Every year at the Westword Music Showcase, we enlist our army of Backbeat wordsmiths to host various stages. In addition to their emcee duties, we ask them to pull double duty by submitting a travelogue of their individual stage. Noah Hubbell hosted the street level stage at City Hall this past Saturday. Keep reading for some of the highlights from that stage.
It's always tough to go first; not many people have arrived, not many drinks have been served and you have to turn the energy level up from zero to eleven essentially by yourself. Quiz did an admirable job opening up the showcase at City Hall despite not having a lot of crowd support. The energy he did conjure was hard-earned but well-received, and his set was efficient and clean. He utilized mainly trap beats and a new-school flow and was altogether impressive in the way he controlled the stage. His songs didn't so much end as abruptly stop, but his no-nonsense approach to performing allowed for the meat of the songs to do the talking.
Whygee's set was a stark contrast to Quiz's in several ways. He offered a more of an old-school, soulful sound. Unlike Quiz, Whygee's character and charisma comprise much of what him such a treat to watch. He is a powerful figure and an obviously seasoned performer. The stage seems like a second home to him. With his DJ, BrikAbrak, Whygee ratcheted up the energy level in the venue and brought it to thus-far peak with a punk-rock-hip-hop ending.
Mr. Midas was the first to break out live instrumentation on the night, using both a drummer and a DJ to keep his beats fat. The drums kept the music rough and raucous while the DJ provided the electronic counterpart. One of the emotional highs of Midas's set was a reinterpretation of Fun.'s "We Are Young," which took full advantage of the drums' frenetic intensity. Just as much fun as any of any of Midas's music, though, was his in-between banter, which was indicative of a superb showman.
Although Spoke In Wordz had a slew of guests on stage with him throughout his set, he was definitely the star for the time he was on stage, ripping through impressive rapid-fire lyrics with ease and even hopping off the stage into the crowd to get them as involved as he possibly could.
One of the grimier acts of the night, Hypnautic showed a definite southern influence. He's got a country style, but he's a self-proclaimed city boy, and one look at his setlist shows how firmly dedicated to Denver he is. The venue was starting to fill during Hypnautic's show, which helped the rapper and his Top Flite posse put on a show that was as good as its name would suggest.
Combining technical chops and the impassioned delivery of a slam poet, Input delivered great performance. What made Input's show especially memorable was that it featured the seldom-used but always-appreciated hip-hop violin played by Eldren's own Josh Lee. Although technical troubles took a bit of wind out of Input's sail right in the middle of his set, he battled through them like a champion and ultimately came out on top.
Myke Charles delivered his brand of R&B-twinged hip-hop with the undeniable swagger that he carries with him wherever he goes. Backed by DJ Chonz, who graciously filled in for an M.I.A. SP Double, Charles got into some of his tracks from his newish mixtape Flight Plan. Charles was smooth from his flow to his looks; he has a very specific image that he focuses on, and he delivered it for the Showcase.
The compelling performance of recent high-riser Pries is probably best summed by the lyrics of one song he performed, "Look at Me (My Cocky Song)." Pries is confident in himself, and he thinks you should be, too, for good reason. While rapping, Pries would single out members of the audience, forming a close connection between him and the crowd. Pries also challenged the audience to be more rowdy. At the show's end, he was defying the crowd to be louder. Now louder! Apparently finally satisfied, Pries dropped the mike on the stage dramatically and walked off.
Up next was Fresh Breath Committee who came very strong. Each of the MCs had a unique personality to bring to the table that, when combined, formed a dynamic and textured whole. Each member was as solid as the next, and each truly knew how to ride the beat -- an underrated but essential talent. The crew was well-rehearsed to the point that they sounded incredibly natural together, dipping in and out of each other's verses and recognizing the right places to add backup vocals to give their words an extra punch.
Stay Tuned (comprised of Deejay Tense and Mane Rok) came on next and put on arguably the most impressive show and certainly the most audacious set of the day. The act's performance was the first that included a visual component, but the elements were combined so expertly, it was not merely an audio show with visuals, it was a complete audio/visual experience.
Even without the video, though, Stay Tuned would have been impressive. With Mane Rok absolutely brutalizing the microphone with blazing cadences and powerful a cappellas and Tense providing scratching that was not only impressive technically but musically as well (plus a frenzied display of incredible skill right at the end), Stay Tuned was the perfect way to close an excellent night at City Hall.