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Music

Fatlip, Omni, Bleubird @ Main Hall 7/23

Posted by John / July 26, 2006

fatlip.jpgDays before I got to this concert I had resolved not to let the review post I eventually wrote focus on white indie kids listening to black hip-hop. There's nothing more cliched than a white guy going to a show by black artists and then delivering a half-assed faux-progressive identity politics 101 essay. Also, I thought, whatever observations I make are probably more due to my hyperanalytic self-consciousness than anything else.

So I arrive at Main Hall, a venue whose clientele is pretty much all white indie kids in the heart of the very white Mile End neighbourhood, and find a scattered crowd of almost entirely white indie kids standing around waiting to see Fatlip, formerly of the band Pharcyde, which enjoyed plenty of white frat-boy appeal in its heyday. Perfect. Except, as it turns out, though this show was weird for many of the above reasons, there were bigger, weirder things going on. So I'm mostly off the hook.

omni.jpgThe show was weird, first of all, because only about 60 people showed up in a room that can easily hold four times as many. Credit must be given to L.A.-based Omni and Fatlip for getting on the stage, but their sets were understandably half-hearted. The thing about hiphop shows is that they're hyper-interactive. The audience is always getting instructions to make arm motions or yell things or make noise or wave their hands in the air like they just don't care. But none of this really works when there's a few dozen people scattered about, all of them missing the luxury of being an anonymous face in a bigger crowd. Even if I really just don't care, I have a lot of difficulty waving my hands in the air. It's just not my preferred method of demonstrating indifference, especially when the member of a once-great hip-hop act is metres away and could easily offer a critique of my in-air-hand-waving.

Even those who were able to rock out unreservedly still had to do so in a thin crowd. There was an awkward mood in the room, therefore, and if performers feed off of their audience, both Omni and Fatlip got a healthy serving of uncomfortableness.

Weirdest of all, though, as noted by numerous people post-show, was Fatlip's medley treatment of a handful of Pharcyde songs. I readily confess to feeling joy when the DJ put on the opening loop of Ya Mama, but then the joy faded and was replaced by something else. It's not like Fatlip flubbed the delivery, but there was something wrong about his doing a single verse in a lonely little room. It's like finding out the singer from the punk band you loved in undergrad is now a lounge singer in Vegas, or reading about 80s Canadian hair-rock band Honeymoon Suite squeezing into leather pants and touring again. It's not funny, and it's not good. It's just a bit sad, somehow.

(I will note that among those who were unreservedly rocking out was local rapper Bleubird, whose opening set I missed due to being stuck at work. During one Pharcyde snippet, Fatlip handed ("passed") the mic to him, and he was probably the happiest dude in the room as he rattled off the verse.)

It was strange. But I'm willing to write it all off to the particular situation. It wasn't the preponderance of white hipsters -- I'm going to blame the low turnout alone for the weirdness; I saw Fatlip under entirely different circumstances earlier this year when he opened for Blackalicious at some festival in Whistler, B.C. It doesn't get any whiter than Whistler, but there were a few thousand people out for the show, a great vibe, and no pathos to be found anywhere.

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