Every year, for the Westword Music Showcase, we enlist our army of Backbeat wordsmiths to host various stages, and, in addition to their emcee obligations, we ask them to pull double duty (or triple-duty in some cases) and also write up the acts that appear on their individual stages. Britt Chester hosted the City Hall Amphitheatre stage. Page down to read his thoughts and see some photos.
With the band getting things started just a few minutes behind schedule, the stage at City Hall Amphitheater felt like a sweltering microwave. Filthy T opened the day to the filling venue, and by the time things got underway, a crowd of about 50-75 had gathered in front of the stage. When FilthyT started into its take on "La Bamba," the crowd had really started to feel the energy and gradually began dancing and jumping around with the band.
Broken Tongues piled on the stage next, and after a quick sound check (with only some minor errors on one of the guitar pedals) their set was starting. It kind of caught the crowd off guard -- maybe it was just the pure funk of the set, or the insane pipes on the female vocalist -- when they wanted to hit, they hit hard.
Tongues built on the foundation laid by Filthy T as more people were being drawn into the sweltering furnace -- for real, it was like sitting under the magnifying glass of some kid burning ants. Alas, it wasn't enough to deter anyone from having a blast with Broken Tongues, and a few beers later, most people were just getting to the "it's too hot to not drink more beer" stage of the day.
American Trash Republic followed Broken Tongues and brought a much different vibe to the stage. Devoid of any instruments, the five-piece emcee group raged with some lyrics and spit hard. The crowd had somewhat dwindled to the shadier parts of the venue, or even inside, but ATR still powered through the set. And if their showmanship wasn't enough, Concept One got down on one knee at the end of his set and proposed to his girlfriend. Yes, love was in the air at City Hall, and when she said yes, the whole place erupted in celebration for the newly engaged couple, and their set was over.
Whygee, who was mingling around the venue all afternoon, came to the stage after American Trash Republic and set up shop with his DJ, brikAbrak. If there is any doubt as to whether or not Whygee is real lyricist, let those doubts be quashed right now. Many times I overheard people in the crowd, most of whom probably don't follow local hip hop at all, talking about legit his set was. And, yes, they were correct. Whygee threw it down hard.
BigWheel Electrosoul rolled right on stage with Whygee as his set came to a close and smoothly transitioned into the cleanest live hip-hop production of the day. With QKnox on the keys, DJ Check One (aka Dameion Hines) on the drums, and brikAbrak keeping things steady on the turntables, BigWheel delivered an intriguing set. There's just something about the live production of these guys -- the errors, the improvisations and the tempo always seem to fall into place, and, when it really comes together, it's impossible not to get your groove on.
As BigWheel came to a close, and the venue had filled up nicely for the Foodchain. For some reason, the audio during the Foodchain's set was sound-checked wrong, causing the vocals to blend in with the drums and keys at certain points. This did nothing to stop anyone from getting down, however. The beats themselves were enough to move the whole place. People were just completely feeling it, and the place was going nuts.
Wheelchair Sports Camp came to the stage next, and, though I had previously only seen the group as a trio, there was an additional trumpeter (Josh Trinidad) added to the show. The complimentry brass to Abby's saxophone added a nice touch. As usual, skeptics who had yet to see or hear WCSC looked on with wondering eyes, but they gradually got wider as Kalyn busted out the vocals.
Cobraconda had a spring break party in the amphitheater. Complete with water guns, beach balls, and even a grill with hot dogs -- yes, a grill with hot dogs, to which they added ketchup and then threw them in the crowd. This being a first in City Hall, no one could really deny them. The place got rowdy as hell with water everywhere, hot dogs flying through the air and beach balls bouncing around. Needless to say, the only thing missing was a beach, a wet T-shirt contest and maybe more booze.
BLKHRTS was up next, and the crew announced this was the last time anyone would see this set. It was a treat hearing the trio lay it down in raw form. "BLK CTY" had everyone grooving from top to bottom, and, honestly, BLKHRTS' version is much more intriguing than the original song from which the beat is sampled.
All in all, this set was the most energetic and probably turned more people onto hip-hop than any other, especially when King Foe jumped down in the crowd to lay his bars down. We were all soaking wet at this point, and if it wasn't from sweat, it was the swatted water bottles coming from the stage.
The final act in the amphitheater belonged to Human Agency. Not so much hip-hop as it was an electronic jam. Nonetheless, it fit in quite well and provided a nice break from the raw hip-hop that filled the day. The trio kept the energy high, but, as the set wore on, a lot of people started heading out to make their way over to the main stage.
-- Britt Chester
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