05.05.11 | Club Arriba

Waka Flocka Flame at Club Arriba, 5/5/11

Waka Flocka Flame blazed through Denver last night in a whirlwind of dread locks, expensive jewelry, marijuana smoke and gang banger salutations of "Suwoop!" After more than a few terrible openers, he took the stage at a very late 1:20 a.m. By 1:40, he was done. Waka Flocka is the escargot of rap -- an acquired taste, but for those who like his style of down south swag rap, he brought the noise, and then some.

When we arrived at the club, the line was stretched across the parking lot and the promoters were posturing around the entrance to the club yelling about filing into a single line but mostly waving around stacks of cash and wearing sunglasses. Security took this opportunity to shove a bunch of random people and scream and shout about order while perpetuating the chaos.

After finally securing our credentials, we made our way into the spot and up to the top floor to watch the mayhem unfold. DJ Top Shelf, somehow made it through the madness of the line and up to the DJ booth just in time to start the jams coming before the crowd was let in. Assisted on the mike by L.Dot, they quickly got the party underway.

The continual problem with openers at rap shows is that they seem to be chosen at random and not cohesive with the direction of the show. It's like peppermint candy passed to vociferous children in church who must be held over until the sermon begins or ends. The first opener was Wil Guice, who sang tracks from his record, R&Beast, and came out low and firing with vocals over Kanye West and Jay-Z's "HAM." Hands down, he was the best act on the stage besides Waka.

A group of guys with heavy beards, long dreads and sunglasses, who were obviously getting drunk and enjoying themselves, kept catching my eye throughout the evening with their antics. When they took the stage as Zoe Pound, it became clear they were a rap group. The down south beats were edgy, their performance was energetic and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

As is typical with rap shows, everything else was a blur. As the night wore on, more and more people crowded the stage as DJ Ktone tried to keep some semblance of order in who was going where. At one point, there were so many folks on stage, it was unclear who had a microphone, who was a groupie and who was merely standing around trying to look important.

By midnight, patience started wearing thin, by 12:45 a.m., people were downright restless. There had been more than enough awful hip-hop tossed around like the crumpled single $1 bills that came from an earlier overzealous set. As security made the effort to clear the stage, one last proverbial punch to the lyrical gut came in the way of Dollorado, a crew who were eclipsed by the dozens of folks on stage and the poor mix of the record they performed.

Finally, finally, finally, amongst the white T-shirts, flashing lights and the cheap smoke machine, Mr. Flocka Flame emerged and immediately started doing what he does that makes the crowd go wild. For the most part, this included enthusiastic dreadlock shaking and running to and fro about the stage. Clearly he perfected the art of the twenty minute performance prior to coming to Denver, as he roared through his set with precision and ripped through cuts from Flockaveli with ease and good nature.

For the folks who are into Waka's music, he certainly killed it. He was energetic and motivated, and really seemed to enjoy his time on stage. Everyone in the crowd knew all the words to his songs, and he grinned sheepishly several times when the audience rapped the lyrics louder than him. By 1:40 a.m., the show was over and after filing out of the venue, we noticed the police had the entire club surrounded and blocked off for "traffic control," we were informed.

Hard in the paint, indeed.

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: On the whole, Waka's music doesn't move me, but his cheek bone structure is outstanding. He's gorgeous. By the Way: Wil Guice killed it. No really. He did. Random Detail: I sat in the back for most of the evening and watched the awkward looking club manager throw out several people for smoking cigarettes inside the venue.

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