Going to a Wu-Tang Clan show is always something of a gamble. At a show at the Congress a couple of years ago, RZA and Raekwon were absent, GZA was visibly intoxicated, and half of the other members were phoning it in for much of the set. By contrast, their performance at Coachella last year featured all nine living members and a live band augmenting their beats. They had clearly rehearsed, and everyone seemed to care about what they were doing on stage.
With all of the Clan’s recent infighting, yesterday afternoon’s performance at Riot Fest could have gone either way. It ended up being somewhere in the middle, but closer to the Coachella end of things. Method Man was missing, and GZA was still drunk (or his breath control is basically nonexistent at this point in his career; it was hard to tell), but in every other way the performance was great. Losing the group’s most engaged live performer could have really hurt the show, but RZA worked in overdrive to pick up the slack left by Meth’s absence, and everyone just seemed happy to be on stage together, which is far too rare for late period Wu-Tang.
This set list had few surprises, but no one was complaining about the Clan running through most of their debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), two highlights from Wu-Tang Forever (“Reunited,” and “Triumph”), and selections from their solo albums. Cramming all of those songs into an hour long set forced them to cut some verses from group songs or have solo songs reduced to one verse and a few choruses. Even within these constraints the members made the most of their individual showcases. Cappadonna gave a thundering performance of “Run” from his underrated solo debut The Pillage. U-God busted out some endearingly silly dancing during “Dat’s Gangsta” from his own first solo album. GZA got a whopping three songs from his classic Liquid Swords album. And even though they weirdly didn’t perform anything from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Raekwon dominated the proceedings with an acapella rendition of his closing verse from “Triumph.”
Those few surprises that the Clan did have were mostly amazing. Ghostface, Rae, and Cappadonna put in a great performance of the Ironman deep cut “Fish.” Killah Priest (who almost beat out Masta Killa for the ninth spot in the group’s original lineup) joined Ghostface, RZA, and GZA on Liquid Swords highlight “4th Chamber.” They covered the Beatles’ “Come Together” in the middle of their set, a moment that started out inducing head scratching but quickly turned into a rousing sing along. Even the odd choice of ending their set with just U-God’s verse from “Gravel Pit” couldn’t dampen the mood that the Clan had cultivated over the course of their hour. The group clearly knows what their audience wants, and for the most part that doesn’t include anything made after 2000. The set was fan service at its finest.
Now we just need to hope they can keep getting along long enough to get that new album out.
Five years ago, The North Coast Music Festival entered the festival circuit and declared itself summer‘s last stand; the city’s last chance to enjoy an outdoor party before the weather drops and sends us into hibernation.
From Day one, North Coast’s philosophy on booking acts has been simple. Be all things to everyone. You like EDM? Come to NCMF. You like Hip Hop? Come to NCMF. Oh, you like jam bands? Come to NCMF. You get the point. It’s your iPod set to shuffle but in a festival setting. Save for a couple years of EDM saturated lineups, they’ve managed to maintain a pretty genre balanced schedule.
On Friday, August 29, 2014 people were slow to gather in Union Park. By the time NY’s Action Bronson took to the 773 Stage, a modest crowd had amassed to see the gourmet chef turned rapper. Wearing a black sleeveless top, black shorts, and a brown snap back, a jet lagged Bronson told the Chicago audience that he had just gotten off a plane from London and was, “tired as fuck!” That declaration would be the only sign of his weariness. Action’s on stage presence is only rivaled by his off stage presence. In the middle of his set, Son made his way into the crowd and eventually popped up on the adjacent 312 stage, which was being readied for Bassnectar’s set.
It’s a spectacle for sure and the surrounding crowd ate it up but if you’re not in the immediate vicinity it just looks like Action Bronson abandoned his set leaving his hype man alone on stage.
Speaking of Bassnectar, his set offered standard EDM flare. His performance was filled with theatrical slow builds, eruptions, popular dance tracks, and a spastic light show. Though he, like most Dj’s, repeated the build/erupt formula throughout the night the crowd responded as if it was their first time witnessing it. They loved it. Bassnectar is great at what he does.
The performance of the evening went to Chicago’s very own, Prob Cause, who headlined the 847 stage. Prob blazed through his catalog, melding both old and new tracks, EDM and Hip Hop. Far from the traditional Hip Hop stage arrangement of just a DJ, Prob’s set was backed by The Squizad, a unit comprised of Hip Hop duo The Palmer Squares, a violinist, a drummer, and cameo appearances from fellow Chicago rappers Taylor Bennett and Saba.
Prob’s performance was exciting and appealing to even the casual Hip Hop fan. He’s clearly having fun up there and as a result so is the audience. At one point, he challenged his drummer to a beat box competition. His set was crammed with both contemplative tracks and bangers.
Lyricism, delivery, and precision were all on display. Prob Cause is a showman with a passion for putting together a tight show. He understands the balance between flexing and delivering what the people will appreciate. People listened to his words, wilded out to the live instrumentals and got a taste of Chicago’s unique flavor of Hip Hop.
Prob Cause and Taylor Bennett.
On the Web: Shantell Jamison, Web Coordinator for the Black Youth Project will join me on air to discuss a couple of topics that have been getting national attention. Including SNL’s hiring of black female cast member of Sasheer Zamata as well as two black female writers.
In studio: For years, Chicago MC Rico Sisney has been making soulful social commentary with his musical Hip Hop projects Sidewalk Chalk and more recently, Tree House. Now, the MC is trying his hand at a solo endeavor called Crying Wolves; one that sees his socio political commentary as piercing as ever. Rico joins me in studio.
No sleep ‘til Monday: Find out what’s popping around town during our No Sleep ‘til Monday events segment.
Local music on the 20’s: Find out what Chicago and NWI’s independent music communities are up to during Local Music on the 20’s.
Trayvonning: In the wake of the final verdict in the Trayvon Martin case a disrespectful planking like meme has resurfaced. It’s called Trayvoning. Dr Lisa Guerrero who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University. Dr Guerrero has written extensively on the subject of Race and racism. I spoke with her about an article she wrote on the subject. It’s called, Playing Dead: The Trayvoning Meme & the Mocking of Black Death.
In studio: Earlier this year, Kansas City band Making Movies released their second full length album, “A La Deriva” tell a story familiar to anyone whose family has migrated to America. The story of how the very country that was supposed to be a glimmer of hope can tear you down. Tonight, the band joins me in studio for a special acoustic performance.