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Saturday, September 14, 2013

VANGUARD FESTIVAL REVIEW

VANGUARD MUSIC FESTIVAL, COPENHAGEN 2013
Almost a month ago, I attended an absolutely brilliant new outdoor hip-hop festival in Copenhagen. 2013 marked the first time this one day festival ever happened (in fact it's a two-day event, but all hip-hop were lined up for the second day), and the line-up they had gathered simply reeked of quality. Or what do you think about De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan, Pharoahe Monch, MF DOOM and LoopTroop Rockers? I started writing this review only a day or two after I returned home (probably around August 5), but after completing most of it I totally forgot everything about it... Until now that is!

Before I dwell into the separate concert reviews for each artist, I want to stress that not only was the music fantastic, but this Danish summer evening had beautiful and sunny weather conditions, I was in the company of a lot of fine friends, some of which I hadn't seen in quite some time, the refreshments were modestly priced and the food was definitely good! Couple this with performances from some of me and my homies favorite artists and you are sure to have one hell of an evening... And that it was! I also got to give theguys behind it huge props for the superb sound quality, you could hear every word uttered from stage, as well as every musical nuance which is a lot more than can be said than of many venues of this kind. So yeah, I would with no doubt visit The Vanguard Festival again next year if they will  turn this into an annual tradition - A highly recommended hip-hop event for all Scandinavians!

PHAROAHE MONCH
The Mighty Pharoahe kicked the hip-hop side of things off with a powerful concert that set the bar real high for the following acts. As usual, Monch did an immaculate job of getting the people involved, parly through his presence and powerful voice in itself, but mainly by giving a lot of focus on the high energy numbers from his solo catalouge: and there are plenty (like any other time I've seen Pharoahe in action, he does not perform any Organized Konfusion tracks at all, despite occassional requests from the audiences). Known in hip-hop circles as one of the best lyricists around and a political emcee incredibly sharp with the concepts, a much overlooked aspect of the Queens legend's ouevre is that he, unlke the vast majority of artists out there, truly embodies everything the letters MC originally stands for. With high-energized tracks like "Simon Says", "My Life", "Oh No", "Free", and "Clap" to name a few, Monch displays that he is indeed the Master of Ceremony and for each of the mentioned tracks the crowd went berzerk; tearing down the house and shouting at the top of their lungs. 

With Pharoahe Monch on stage this evening was the beautiful soul-singer/frequent collaborator Mela Machinko. This was as fortunate as can be since their distinct voices are the perfect compliment to each other, and their chemistry which is so evident can only be described as electrifying. The way her powerful voice and sung vocals from the soul/R&B and gospel tradition adds to the raw flows and intellectually charged lyricism of Pharoahe creates something totally new, which absolutely floored me. So much in fact, that out of the three times I've been lucky enough to catch Monch perform, the single time he didn't deliver a world class performance was the time he was not backed up by Machinko, which of course says a whole lot. Killing shit on the turntables was another one from Monch's iinner circle, DJ Boogie Blind. Blind did a very good job without doing any unneccessary routines, trying to grab the spotlight, instead making sure the set flowed seamlessly, even throwing in some absolutely immaculate turntable wizardry, and so forth.

Since I first heard Pharoahe Monch and Organized Konfusion I have held him in the highest regard as a fullly developed artist (unlike many acts, who are fantastic rapper but not very good artists). Now with the third Monch performance I've attended, that rings even more true, and I truly hope that he will never stop working with Machinko - few artists have a Chemistry LIKE THAT. Matter of fact, a full blown collaboration album between the two had without a doubt found its way into my personal collection (On a side note, make sure to pick up Mela's 2013 solo album "Hov Said it Best" which is a brilliant piece of music). In closing, this was a mindblowing 50 minutes set that remained it's high quality from beginning to end. The vast majority of the classics were all played, and we were even treated to a brand new cut from th have to wait and  next forthcoming album , that sounded rreally powerful; my memory is a Little hazy of much of the evening but it is very possible that one of my guys recorded it, so we'll see!. Monch and Machinko should definitely drop a lil' live album while the heads are eagerly awaiting P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic-Stress-Disorder). .
DE LA SOUL
Although I had attended several performances by Wu-Tang Clan, and Pharoahe Monch prior to this evening, to catch De La Soul in the act was a first for me, and a real treat at that. The groundbreaking trio from Long Island is responsible for loads of classic material. I've been a long time fan of the trio, having all of their albums in my collection which pretty much all are LP:s that to this day sound fresh and innovative and is therefore, not to there to collect dust. But everyone who's ever been to a live Concert know that the live setting is something totally different. And in that respect. Pos, Dave, and Maseo threw a superb De La party on that stage this evening.

Once Maseo took his place behind the turntables, and Plug Won + Two grabbed their microphones, classic after classic started pouring out from the big speakers. They performed at least one track each from  all of their LP:s together (the "Impossible Mission" and Nike mixtapes notwithstanding), and as such there were plenty of highlights tjhat had the crowd going crazy. You got high energy performances of "Grind Date", "Oooh.", "Jennifa Taught Me", "Oodles of O", "All Good to name a few of the tracks that The Soul ripped through with grace. I remember shouting "EGO TRIPPIN!!!!" and this young girl in front of me turned √°round and gave me this Little wierd look haha,, obviously didn't know the guys at that stage to well. When  "Ego Trippin' Pt. 3" finally started blasting through the spakers and Pos and Dave started rhyming forthj and back, it was over! Best performance from their entire set, no question!

One thing that I personally found the coolest thing about the whole evening is that some of my homies who previously have found De La to be a Little corny, based on some of the singles they've Heard like "Me, Myself & I"). However, once the cocnert was in full swing, more or less every one of them had changed their mind about the great Long Islanders as they admitted to being blown away by the the later, more hard-edged material that here was represented by brilliance like "Verbal Clap", "You Don't Wanna Bust Dat Shit" and "Rock Co.Kane Flow". The latter served as the set closer, which it works well as hence it being one of my favorite De La joints, and its always smart to quit while you're still on top. What was slightly strange was that MF DOOM didn't make a suprise apperance during the cut, considering he already was in Place... The same goes for the DOOM set, who also did his part to "Rock Co.Kane" flow separately and with no suprise guests.

Pos and Dave clearly had a lot of fun on stage, and the chemistry that has been developed between them and their DJ for the last 28 years is something truly unique that could never be Close to duplicated. The festival visitors consisted of relatively young people, so it was fantastic to hear the entire crowd loudly sing the hook for "Jenifa Taught Me" and "Plug Tunin'". Amongst the other many highlights during the 50 minutes set was an energetic performance of"Oooh.", my personal favorite "Ego Trippin' Part 3" and "Stakes is High". The trio hasn't lost a step, instead they have only grown more mature, more Confident and better musicians both live and in the studio and this show made me even more eager to hear the official follow-up to 2004:s "The Grind Date"..

In closing, the show was terrific in every sense of the word, at least musically. What brought it down slightly for me was that they sometime felt stuck in the '80s and their way to engage the crowd  felt very outdated. Often Maseo faded out a banging track way too soon, while Pos and Dave interacted with the crowd in call and responses terms. "THROW YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR AND WAVE 'EM LIKE YOU JUST DON'T CARE"... "WHEN`I SAY HIP, YOU SAY HOP.... HIP...." (HOP!), and so forth. There's nothing wrong with this type of engagement, but when it goes out over the music and is so overdone that it's starting to bug you I feel they are doing something wrong. I'd much rather hear good verses over several minutes of this throughout their otherwise brilliant set. This is of course kind of a minor issue but it still took down the joy very slightly. Still,  all in all De La Soul put on a great performance. and as a fan of their music I'm very glad I got the chance to see them in action, and they surely did not dissapoint.

 
MF DOOM
DOOM was a late addition to the line-up and also one of the biggest headliners of the night. Since my economy was straight up nauseauting during the summer, he was one of the definite deciding factors for me to get a ticket since I'm a long time fan of the Masked Villain but hadn't seen him in concert before. In hindsight, there's absolutely no question whatsover that The Villain was the weak link of the chain during this otherwise remarkable evening, I guess he figured we should be satisfied that it was DOOM himself and not one of his famous imposters. He performed in the mask and a black T-shirt, backed up by a DJ who only stood for the musical selections, and the strangest hype man I have seen in my entire life. This "hype man" stood next to DOOM the entire set, yet he didn't have a microphone and he didn't dance or even nod his head... Come to Think of it, he might have been a sleep!
As far as the music goes the problem was that DOOM didn't at all seem interested in being up on that stage, and did little to nothing to get the crowd involved, despite there obviously being a lot of fans in the house this night. DOOM basically ran through his pre-written tracklist he had decided on for the night, while totally leaving home all of the necessary herbs and spices to turn it into anything above average. For the most part it sounded like alternate takes of songs from his album; the type of alternative versions that is being creeated until thhey get it right. Luckily, it wasn't all a waste though, there were some highlights along the way and all of them were highlights from "Born Like This" and "Madvillainy". The true highlights were few and far between but on at least two ocassions things really lifted big time, turning the Concert into the brilliant show it could have been had DOOM shown enough interest. I'm talking about an immaculate performace of "ALL CAPS" which really got the crowd going, and maybe even more so when he segued into a full version of the J Dilla produced "Gazillion Ear". Both tracks added some much needed energy in both DOOM's performance and the crowd who's loud cheers and rap-a-long sentiments gave us a momentarily glimpse into 5 minutes of superb live hip-hop. But it was too little, too late, and if this is what DOOM is like in a live setting, I much prefer sitting home listening to his albums on vinyl via a good pair of hradphones!

WU-TANG CLAN
The headliners of the night, of course, was The Wu-Tag Cla and this marked the third time I witnessed the greatest crew in the world in a live performance. First and foremost, the problem with booking Wu-Tang Clan is that you never know who or how many of the 9-man outfit promoters actually will get to the venue. the first time I saw them Method Man nor Cappadonna was there (this was after ODB's passing), so when the intro sounds to "Bring Da Ruckus" echoed throughout the stage  before the lights went up and revealed four generals and DJ Allah Mathematics - my man Big Rob leaned over me in the crowd, saying "Damn; there's only half of them this time". Nevertheless, "Bring Da Ruckus" had the crowd going crazy, and the five emcees on stage (GZA/Ghotface Killah/Inspectah Deck/Raekwon/GZA). If you know you' Wu, you are well aware that these particular five are the orignal lyricists on the studio recording. The initial dissapoitmet of not havig the entire Clan assembled didn't stop the music from blasting, and the crowd jumped up and down like crazy. Next the 7 man outfit segues into "Duel Of The Iron Mic" where Inspectah Deck by far is the definite key player; high on energy, flowing just as great as on any record, and no problems with the voice (as he sometimes have which most Wu-Tang fans are aware). The part where the beat stops and INS drops his openig verse before RZA let the beat drop again. Pure genius and the crowd went absolutely NUTS! 

A few more classics into the set and despite still missing Method Man just like the last time I saw the clan, the energy levels on that stage "Were as high as Wu-Tang Gets" and the positive energy that flowed between the artists and the crowd was a beautiful thing to see, hear and feel. Then out of nowhere, Mathematics switches the beat and RZA kicks off the intro to the classic "Method Man" single; "From the slums of Shaolin, Wu-Tang strikes again.. The RZA, The GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and the METHOD MAN", and like that Meth himself runs out from behind the stage to enormous cheers from the crowd as he grabs the microphone and kicks off a spot-on performance of the B-side to the very first Wu-Tang Clan single. If the energy were high before, once Meth came on stage and the entire pack was reunited, those levels reached astronomical levels with the performance of "Reunited"., creating a huge sing a long moment. Hundreds of Danes and Swedes faithfully threw up their W's, standing in for Ms. Roxy's "It's WU motherfuckers, WU-TANG motherfuckers...".

But not even here, the suprises had come to a halt, as one final emcee was behind that stage getting ready to come out and play. Though I had hoped to hear Cappadonna's infinite verse on "Winter Warz", it was almost just as interesting to hear him perform a live version of "Slang Editorial" and "Run", two tracks I never heard in a live stting before, backed up by the entire Clan. For 75 minutes no one left the stage, ad-libbing each oher's verses and running through classic after classic. It was definitely a night to remember, and with two true and tested classics (and two of Wu's finest live tracks at that) in "Gravel Pit" and "Triumph" the set came to a close to loud cheers. If the posse can transfer the chemistry from the stage into the studio for their rumoured new album "A Better Tomorrow", it could very well be the best Wu-Tang album sice "Wu-Tang Forever".

2 comments:

  1. Nice writeup, I particularly liked the section about the Wu-Tang, I felt like I was there!

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  2. sorry for the late replay, but thanks for your kind words.. it's feedback like this that make me keep going - especially with the comment of my text having the impact on you actually feeling you were there!

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