums with massive bass drops, some (which no matter how much is always too much) drum and bass, a little synthesized jam-band and a whole lot of dub steppin'.
Openers don't always play to a packed house, but Raw Russ took his role seriously. Despite a crowd of about fifty, Russ scribbled and scratched his way through some old Dre beats among other throwback West Coast cuts. The crowd at Cervantes' didn't mind, nor did the free-love tweenies sitting on the stage in their neon spandex with their glow stick bracelets swaying deftly to Raw Russ' mash-ups. People were piling in during his set, only to pile right back out upon realizing MiMosa wouldn't be flippin' switches until 1:15 a.m., according to the schedule.
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Waiting three hours for the headliner to take the stage is a long time, long enough to get tired of smearing glitter off your arms, long enough to have a few beers and still be good to drive home after the show, and just about long enough to get to the point where you ask yourself: "Is it really worth it to stay out until 4 a.m. just to hear some distorted bass vibrate my eyeballs?" The answer for many last night was yes, if not because of MiMosa than most certainly because of the Southern comforts themselves, Two Fresh, the outfit that followed Brothers Past, a band that started off relatively slow with super spaced out "Getaway Somehow" but gradually picked up as they rolled into "One Rabbit Race," a real run-in-place type of song that repeats the title nearly a dozen times before ending abruptly. The bassist stood center stage, and despite being able to play the bass really well, he danced like the pastiest Saltine cracker this side of the Mississippi, which was visually displeasing and didn't really go along with the music too well. The whole "each song is a journey" doesn't fly when you're standing in a sweat lodge like Cervantes, where it seems everyone is simply trying to get into the music, but just can't. Brothers Past tried very hard and sounded good, but the energy and vocals just weren't quite there. Two Fresh, a trio comprised of two brothers and a live drummer from Asheville, North Carolina, came out with a cool swagger and set the tone for the whole night with uplifting bass lines and consistently flawless high hats hits by its drummer. Wherever these guys are finding their inspiration, it is clearly working, because the second they flipped the house lights up, the crowd went wild. They possess a synth-heavy sound that recalls the vibe of Stevie Wonder's "Livin for the City," so much so, that I couldn't help attempting to sing Wonder's lyrics over a handful of the tracks. It's so uplifting and positive that even when they dedicated a song to one of their friends who had recently passed, the crowd only got louder and more energetic. The sounds of Sacred Science turned the crowd completely off. The drum and bass/rapper duo walked out on stage following the climactic break down of Two Fresh's gear (I shed a tear when they left the stage). It was when the first rapid fire beat came out and the MC yelled "Let the drums take you" that no one moved. This continued for about an hour, give or take fifteen minutes. It was confusing watching the MC hold the microphone by his side while his cohort DJ Saxton rapped in the darkness behind some LED panels. With an occasional chime in, frontman MC Scottrohedron more or less just noodled around the stage asking everyone if they were "feeling the drums" or "feeling the bass." I was not feeling either, and I was not alone. So before the yawns took over and the nod offs began, Sacred Science ended its set on a typical 185 BPM frenzy and finally unloaded off the stage. The schedule called for MiMosa at 1:15 a.m., but as of 1:45 a.m., he had yet to be seen. The set change ran into some errors with four techs on stage trying to figure out why, but finally errors were fixed, or so we thought, and MiMosa walked up. After the minor malfunctions with his mike were handled, he finally settled in and performed, letting loose an barrage of burps and garbles. MiMosa's stage presence, while notable, felt a little staged and forced, especially after seeing Two Fresh get up and just vibe with the crowd. It seemed MiMosa was little bit distracted by something. Just when he started really get into his set, as the lights blasted and silhouetted him against the light panels, he would look side stage as though something wasn't right. And by this point, it was after 3 a.m. and such distractions stood out and ultimately proved to be a little momentum breaking.
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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: When I heard Two Fresh hailed from Asheville, North Carolina, I immediately turned my ears since I lived just outside of Asheville for the better part of my childhood. By The Way: Cervantes' has changed up their sound engineering by placing the booth in front of the stage on the main floor, as opposed to the second floor balcony, where it once rested. Now, upstairs is the lighting and the main floor is sound. A wise and noticeable change. Random Detail: The air conditioning at Cervantes' that blasts out from under the balcony is a life-saver. The upstairs was a sweat lodge.