CMJ Music Marathon Report #4: Cool Kids, RZA, Inspectah Deck
Mon, 22 Oct 2007 10:59:53
You can't get turned away from a show if New York doesn't know it's happening. So on Friday, I stuck to the non-sanctioned CMJ parties—gatherings with
no BS badge-to-ticket-holder ratio and minimal publicity. Growing indie pacesetter Daytrotter.com's
out-of-the-way shindig was a sweaty delight, yet Virtual Lower East Side's hush-hush, late night barn burner should probably go down as one of the festival's finest moments.
Fact of the fest: even when they're secret, a good CMJ show means you'll be pressed up against a few hundred smelly strangers. No matter how close you got to your neighbor at the Daytrotter show at The Red Door in Chelsea, it was tough to complain about the Brooklyn-heavy line up of power-popsters The Subjects, contemplative singer-songwriter Luke Temple, and the artily adorable Harlem Shakes. But after a week's worth of indie rock, I needed a change of pace, and a few less guitars in my life. Luckily, the night's main attraction was a star-studded, hip-hop bill at the vLES party in—where else?—the real Lower East Side.
The Cool Kids at 205 Club | by Robbie Mackey
205 Club, a curious Chrystie Street haunt entirely covered in tinfoil (honest!), was every bit as hot as Red Door. And even more crowded. But with Colt 45 and cranberry vodkas flowing, it was time for the party music of Chicago-based, rapping blog-phenoms Cool Kids. Harkening back to the golden era of flat brims, tracksuits and b-boy poses, MCs Mikey and Chuck threw their hip hop a full decade in reverse (even though these younguns were in elementary school back then) with minimal, grimey boomers like "88" and the bike-lovin "Black Mags."
Getting critical love from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, URB, The Fader, and practically every other mag in America, Cool Kids played more shows at this year's CMJ than any other artist. And if Friday night's performance was any indication, they would have played even more if they could. In a hip hop world where the distance between fan and superstar grows by the second, it's nice to see an act with their level of energy and eagerness to engage with its audience on such an honest, no-pretense level. Banter can be annoying, but in the case of the Cool Kids, it's perfect. And if anyone was less than charmed by the duo's decision to play paper-rock-scissors to pick a set-closer, you couldn't tell.
RZA at 205 Club | by Robbie Mackey
After what felt like an hour-long DJ set, it was time for the almighty Wu-Tang Clan—or, to be fair, a fraction thereof. Inspectah Deck kicked things off from the crowd, drink in hand, asking the room the obligatory question: how are we? Much better now. It was only moments before RZA appeared on stage, and the entire room was howling "It's Wu, motherfuckas!" as the duo charged through a weed-baked rendition of "Reunited" from 1997's Forever.
RZA & Inspectah Deck at 205 Club | by Robbie Mackey
Taking care not to forget the classics, RZA and Deck rattled off plenty of verses from 36 Chambers. "Shame" and "C.R.E.A.M." were more than crowd pleasers—they destroyed. Even better, the two Clan members traded solo freestyles mid-set. Mic issues frustrated them both, allowing for a few lulls. But after a week of seeing tiny bands from Boston and internet niche-stars, it felt strangely fantastic to be in the presence of hip-hop royalty. Rumors of an M.I.A. set were somewhat substantiated by a glance at the guestlist (she was on +20!), but with 3am around the corner, I had to sleep.
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