One of the reasons I love watching live music is that I get the opportunity to put a face to the name, and see how that face truly delivers the music they've created to an audience. No matter how many times I listen to a studio recording, it can never compare to seeing the same song performed live - it is a completely different connection to the music. There's a genuine connection I get when I can look into the eyes of a performer and watch the music pour out of their soul. Last night was a special treat for me, because I was finally able to get that connection to an artist I've been listening to for over a decade, and it was much like putting into place the last piece of a complex puzzle. I went to the Summit Music Hall last night with all sorts of expectations and memories swimming through my head. I was trying to figure out how my expectations might be met, and what exactly would unfold when the moment would arrive. I got a chance to let my thoughts marinate for a bit while being treated to an unexpected DJ set from a familiar face.
|Mike Dee(z) Nuts started off the night|
There was no announcement and he took the stage without much ado, but I was immediately excited when I saw local Denver DJ Mike Dee(z) Nuts take his place behind the decks. Apparently he was called up last minute, so I was eager to see what he'd throw down. So far I'd only seem him in the context of Chavez y Chavez, but I knew he had to do something different from a banging tech-house set to open this particular night. Was he going to keep it high energy? Was he going to mix in a lot of hip-hop to appease the projected audience? It turns out, he switched it up quite a bit, keeping the set mostly down-tempo and somewhat mellow, mixing a lot of indie stuff with just a hint of hip-hop. I was surprised to hear the inclusion of Sleigh Bell's "Run The Heart", SBTRKT's "Trials of the Past", and a remix of Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers". It wasn't what I was expecting but keeping it mellow was a good choice and a nice segue into the next set.
|Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson|
Right after the DJ set it was time for Kimya Dawson and my first live glimpse of Aesop Rock. Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson had been collaborating on songs, some that will be released on Kimya Dawson's new album, and some that will be on an album featuring them both. The two wasted no time introducing the audience to their latest efforts, and it was definitely fun to watch. Kimya Dawson started off, playing her blue acoustic guitar and singing in her familiar anti-folky Moldy Peaches style. Then Aesop Rock would come in and lay down rhymes over Kimya Dawson's guitar - an interesting blend, but it worked. The folky guitar was definitely a departure from the grim and dark beats Aesop Rock usually flows over, but he spit with the same passion, bringing his signature metaphorical rhyme style to match Kimya Dawson's subverted folk lyrics.
After a couple collaborative songs, Aesop Rock left the stage and Kimya Dawson performed the rest of her set solo. Kimya's music is about her witty lyricism, bordering on smarmy but actually incredibly hard not to like if you pick out the words. Kimya's music is not about instrumentation however, and she was definitely the first to admit it when she proclaimed, "I know all my songs sound the same!" Her songs are heavily based on the chord progression from G major to D major, sometimes throwing in C major for good measure. Yet, with that simple backbone she performed songs that touched a range of topic and the lyrics were so well done and often outright hilarious that her songs did indeed become separate and memorable.
I wasn't sure how a crowd of hip-hop fans would react to Kimya, but she got a sizable positive reception, enough to fluster her a couple times mid-song where she'd have to interject, "Wow, Denver is so loud. You guys are so loud here!" She performed a mix of solo songs and a handful of The Moldy Peaches songs, enough to satiate the surprising amount of fans upfront singing along with her. It was a nourishing experience - one that hit home the fact that this wasn't just your typical hip-hop show.
|Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic|
Finally it was time for the main event, and the crowd reacted with much fervor when Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz all came out onto the stage. My apologies to DJ Big Wiz, I totally had his name wrong when I previewed the show yesterday and pretty much ignored the fact he'd be at the show, but he was an integral part to the performance, laying down and chopping up the beats like a skilled DMC cut-master. With DJ Big Wiz controlling the cuts behind the decks, Rob Sonic played the support role and Aesop Rock started laying out his rhythmic poetry.
|Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson on the mic, DJ Big Wiz on the beats|
Aesop Rock's performance was a journey through past, present and future as he performed songs throughout his extensive catalog. The prolific rapper made sure to include tracks from the beginning of his career, and signature tracks from his heyday. I especially enjoyed the way he went from "Night Light" to "Daylight", getting the entire venue to shout the chorus, "All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day/Put the pieces back together my way", along with him in a raucous roar. He included as yet unreleased material from his new project Hail Mary Mallon, a group including Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. He brought out Kimya Dawson to unleash some more of their collaborative efforts, this time Kimya Dawson would rap and sing in support of Aesop Rock and his beats. The crowd was so hyped hands flailed tirelessly up and down everywhere you looked, including hands spilling over the balcony. Aesop Rock was great at getting the crowd involved, getting the audience to sing along to just about every chorus. When the night ended with "None Shall Pass", Aesop Rock had the crowd roaring along and the crowd kept repeating the chorus as if to stretch the song out as long as possible.
It was amazing finally putting together the final pieces of the Aesop Rock puzzle last night. I was able to witness the pure passion that Aesop Rock brings to the stage in a live setting. It spills out of his every pore and is apparent in every gesture he makes. Rob Sonic was incredible too and was excellent at hyping the crowd. He would get everyone's hands in the air, come up to the edge of the stage, and touch every hand that was in reach, making the crowd erupt. It was a diverse crowd, as both old and new fans came together to create a unique energy that could have fueled a rocket to the moon.
I only wish the show could have gone on forever, but of course Aesop Rock had to pick and choose which songs to bring that night rather than unrealistically breaking out his whole discography. I also wish Rob Sonic laid down some of his solo stuff, but I left satisfied with what Rob Sonic brought last night. Kimya Dawson was a refreshing change of pace, and is definitely the sweetest soul. I loved how when she finished being on stage, she came right out and raged with the crowd for the rest of the show. Aesop Rock is phenomenal on his albums, and he is just that much better live. I'm glad to have finally witnessed it.
On a side note, sorry for the crappy quality pictures this time. I couldn't take my usual camera to this show due to venue restrictions. I'll work harder to get past those next time.