Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Show Review: Denzel Curry & Deniro Farrar at The Cat's Cradle Backroom

Deniro Farrar at the Cat's Cradle Backroom
This was the second night in a row in which I was at the Cat's Cradle, however, this time I was going to the Backroom. When I first entered the venue, they were mixing LCD Soundsystem's "Dance Yrself Clean" with A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation". I knew the night was going to be very interesting after delving into their pre-show playlist.

Opening the show were Greensboro rappers, Big Whiskey and Pscril. Without a DJ to mix their music, BW was left to play their music off his laptop. Regardless of the DJ situation, BW and Pscril sufficiently warmed up the crowd with some of great tracks such as "Hideaway" featuring Chapel Hill rapper Skyblew, "The Man of my City" featuring Spanish Harlem rapper Dave East, and Pscril's self-produced track, "Keep Strivin'". They ended the night with an awesome track called "Scottie Pippen", which got the crowd jumping and moshing. You can check out both rappers catalog of banger tracks on Big Whiskey's YouTube channel and Pscril's SoundCloud page.

Unfortunately, the next act, Body Games, was unable to make it due to "logistics beyond [their] control." I had first seen this Carrboro group perform at Kennedy Theatre during the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh. At their show back in September, they were joined on stage by Charlotte rapper, Well$, who was the act that followed Big Whiskey and Pscril. I was not too familiar with his raps, but he drew a pretty good crowd for his set. Well$ did some acapella raps in the middle of his set, which is always impressive. At the end of his set, he told the crowd to come see him at the merch table by saying "Come talk to me, I swear I'm not awkward."

Well$ left the stage soon after I finished my second Pabst, and the atmosphere in the Cat's Cradle Backroom was getting quite 'turnt'. Flat brim hats, basketball jerseys, and saggy skinny jeans were abound in this young crowd. Lana Del Rey was playing in the background as I ascended the stairs to the upper level to get a better view of the primary acts. Gazing down at the sound guy, Deniro Farrar's manager Meko was using his phone to illuminate the setlist (SCORE!). DuRu Tha King was up next followed by JK the Reaper, and closing the night was Denzel Curry with a 40 minute set and Deniro Farrar with a 45 minute set. As I was leaning over the railing, I looked to my left and caught a glimpse of Deniro Farrar and his crew hanging out in the green room.

A few minutes later, DJ Trap hit the stage to warm up the crowd with some of his beats. He is Deniro Farrar's road DJ and enjoys playing some EDM-rap fusion. When he dropped tracks at Kennedy Theatre, they fell on deaf ears, as the crowd was fairly empty as most had been drawn to The War on Drugs show. However, he dropped several tracks that had a dubstep / brostep vibe that got the crowd jumping and moshing again.

DuRu Tha King came out to a warmed up crowd, and started dropping his own tracks. There were a few tracks that stood out above all else, one of which was "Smoked Out". You could smell a hint of ganja in the air. He ended his set with a track he played with Deniro Farrar at Hopscotch, "Social Status", however, this time it was sans-Farrar. Check out DuRu Tha King's 12-track mixtape Indoor Plus + on his DJ Booth page.

JK the Reaper, another Greensboro native, followed DuRu's set with his own DJ, Posh Shabbat (who also DJs for Denzel Curry). He had some serious sound issues, with some truly horrible reverb. One girl shouted "Don't let that get you down!" and others started a "JK" chant. The one line that stuck with me was "I feel like the rarest Yugioh card". The energy in the Backroom was palpable, as you see many locals dap each other and other friendly gestures. From atop by perch, I had a full view of all the different social groups and cliques in the venue, and overall, the crowd was VERY diverse. Before JK The Reaper's set ended, Denzel Curry came out on stage in his Xanax hoodie and started with one of his biggest tracks, "Parents".

Soon after hitting the stage with his backwards Darth Vader mask, he took off his Xanax hoodie to reveal a Stankonia shirt (major props). Many times during his set, Denzel would climb up on the leftmost speaker and eat bars like a pill-head. Halfway through Denzel's set, he picked two guys from the front row and split the crowd in two. He then instructed that the two lucky guys were the 'leaders' of the left and rights sides of the crowd, respectively. Once the beat dropped, the crowd went WILD and started moshing! I took a video of it, but it did no justice to truly express the insanity that was unfolding a few feet below the balcony, as people were getting knocked around, hitting the floor, pushing and shoving. Denzel closed his set with his biggest hit, "Threats", which is one of his trappiest bangers. Trap arms and bow-flexing soon followed.

DJ Trap came back out a few minutes after Denzel Curry's set came to a close and started dropping more of his EDM/Rap fusion tracks. The 'VIP' balcony next to me emptied out, which signaled the start of Deniro Farrar's set. His crew came out on stage first, but were quickly followed by the Charlotte-native, Dante Farrar a.k.a Deniro Farrar. He brought the bangers out first, with tracks such as the Ryan Hemsworth produced track "Big Tookie" and "Kill Your Idols". Much like his set during Thursday's Hopscotch lineup, he performed an acapella version of "Days Go By". His next track, "Fears", uses a slowed down version of Schoolboy Q's "Man of the Year", which got the crowd absolutely HYPE. Deniro commanded the crowd to wave "left, right, left, right". Deniro started handing out water bottles to the front row and said "Gotta keep you kids hydrated". After finishing one of his more recent releases, "Rebirth", Denzel Curry ran back out on stage! Deniro and Denzel closed out the night with their collaborative tracks "Bow Down" and "Feel Like That". These two young rappers have just blown up in the past year and just finished up the last stop of their Bow Down Tour, so expect some new collaborative work from them sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Show Review: Temples w/ Spires

Spires at The Cat's Cradle
'Take me away to the twilight zone' is the quote that most stuck with me on my drive to Carrboro to see Temples at the Cat's Cradle. If you've never been to this wonderful, local venue, definitely check it out. Every show there feels like an 'underground, secret concert' that no one knows about but every seems to be there anyways. The entrance is now in the rear due to some renovations, but that doesn't stop the Cat's Cradle promoters from attracting a wide variety of well-known artists to come perform.

The opening act, Spires, offered up one of the best opening performances of any band I've seen at the Cradle. The airy vocals of front-man Jason mix well with their blend of dreamy keyboards and intricate guitar riffs. Playing hits such as "Comic Book" and "Sleepy Eyes", Spires more than warmed up the crowd for Temples, and even performed one of their new songs, "Parallel Lines". They closed their set with an awesome extended version of "Candy Flip".

After Spires broke down all their equipment, there were a few guys on stage near some old-school projectors. I also spotted an older, bearded fellow on the elevated area to the left with a modern projector. The videos I had seen prior to this show had a CRAZY visualizer. The guys on stage used translucent lens and plates to mix a concoction of colors and oils. It's difficult to describe how the visualizer looked in words, but suffice to say it was mindblowing. In the 60s, these so-called 'analog liquid lightshows' were pretty common, but the dominance of lasers, LEDs, and large screens made this ancient technology all but forgotten. The group responsible for Temple's visualiser go by the name Mad Alchemy. Check out their Facebook page for a photo gallery of their work, it's quite amazing.

In addition to the liquid lightshow, Temples torn the friggin' place down as the opened their set with their album title-track, "Sun Structures". The followed that with one of my personal favorites, "A Question Isn't Answered", which got the crowd clapping along to the song. During one of the 'crowd-banter' sessions, James Edward Bagshaw (Guitar / Lead Vocals) addressed the audience and a girl shouted "EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS AWESOME!" Laughter ensued soon after the comment.

Temples at The Cat's Cradle
Whammy bars and guitar changes were rife, as the Bagshaw had to change out his axe several times. The British group melted faces with haunting melodies and synthesizers. My main focus the entire performance were the BEAUTIFUL Gresch guitars that Bagwell had at his disposal. Regardless of the brand of guitar he wielded, the entire night harkened back to a sound of the early Beatles, with a hint of Pink Floyd. If you closed your eyes, you were almost taken to the Ed Sullivan show and Ringo, Paul, John, and George (the best Beatle) were on stage playing their hearts out for the world to see. Opening your eyes, you realize you are witnessing a modern iteration of the greatest Britain has to offer.

They continued their set with hits such as "Keep in the Dark", and ended their set with "Shelter Song". In total, they only played ten songs, and the cats in the crowd were ready for an encore. After leaving us hanging for a minute while their 'guitar guy' was setting up for their final few songs, we were graced with a spectacular encore. Temples began their encore with a song with which I was not too familiar, "The Guesser". Strangely enough, this is now my favorite track off of their debut album, Sun Structures. Fortunately, they saved the best for last, an extended version of "Mesmerise", fitting for the atmosphere Temples and Mad Alchemy had created that magical night at The Cat's Cradle. If you haven't already, check out their music, merch, and other stuff on their website, you definitely won't regret it!

Expect more reviews and previews on The Bottom String very soon. You can also follow my hectic live-local music performance schedule on my blog, TeehaMusic.