In case any further evidence is required to bolster the notion that Rhymesayers Entertainment is indeed bigger than guns, behold Exhibit A: the fact that this Red Rocks performance purportedly sold out, and that despite the persistent hovering rain clouds, which soaked the capacity crowd for nearly the entire show, Atmosphere fans remained enthusiastic and undeterred the entire time. When life gives you lemons, evidently, as Slug once mused, sometimes you really do just have to paint that shit gold -- or bring an umbrella.
By the time Atmosphere took the stage, the rain was in full-on monsoon mode. But it was perfect. Slug rocks a stage like a championship boxer in a ring. And his energy is contagious. His vocals are crisp and clean, and his songs have become more like anthems than just tracks on a CD. Selling out Red Rocks in the moments leading up to your show is huge, especially since any seasoned Atmosphere fan can recall memories of sweaty packed rooms and the unity of hating "Lucy" sitting thick in a cloud of smoke above our heads.
Slug's catalogue of tracks predates some of the younger fans, but that doesn't mean they don't know and love every line he spits. Tracks like "Always Coming Back Home to You," from 2003's Seven's Travels got the acoustic touch, while tracks like "Shoulda Known" from When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold featured Stevie Wonder-esque synthesizers and gave a glimpse into the darker side of Slug's relationship dealings.
Regardless of the rain, every single person was moving for the show. Slug has a hypnotizing talent, from his wordplay to his freestyle skills, adding "Colorado" to his rhymes at any point he could, to his ad-libs on cuts like "Hockey Hair," instrumental during the encore, which he closed with the line, "like what the fuck did you expect -- I rap," and giving the latter part of the verse to the rain soaked Colorado crowd.
Well before Atmosphere took the stage, the group was preceding it, beginning with DJ Babu of Dilated Peoples, who gave the early arrivals a taste of what to come as the gates opened at 5:30, and a slow, steady procession of partiers from the south lot filing in. Babu didn't get too wild behind the tables beyond flip-flopping hip-hop tracks from the likes of Funkmaster Flex, Pharaoh Monch, amongst others. About that time, the rain started to make it's way over the amphitheatre and the ponchos came out.
Prof came out promptly at 7 p.m. and delivered an opening line that had everyone nodding along to his crisp cadence: "I was born on the wrong side of karma" he spit commandingly. From his delivery, stage presence and narrative hooks which paint a compelling picture that's instantly relatable, it was very apparent that Prof is a protégé of Slug.
Once the parking lots caught wind of the first beats, the seats began to fill in, and then the rain came down even harder. Blueprint took the stage after Prof and brought the melodies on strong. Backed by a bassist on "So Alive," the MC breathed life into the rain soaked crowd. Blueprint danced around the stage, playing keytar on later tracks, never for a moment losing sight of the growing audience. "Radio Inactive," reminded everyone why Blueprint does what he does the way he does, and you know what? It's working.
Babu came back out to back Evidence, his Dilated Peoples co-hort, who opened with "All Said and Done." Evidence played the stage like a full band, from side to side, the guy's energy is just insane. The Dilated sound resonated strong, despite the absence of Rakaa Iriscience. Evidence made sure to dedicate one certain track to the Beastie Boys, just before letting Babu take over for a minute on the tables. From the beat juggling to the samples themselves, Babu brought it hard and without even breaking a sweat. It was almost questionable as to whether or not he was even doing anything given his calm demeanor and chill expression on his face. "Chase the Clouds Away" proved to be the perfect set ender.
A surprise guest garnered the slot between Atmosphere and Blueprint. In true Rhymesayers fashion, and similar to how the likes of Brother Ali and P.O.S. climbed the ladder to fame, some fresh faces were given the 25-minute slot. Grieves and Budo represent the ideals and surroundings that everyone at this show grew up with, namely getting splinters from your white picket fence, playing with pogs, listening to hip-hop in our headphones and just struggling to grow up and find ourselves.
Coming out of Fort Collins, but reppin' the Northwest, Grieves and Budo possess the trait that attracts everyone to Rhymesayers music: Being able to relate on more than one level. The Grieves and Budo track "Lightspeed," gets the nod of night if you ask me, because sometimes we all just need to slow down.
Personal Bias: This was kind of a reunion show for me with The Krew from Breckenridge, who might be some of the most rabid Atmosphere fans -- or Rhymesayers for that matter -- around. It made the show quite enjoyable. By The Way: When life gives you lemons, you dance your ass off in the rain and paint that shit red. Red Rocks, that is.
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Ed Note: An earlier version of this review mentioned that more than 2,000 tickets were purportedly sold in the 45-minutes leading up to the show, a figure that a rep from AEG has since confirmed is exaggerated.