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N.A.S.A. w/ Fatlip, Pase Rock and Special Guests
Wednesday, August 12th @ The El Rey

N.A.S.A.

1. First, the El Rey is an amazing place to see a show. This is far from the beer-soaked dives I’m used to seeing shows in. Both the floor and the walls are covered in red carpeting, three huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and additional wall-mounted chandeliers line the sides. On top of that, it’s an intimate venue with not a bad spot in the house. No pillars or balconies to block the view of the stage. As I get older, I have an appreciation for venues like this. Especially when they have such a nice spot and still are willing to book acts that might normally seem out of place in such a venue.

2. Fatlip (yes, Fatflip of the Pharcyde) opened the show with a half-hour DJ set. Pharcyde is one of my favorite hip-hop acts of the nineties, but I had never caught them (or Fatlip) live before. I think Fatlip is a solid MC, with some of his rhymes from the Pharcyde being among the most memorable. But, as much as I love him, he’s just not that great of a DJ. His set was steeped heavily in early nineties R&B, which isn’t a bad thing, I guess. But I have to admit that when he busted out Boyz II Men’s “Motown Philly” part of me was like, “Really?”

3. The evening can be summed up in two words: technical difficulties. Fatlip was, albeit admittedly and jokingly, fucking up his mixes. The other DJ opener, Pase Rock, couldn’t get his laptop to work and instead had to rely on whatever music Fatlip had in his iTunes library. And even N.A.S.A. themselves were suffering from some of their video feeds not working properly. The crowd was patient with it, but you could feel the frustration of the performers on stage. No one said, “This is a clusterfuck,” but I definitely got a sense that at any minute those very words would be shouted from the stage.

4. I was excited to see N.A.S.A. I dug their debut album (“The Spirit of Apollo”) and was excited to see how the tracks from that album would be translated into a live show. Unfortunately, even after seeing the show last night, I still have no idea how most those songs would translate into a live show. For a huge bulk of their 75-minute set, at least a good 80% of it, Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon chose to basically spin records. From the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” to Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It,” N.A.S.A. spent most of the evening playing other people’s songs. And that’s fine, I guess, but it’s definitely not what I expected. There are so many tracks on “The Spirit of Apollo” that I consider to be works of art, and it would have been nice to hear those songs. They did play a handful of them, I guess, including “Whachadoin?” and “Money,” but hearing those songs was a little expected.

5. The highlight was their performance of “Way Down.” Special guests Money Mark and Barbie Hatch joined the duo on stage for what proved to be the best song of the night. Another memorable moment came when Fatlip joined them for some impromptu verses of both the Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” and the Chemical Brothers’ “The Salmon Dance.” (To be fair, they did also briefly dip into their track “Hip-Hop.”) Those moments were fun but, again, I came to hear N.A.S.A. Maybe next time.

Here’s a video for “Way Down,”

-Shady

PS: I wasn’t able to shoot photos at the show, but click here if you’re interested in seeing images of the performance.

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You’re not going to believe this, but I got ten CDs sent to me for review and I love them all! If you know me, you know this is a pretty rare occurrence.

I also have a HUGE stack of music to review after this batch, so I’m going to try and keep these as short as humanly possible. Because, you know, I sometimes have a tendency to go on and on.

Like this one time, when I–

Just kidding. Let’s go!

Tone-Loc “Loc-ed After Dark: 20th Anniversary Edition” – Tone-Loc is back?!? Get the Loc out of here! Okay, so he’s not really back. They’ve just gone ahead and released a remastered version of his rap classic that is now… twenty years old? THIS ALBUM IS TWENTY FUCKING YEARS OLD?!? Oh my God… that makes me… OLD! Yeah, the album is both cheesy and camp-tastic, but that’s what makes it great. Oddly enough, Young MC (of “Bust A Move” fame) wrote most of Loc’s most popular hits, including “Funky Cold Medina” and “Wild Thing.” The entire original album is here, along with a few remixes and B-sides thrown in for good measure. You won’t be able to find this in stores or on Amazon (it’s a digital-only release), but download this oldie-but-a-goodie and relive all of those awkward middle school dances.

Dude, I’m doing a shitty job of keeping these short.

N.A.S.A. “The Spirit of Apollo” – Every once in a great while, an album comes along that nearly everyone can connect with. In the past, bands like Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz and OutKast released albums that did just that. And now, mark my words: Three months from today, everyone is going to be listening to “The Spirit of Apollo.” They’re gonna be playing it on TV commercials; it will be put into heavy rotation during sporting event halftimes; even your grandma will be spinning it (in the background, as she gets nailed by your grandfather). The brainchild of Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel, also known as the younger brother of director Spike Jonze) and DJ Zegon (Ze Gonzales), this dynamic duo somehow managed to record an album that features every musician ever known to man. No, seriously. Their debut features guest appearances from: Chuck D, Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, Z-Trip, David Byrne, DJ Swamp, Method Man, John Frusciante, RZA, KRS-One, Fatlip, Slim Kid Tre, Karen O, Tom Waits, Kool Keith, Kanye West, Santogold, George Clinton, Lovefoxxx, Spank Rock, M.I.A., DJ Qbert, DJ AM, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Ghostface Killah. And guess what?!? I DIDN’T EVEN NAME EVERY GUEST ON THE ALBUM! Even though I love all of the albums I’m reviewing here today, this one should be at the top of your purchase list.

These reviews are ridiculously long. For realsies.

Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion” – I first got into Animal Collective when they released the four-song single “Prospect Hummer” back in 2005. I think Animal Collective is similar to bands like Yo La Tengo in that people either love them deeply or forget them immediately. I’m more the former, though this album did hit a few cold spots along the way. I prefer my Animal Collective a little more experimental and out there, but at times “Merriweather Post Pavilion” felt almost too rehearsed. Still, I’d say about 80% of the disc is solid, and that’s more than you’re gonna get from most bands out there today.

Pete Doherty “Grace/Wastelands” – Pete Doherty is one sad motherfucker, and “Grace/Wastelands” sounds like his suicide note to the world. I never got into The Libertines, of which Doherty was a member of, but this disc is a far cry from the punk-driven sound of his musical alma mater. Instead of standard “fuck the man” punk anthems, we’re given stripped-down singer/songwriter gems that leave us feeling like total and utter shit. So the next time it’s gray outside and you want to cry, put this disc on! Just be sure to hide your knives first.

The Five Corners Quintet “Hot Corner” – The Five Corners Quintet is a Helsinki-based jazz five-piece. Read that again: They play jazz! In Finland! And somehow, though I’m not exactly sure how, they manage to capture all of the nuances of early American jazz and then twist it and mash it into becoming its own thing. It’s as if the old innocent standards were slipped a mickey and then quickly bent over by an abusive and demanding postmodern jazz. Does that make any sense? Because it does to me, and I heard the disc. I think you’ll just have to pick it up to see if I’m spot-on or just silly drunk. (But keep in mind that I could be both.)

Bibio “Vignetting the Compost” – I love this disc. Unfortunately, it’s so different from anything else out there that I’m having a hard time explaining what it sounds like. Still, let me try: Bibio creates old-timey, scratch- and hiss-filled tunes that blend the simple sounds of yesterday with the technical studio know-how of today. It’s like if you were to find an old pair of those huge headphones from the early seventies, and then put them on and only hear sounds from the turn of the century. That is Bibio. How could it get more impressive? Like this: Bibio is one man, a fellow named Stephen James Wilkinson. And this is his third full-length release. Looks like I’ve got some CD-bin digging to do at Amoeba.

Q-Tip “The Renaissance” – This came out awhile ago, but I want to point out how good of an album it is. The Abstract is back, and in classic Tribe fashion. I know he lost a few listeners with his “harder” and more pop-driven solo release “Amplified” back in 1999, but “The Renaissance” returns to the roots of what made Q-Tip the member of A Tribe Called Quest. From the first beat to the last break, Q dishes out new rhymes with an old sound that are sure to become instant classics. Be sure to pay close attention to “We Fight/We Love” (featuring guest vocalist Raphael Saadiq), and “Life Is Better” (with guest Norah Jones).

Various Artists “Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement” – I’ve been reviewing CDs for ten years now (Christ!), and over the years I’ve become a fan of many of the compilations that Time Life has released. This three-disc set is no exception. “Let Freedom Sing” collects nearly 60 songs that were created for or inspired by the history of the Civil Rights Movement. From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” in 1939 to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in 1971, this set documents the decades-long journey of African-Americans as they transform their hopes and fears into beats and lyrics. Sure, I own most of these songs already on other discs, but the strength of the set isn’t one or two individual songs. Instead, its strength lies in its numbers and the story it tells. It also features a set introduction by Chuck D, and comes in a nice book-like case. A nice addition to one’s already-respectable music collection. And by “one’s” I mean “my.”

-Shady

to make sure it’s real.

Thanks for passing it along, Steve!

-Shady

Old Poop!