Show Review: P.O.S., Grieves w/ Budo, Dessa, and The Pirate Signal
For more photos check out Angora’s Nyquil induced photo blog
In the past couple years the 303 area code has made it onto the hip-hop map. We’ve got the Flobots, who encapsulate the conscious and instrumental hip-hop subgenre, and we have the Boulder “crunkcore” rappers 3OH!3. While the Flobots have been everywhere from Bumbershoot to Loveline and 3OH!3 have gone from the Warp Tour to making songs with such musical luminaries as Katy Perry and Ke$ha, is Denver really better off for it? I mean, it’s hard to diss a socially conscious and talented band like Flobots, but they’re boring, and don’t even get me started on the kitsch that emanates from the writers of “Chokechain.” But there is a reason to be excited about hip-hop in Denver. The Pirate Signal, along with similar minded rappers like F.O.E., Karma and some others, could be Colorado’s answer to Rhymesayers or Stones Throw.
The P.O.S. show at The Marquis Theater was sold out. The weird part was not that a smallish venue like Marquis can’t hold all of Denver’s indie hip-hop fans, but that the place was almost packed before openers (and local superheroes) The Pirate Signal (and the Blackhearts) were done with their early set. I regretfully wasn’t actually at the show in time to catch their set but Ms. Angora Holly Polo can tell us what it was like.
Angora: Shit, what a good show. I would get frisked three more times just to see it again, as is the general policy upon entry to the Marquis Theater (even for Donnybrookites–and Brother Travismo Sarducci even got his shiv taken away, the exacting goons).
The place was packed so we watched from the sideline/backstage area. Obscured to the rest of the crowd by giant speakers, Blackhearts F.O.E. and Karma were back there dancing and rapping along with Yonnas like devoted hype men the entire time, just having a ball. Yonnas was his usual charming, quirky, hilarious, crazy self. Then the most amazing thing happened.
Channeling the hip-hop version of Iggy Pop, Blackhearts (which is basically the Pirate Signal with F.O.E. and Karma) launched into my favorite song “Bloodlines of that Gangsta Shit,” and the entire theater erupted. The three rappers were running around the stage, literally hanging from the rafters, swarmed by the hands from the crowd. I was on the sidelines snapping pictures and they kept hamming it up for my camera. Holy shit, I need a more deserving camera. It was like the live music gods lobbed me an easy and legendary moment, and most of my pics turned out blurry.
By the by, they were being groped by teenage girls the entire time. I was impressed. As Yonnas talked to the crowd, I noticed girls in the front row lovingly gazing up at him, nonchalantly playing with the house keys jangling from his jeans, or caressing his thigh. Later that night when I talked to F.O.E. and Karma about their groupies that evening, they joked they were going to be the next Jonas Brothers, and the only thing they needed to get was sweepy bangs. I concurred. I can’t even imagine what the crowd would have done had they played “Jiggle It.”
Instead Yonnas said “This next song is about a girl I like,” before launching into ‘Love in the Time of Swine Flu,’ and all the girls simultaneously dialed back the groping and sighed even deeper. Oh, heart throbs.
Thank you Angora for that hilarious recount.
I got to the show in time to hear Grieves. While he can’t be labeled a local superhero, the boy who became Grieves was raised in Fort Collins under the birth name Ben Laub. In that previous life, he went to school with the girl that would later be known as Donnybrook’s Headmistress, Ms. Angora Holly Polo. The way she tells it, this skinny skater punk kid would have been voted “Least Likely to Become a (Successful) Rapper”; but that was a decade ago. Today Grieves, who now calls Brooklyn home after spending time in Seattle, has just literally this week been added to the Rhymesayers roster. The idea of Grieves being signed to the legendary indie label makes all the sense in the world when, if you didn’t know better, you might mistake his flow and song topics for that of head Rhymesayer, Slug–that is, until you see Grieves live.
He is definitely not the angry aging rapper, and instead almost comes across younger than his age. That is to say, he’s an energetic, funny kid who can still smile while rapping about “Heroin Music” or contemplating life at the “Bottom of the Bottle.” Oh, and he’s got the charm to make the girls go crazy. I don’t think I’ve seen a rapper (especially one so under-the-radar) with so many female fans swarming his merch booth, many of which were already wearing Grieves hats before showing up that night.
Last time I saw P.O.S. he was only slightly more seasoned than his current opening acts, and while he’d been doing his thing longer than many of his peers, he was still opening for such flavor-of-the-month artists as Gym Class Heroes. Back then I thought of him similar to the way I view Yonnas now. A very smart, hip rapper who paints his hip-hop canvass with the colors of rock. In the case of the Pirate Signal, that influence is the indie dance/rock of today, for P.O.S. it was a little more punk-rock.
Now that P.O.S. heads his own label Doomtree, and releases his solo stuff on Rhymesayers, including his latest, Never Better, the veteran has calmed a bit. On numerous occasions he told the young men in the front to stop the mosh pit. I’m not saying he’s no fun anymore. In fact I should say, since I have failed to so far, that this was the most fun hip-hop show I’ve seen in years. It was simply comforting to see him periodically asking the kids in the front row if they were OK and offering for them to step up on stage if they were getting trampled by those fans who couldn’t keep themselves from moshing. As far as I could see, no one took him up on the offer but the gesture alone gave the overall feeling that he was very connected to the audience that night.
After the show all the front men were at the merch tables hanging out with the fans and taking pictures. Yonnas was holding up CD’s and yelling, “support your local superhero” while his dad stood by waiting to help him load out. And even though P.O.S. has no roots here, it nicely capped-off the home-grown feel of the show.