Thursday, June 30, 2011

Heineken GOOD Music Volume 2 @ Santos Party House, June 28, 2011

Sometimes I even amaze myself. The funny thing about this particular show is I’m not exactly sure when I signed up for it, and I definitely didn’t remember at the time so it came as a surprise that I had to cancel a couple things I was going to do that night and do this Heineken GOOD Music show instead. I’m thinking now that the way I got tickets was by voting for someone to win the Heineken VIP passes to a show in their particular area. When you vote, you’re entered for a chance to win passes to the upcoming show. I wasn’t really expecting to win so I voted, filled it out, and didn’t really think about it until I received notice that not only did I gain access, that the show was to be held at Santos Party House, a place I was at less than a week prior for Ray-Ban’s Never Hide show. Not the mention the fact that they even gave me a +1, something I definitely didn’t have for the Heineken Kanye show in Brooklyn. Cool! So I called up my boy and we headed down.

Heineken had like 5 people checking people in, and by the time I got there, there was a pretty long line (not as long as the Ray-Ban event though) but I didn’t sweat it because this was a private event where you could really only win tickets, so I knew they wouldn’t overbook it.  I took a sample of people this time around and everyone I spoke to said they won tickets, which is a bit different from the Kanye event where basically everyone was a friend of someone working the event. I checked in and walked right in. they had the green lights up and on, meaning the Heineken was flowing all night. This show was scheduled to start and 7pm and be done by 11pm. It was a much smaller show than the Kanye one, with only two GOOD Music artists scheduled to perform: Pusha T and Cyhi da Prynce.

DJ Camilo was on the tables mixing things up getting people in the party mood but I didn’t really think he could mix that well, or atleast not that night! He was playing some decent tracks but all the best songs he was playing he would cut off before they start so he could play some stupid Rick Ross song or something. It was really annoying at times but I guess not the worst DJ performance I’ve experienced. He was just OK for me.

The first artist to appear was Cyhi da Prynce when it was finally showtime. Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the following: he’s probably the most lyrical rapper to come out of the south since T.I., with Yelawolf I would say. This guy is a lyrical genius, with nothing but upside. I didn’t really get to give him a chance at the Kanye show because I didn’t now any of his songs and the crappy acoustics made it difficult for me to hear anything anyway. Santos has great sound, and despite the fact that there were some technical problems with the DJ Camilo set all the artists performing went off without a hitch. As you can guess Cyhi did his verse from “So Appalled,” but also some tracks I was very new to. He did a track called “Bulletproof,” which features fellow downsouth lyricist Yelawolf.

He has his own rap version of “Cold As Ice,” originally done by the band Foreigner but has been sampled before by M.O.P. He did his big track  “Emotional,” “Woopty Doo,” and even managed to fit in an acapella version of his verse in the song “Thousand Pounds,” which features rapper Pill and fellow GOOD Music member Pusha T. This guys is really talented and I’m starting to like where I see rap music is going as of late. Thereis been an influx of guys trying to break into the business that actually have talent, and lyrical prowess. It’s a nice and welcomed changed.

After Cyhi exited there was a quick DJ set from Pusha’s DJ, who started playing a Pusha track and he immediately bumrushed the stage and began performing, along with his hypeman. If you’ve been reading my blog then you would know that this is the third time I’ve seen him in less than a month! You’d think I would be tired of him and you know I would be forced to agree with you if it was somebody else. I’m really becoming a Pusha fan though. This guy has (cocaine) lyrics for days, and all of his songs have really awesome beats and basslines. “Open Your Eyes,” featuring a sample from “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, is a song I could listen to on repeat all day. But it’s not just his songs I like, this guy is an awesome performer. It seems like he has the things in place to become a true star in this business, and I’d love to see this happen for the Pusha. I’m really enjoying what Kanye is doing with the GOOD Music label and linking up with Heineken was pure genius. It’s a great way for him to showcase his new talent and for them to show different audiences their work. They had a show last night in Philly and tonight they will be rocking Washington, DC. If you’re in the area and you got some tickets this is a not miss show, but if you’re in NYC lookout for August because Heineken will be having yet ANOTHER show. Who knows who this could be….?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Create Your Mark @ House of Vans, June 25, 2011

Is Brooklyn in the house? Without a DOUBT! The boys from Vans (yea, the shoe guys) have built a gigantic skate park in Brooklyn, way out in the middle of nowhere in Greenpoint, which is where you put stuff; not necessarily in Greenpoint, but definitely in the middle of nowhere in Brooklyn. The place is a great space for partying, skating, and jamming out to some live music, which are three things they do in abundance over at the House. They've had quite a few shows there already with a few more on deck, but I managed to get myself on the list for this show called Create Your Mark, which was an all-day music and party festival. Basically two things I love the most...

The show was scheduled for 4pm, so me and my boy made our way over there early as to beat the crowd. Genius right? We thought so too. When we got there, which was about 15 minutes before, there was one other person waiting! Really? Free food, free booze, free music, all day...and there's no one around?! It was weird because, you could hear the band tuning up instruments; there was security outside getting everything set up, but where were all the people who like free stuff? Maybe they went away this weekend? It didn't matter, we checked our names at the door and went in. It got even weirder: sitting next to the kiddie pool, beers in one hand an a Super Soaker in the other, out back waiting for the guy to finish cranking out some burgers, and there was still only like ten people around! It was such an awesome set up: free burgers, three bars serving up free beer and wine, free Vitamin Water, free VitaCoco Coconut water, and even the Korilla BBQ truck parked out back give out their special take on Korean BBQ. You could even make your own tie-dye t-shirts! This space could probably fit 1000 people easy, but it never had more than about 300 people, which made the place seem even more empty than it was because it's so big. I wasn't complaining though, because it was so awesome!

They had four bands billed to play, and the first band to start up were a band called the Grand Rapids. They were kind of a fusion of old school punk music and 60s/70s rock. It sounds better than it was for me. The lead singer had a knack for just kind of talking over the music, kind of like Bob Dylan, who I think is a fantastic musician, but a good singer he is not. The music they were playing was good but it was hard to get past the singing/talking thing the lead was doing. The lead guitarist and bass guitar player switched instruments at one point to play a couple songs with each other's instruments but it didn't really do much to change my feeling about their music.

It was weird the flow of the show. Everyone hung out outside for pretty much the majority of the time at the House of Vans, but as soon as a band started playing everyone would run back inside to hear them play. When they were done everyone would scamper back outside to squirt each other with water guns and what not.

The next band came on a little bit later, a group by the name of Chairlift, and for what it's worth, these guys were musically the exact opposite of Grand Rapids. Chairlift had more of a sound of an 80s pop band, with a female lead singer who had moments where she sounded like Sade! Yes it was that soothing. They had a keyboard player who would sing some harmony as well, while playing overly electronic stuff on the keys. I was really enjoying these guys' sound, as you can probably tell. I'm going to touch on the fact that pretty much every band that was playing that day is a bit of an acquired taste, so it's very easy for me to understand if someone didn't like the bands that were playing, that is unless you consider the third band on the list, the Smith Westerns.

These guys come highly recommended, that is unless you've been under a rock for the last year or two or you just don't really listen to that kind of music. I went to Saks 5th Avenue earlier this year to see these guys live and even though it was just an in store performance you knew these kids were truly talented. I normally say kids but these guys are definitely children, with only one member of their outfit old enough to drink! This set was definitely much longer than the one they did in a department store, and it was definitely better. They mixed up some new tracks with some old songs and they really showed off their versatility. Their songs are all over the place, from psychedelic rock to glam to something the Beach Boys would play. Their lead guitarist plays these amazing solos when it's 'guitar solo time', and they actually make you forget that he's like 20 years old, that is until you actually look at him and realize that he's probably closer to 18! The Smith Westerns were the guys I went to see and they were amazing, like I thought they would be. If you still don't know about these guys, do yourself a favor and pick up their latest album "Dye It Blonde," then you can go ahead and thank me later for the suggestion.

The last band to play were my least favorite of the entire night, a band called Spectrum. Now I'd never heard any of the bands prior to the show with the exception of the always brilliant Smith Westerns. With that said, I didn't really know what to expect from the other bands so really they all could have been terrible. Now I don't want to say Spectrum was terrible, so let's just say they weren't concerned with being good per se! And I say that with the utmost respect, but they really weren't considering being good. Their entire performance just seemed like them being in love with themselves and everything they were doing on stage. Let me put into perspective how bad this was: on MORE THAN ONE OCCASION, the lead singer created feedback on the speakers, and decided to record it and loop it, then try to tune the feedback! That's right folks, he was tuning the feedback. Imagine about a hundred people standing looking at a stage with their hands over their ears, for like five minutes! And they did this more than once, it was probably closer to like 3 times! For whatever reason I decided to stay for their entire painful performance. I was by myself too, my friend I came with left during the Smith Westerns performance, citing they "kind of suck." I don't argue with people who have no crudentials about music (or anything really), he did mention that he thought the first band was "pretty good," so I just let him think what he wanted and leave!

It didn't really matter though; even with Spectrum being pure noise it was still a great show and an awesome Saturday afternoon event. I'm looking forward to the next time I get to go to this place and enjoy a great show; hopefully it's sometime soon, and during the day on a Saturday, so I can actually go, and stay the entire time!

A couple of Quick (and late) Updates...

Well I finally get some downtime from all this working I've been doing to update this bad boy. I went to a few events these past couple weeks I've been gone, so it's time to update this thing with some big shows. But first let me give you a rundown of a couple events I went to that I didn't stay they entire time for...

I went to the "Dressed" soundtrack release party on the same night as the Jadakiss show. It was a very well organized event held at the Chelsea Room, the underground bar and lounge attached to the Chelsea Hotel. It was hosted by Ally Hilfiger (Tommy's daughter) and it was really for showcasing the music from the movie "Dressed."

Now if you don't know, "Dressed" is a documentary about Nary Manivong, the hard working fashion designer who defied all odds by having his work showed during New York Fashion Week, despite coming from a broken home and living on the streets when he was a teenager. Nary was at the party as well, and he was very nice and happy to come around and meet everyone. I would imagine most people in his situation are just really nice all the time and he definitely didn't let me down. Beerlao as well as some vodka brand were on drinks duty, but the music duty was on the bands on the soundtrack. Apparently the point of the event was to have all of the artists featured on the soundtrack perform a few songs of their own (including their song that's actually on the soundtrack). It sounds like a great idea, but they had 10 bands scheduled to perform that night! I ended up leaving at midnight and only about 6 bands had performed by then; it did start at 9pm after all. On top of that, the Chelsea Room is a great venue for a sleek sexy Manhattan party, however not the best place to have a real band play. They have a stage 'area', but not a real stage, and it's quite small, barely fitting all 4 or all 5 members of bands that were playing. Either way, I will touch on my favorites from the night, because after all this is an updates blog and not necessarily a blog 'entry'.

The two bands out of the six that stood out for me the most were the Annie Minogue Band and KILLCODE. The Annie Minogue Band struck me as a really good cover band, even though they didn't do any covers! They just had a very good sound, kind of like a band you would hire for a wedding or something. They're old school rock and roll, and Annie has a great voice and stage presence. I really liked their sound. KILLCODE were my favorites of the night though. They were as quintessential 90s alternative as you could possibly get at this day in age, despite the fact that they didn't really look like they sound. I thought they would be a lot heavier (or harder, which ever word works) than they were judging from their look, but they had a really nice sound, and not really heavy metal at all. Their lead singer has a great voice that kind of reminded me of Scott Weiland, hence the need for me to call them 90s alternative. Yea they were my favorites for sure. I was kind of tired by midnight so me and my friend left then, when yet another band was setting up to play. I bet they were there for a while! If you want more information about the soundtrack or the movie head to and read all about it.

Now when I mentioned before that the "Dressed" event was very well organized, I am making it share blogger space with one that wasn't so well organized, but was a good show none the less: Never Hide, presented by Ray-Ban....

Now you'd think, a concert thrown by the guys from Ray-Ban would be not only organized, it would be awesome, and it would involve free sunglasses! Now if you thought that you'd be wrong on at least two out of three of those assumptions. The event was a joint partnership between the sunglasses veterans and Death and Taxes Magazine, who were the people who were supposed to have the guestlist under control. The event was supposed to start at 7:30PM, but I didn't get out of work until 7pm that day, so by the time I got down to where it was (Santos Party House) there was a huge line around the corner (this would not be the last time I would see one of these lines at Santos this month), and I was quite certain all the people on the line were not getting in, because Santos isn't very big. I walked to the front of the line anyway. Why? To see if I knew anyone on the line of course! Turns out I ran into some buddies of mine from MyFreeConcert, who let me pull off a quick skip.

At this point however there were already a bunch of people inside and more people going up to the ONE PERSON that was controlling the list. Really guys? One person? He was so flustered, annoyed, and overwhelmed by the time we reached him, that all he did was ask whether we were on the list. When we responded with a yes, before we could tell him out last name he just gave us a stamp to get in, saying "it's crazy man I don't even care anymore!" Ok, fine by us. In we went...

The guys from Ray-Ban as well as the people from Death and Taxes Magazine didn't do any decorating, and they didn't have any free sunglasses either! Instead they had these weird frames that said 'Never Hide' on the top of the that you could stick your head through and/or take home. It was free so you know I took one! Tiger Beer and 42Below Vodka were on drinks duty that night and since the open bar only went until 9pm, and it was already after 8pm, we had some catching up to do. On to the performances?

I put a question mark there because I really only saw two performances before I had to cut the show short and head home; I had to get up early for work the next day. And let me just say, this whole work this is making it very difficult for me to party my way through New York City every night, but that's neither here nor there. When we first cracked the door the performance DJs known and Punches were on stage doing their thing. They play a lot of techno and some house, and their mic-man usually sings along to the songs that are playing. It's pretty much three guys on stage playing songs they like and dancing to it. You get the feeling that they couldn't care less whether you were enjoying yourself too, because they sure were!

After they were done dancing around and sort of including the crowd sometimes, it was on to the first band, who are a musical duo by the name of Javelin. One guy is playing the drum kit (YES!) and the other guy has a microphone and a bass guitar (as well as a sampler), and they just play these awesome songs and sing them! The drummer plays these really fun upbeat drumlines and the lead singer will sing all kinds of stuff, from their own stuff to just randomly covering other artists (like Lauryn Hill and even Lil Wayne). The boys from Brooklyn know how to move a crowd, that's for sure. It was funny to see people's reactions to these guys because I feel like most of the people in attendance didn't really know what to expect, myself included. But once everyone heard the 80s beats emanating from the drum kit (YES!) and the random vocals and electronic background coming from the lead singer, they couldn't help but dance. I dare you to listen to "On It On It" and try not to dance. I'm listening to it right now as I type this and I'm dancing in my seat! If you've never heard these guys perform or ever heard any of their stuff I would suggest giving them a listen, they are just flat out fun, and they really rocked Santos that night. I left soon after they were done with their show and was walking out with a few girls who were Javelin fans, and they couldn't have but complain about the performance. Apparently they did a "whole bunch of covers and new songs instead of their older better stuff." I thought their performance was great but apparently it's not nearly their best, according to the disappointed fans. That's awesome! Now I have something to look forward to the next time I see them. Woohoo!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jadakiss @ Apple Store Soho, June 14, 2011

Hey so guess what? I went and saw Jadakiss for FREE on Tuesday! Unbelievable. Apparently Apple is good for something. It has been brought to my attention that the Apple Store Soho has free in-store shows from time to time there. This month is Black Music Month so they've been showcasing hip-hop and R&B acts (last week they had Miguel performing). This particular Tuesday however belonged to the legit hip-hop fans, because Jadakiss was the featured artist and he ripped it with a short but sweet set in their performance space upstairs.

It's actually quite easy to go to one of the Apple Store Soho shows. All you have to do is go on the Apple Store Soho's website and look up the schedule for upcoming artists. The wristbands to go to the show are available usually by the day before, so you can just stop in and get one, then show up to the show at the specific time (usually 7pm) and prepare to rock out. You're welcome.

We all filed upstairs after waiting on the line downstairs for a bit. After we got upstairs and waited some more out came Jadakiss, one of the greatest and most underrated rappers in rap history. He's promoting his new album Top 5 - Dead Or Alive, but he did a bunch of tracks off of his all ready released mixtape I Love You: A Dedication to My Fans. His first track was Hold You Down, featuring Emanny, who was in the house providing the vocals for the chorus. Jada went into a mini lady's segment, going straight from that to "How I Feel," but then reminiscing of friends past with "In These Streets."

The whole time I was heading to the Soho store I was wondering whether Jada's usual partner in crime Styles P would be in attendance. He was. He came out to a rousing response and was joined by Chynk Show, as they really started things up with "Lay 'Em Down." They went line for line as they've now become famous for, with Chynk rapping the chorus. Jada had another one of his friends in the back, Fred The Godson. Fred joined the two former Lox members on stage and they performed "Toast To That". Don't worry Jada fans, Jada did manage to squeeze in his club banger "Who's Real," and even found time for him and Styles to do their most famous duet, "We Gon' Make It," which from the intro of the song came quite close to tearing the roof off of the Apple store!

Jadakiss is not a very over hyped guy while on stage, but he commands a stage with a sort of quiet presence, and his delivery of lyrics is impeccable. He finished his set by doing a song acapella, something the lay person would call a 'freestyle', it definitely wasn't that, but it was still amazing. Jadakiss has still got it, even after 2 decades in the business, and I'm looking forward to hearing the tracks on that new album. All true hip-hop fans should run out and get it when it drops.

Bacardi Like It Live NY @ Terminal 5, June 13, 2011

I write this update and I'm a bit disappointed in myself. Why? Because I didn't see all of the artists performing Monday night, so this review is going to be lacking and really a bit unfair to the people who I didn't really get to see. However, to make myself look a little bit better, I will be blaming the guys from Bacardi for missing on a couple acts. Basically, Bacardi through a near perfect event, and really the only reason it wasn't perfect was because there were so many things to distract you from seeing artists that I actually ended up missing a couple! Here's what happened...

The ticketing system for this show was brilliantly done. You signed up yourself plus one and then they emailed you a pair of tickets. That's it. You print it out, bring it to the show, and you're good to go. So I did that, and everything went great. Terminal 5 is an awesome space, but I found out Monday night that it's definitely much bigger than I thought it was. Upon my entering of T5 DJ Tamara Sky was warming things up with some party tracks, and there was a bar in the back (of the first floor) with free Bacardi rum, in different flavors of course. I found out later that every floor had free Bacardi, but I guess that was to be expected.

Bacardi Like It Live is a Facebook 'contest' that involves people clicking the Like button on certain things on Bacardi's page. The particular thing with the most votes gets to be brought to life by Bacardi. Here's an example: Bacardi asked it's fans whether they like old school video games or new school video games. Of course they chose old school, so they unveiled an arcade INSIDE of T5 with all kinds of old school games like Ms. PacMan and Galaga! They also had Marvel Vs. Capcom, which I don't really consider old school, but it definitely is one of my favorite games (I'm a Street Fighter guy) so I spent quite some time playing it. This would represent one of the distractions stopping me from seeing the performance of one of the artists, we'll get to that. Aside from the video games Bacardi had a half-pipe on stage, complete with skateboarders and Bikers doing tricks, and even a t-shirt maker on the roof where you could make your very own custom t-shirts. Yes that's right kids, Bacardi turned T5 into a boozy, musical adult funhouse, where everything was free. Woohoo!

So now that I've set the stage for you let's get to the performances. I already mentioned Tamara Sky was playing when I arrived; after her DJ Irie (who was also doing some hosting) jumped on the steel wheels and started playing some tracks as well. After he was done he introduced the first performance of the night, Eklips and DJ Mouss all the way from France. These guys are awesome; they're pretty much a performance DJ duo. Eklips is on the mic hyping up the crowd with DJ Mouss spins some hot tracks. Every so often though Eklips would tell Muss to "PULL UP" so that he could do a little beatboxing. His beatboxing is amazing by the way, managing to both sing/rap and do the beat at the same time, sort of like Rahzel (but definitely not as great as he is). Their performance was high energy and a lot of fun, because they know music and know how to read a crowd. Eklips also does a very good Busta Rhymes impersonation, beatboxing (and rapping) "Look At Me Now," before letting Mouss just play it instead. It's been a while since I've heard performance DJs play and I've had so much fun. I really could only think about Black Chiney from out of Florida, and that was almost 10 years ago when I saw them absolutely destroy a party at Miami. This was a great way to start things off.

After these guys were done though me and my friend decided to venture upstairs (to the rooftop lounge) and see if we could get some free custom t-shirts. This proved to not be such a good idea for Mr. Blogger over here. There was a long line upstairs, and by the time I made it to the t-shirts the only sizes they had left were XL and up. Umm, no. I realized that I was possibly missing an artist so I ran downstairs, only to find that Aloe Blacc was performing, his last song. I've been told by friends of mine that Aloe Blacc is awesome and has a great sound and since they started talking him up I've been trying to see him live. I've gotten a couple of chances to see him at shows but never made it to the show, and this time I was actually at the venue, and still managed to miss him! Upon my return to the inside he was just beginning his biggest track to date, "I Need A Dollar," which is the first single off his album Good Things, and you might have heard it as the opening theme song for the HBO show "How to Make it in America," which of course stars a certain Kid Cudi (it all comes full circle doesn't it?). It's a great song and really you can pick up on what kind of an artist he is just from listening to it. His voice is very soulful and very deep for his look, and his sound matches it to a tee. Hopefully I will get another chance in the near future to actually hear this guy out, I owe him that much.

After he finished up it was on to my next distraction, Marvel Vs. Capcom. I spent the next 45 minutes to an hour playing against various other fans of the game, all the while pretty much missing the entire performance of rapper Childish Gambino. If you've never heard of Gambino it's because he normally goes by Donald Glover, the overly talented former writer for Saturday Night Live and now stars in the NBC show "Community." Believe it or not, he's actually a very good rapper, and not every song is a joke. The songs are very well thought out and quite clever, but of course I missed his entire performance shooting fireballs at kids and using my Dragon Punch. In hindsight I'm more upset about missing this performance than Aloe Blacc, because the chances of me seeing Aloe perform are higher I think than getting another chance to see Gambino, but hey, I've been surprised before. If you get a chance to see Glover do his music thing, please do; it will surprise you how good he is.

Not to be outdone by Glover was the headliner of the show, Scott Mescudi, BKA Kid Cudi. This part of the show I did not miss, and I'm glad I didn't. Kid Cudi is a musician, not really a rapper and not really a singer. He makes music that is really trippy, with techno and house baselines but of course can flow over a hip-hop beat if need be. His shows are very enjoyable and energy-filled, something I learned seeing him a few days ago at the Heineken GOOD Music show in Brooklyn. Clearly this set was to be much longer than his 3 or 4 song set for Heineken, and of course it was well received.

The difference here was the fact that pretty much everyone in attendance was a fan of the musicians on the card, as opposed to the Heineken event, where only a handful of fans got a chance to go. T5 was filled to capacity for Cudi's performance, and those that lasted this long were in for a treat. The thing about Kid Cudi is that his music is technically an acquired taste. When listening to him I see why someone could really like his stuff, but at the same time I can see why someone would dislike it as well. I am one of the people that really likes this guy's stuff, so I'm glad I got a full out performance from him.

He touched on both of his albums, and I doubt there was anyone in T5 that left disappointed. The Man on the Moon did "Soundtrack 2 My Life," "Solo Dolo," and "Alive." From the second album he blessed the fans with "Revofev," "We Aite (Wake Your Mind Up)," and "Marijuana," even amidst rumors that he quit smoking the stuff. The jury is still out on that by the way. He dropped a plethora of hits, even dabbling in "Mr. Rager" and somehow finding time to throw in his mega-smash "Day N Nite," all before ending his awesome and powerful set with his great track "Pursuit of Happiness," which I'm starting to think is the song he usually ends on, and I can't fault him for that.

The show finished in the wee hours of the night (the doors opened at 9pm and I didn't get in until minutes to 10pm) and everyone was so tired from partying that I'm quite certain that no one had any complaint by the end of the night. Just when you thought Bacardi couldn't have done any better they had their Bacardi girls handing out bottles of water to people upon their exit. How nice are those guys?! I'm hoping to go to at least one more Bacardi event this summer, and if it's anything like this, I may be crowning them the new kings of the party...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Heineken Red Star Soul @ Skylight One Hanson, June 9, 2011

Now as many of you know and maybe some of you don't, I was not going to review this show. Of course the reason being the fact that up until a couple days ago, I wasn't going to the show because I didn't get tickets. Why didn't I, a master of getting free tickets, get tickets to a Heineken show. Well let's analyze that first. I'm going to apologize in advance for how long this review is, but I feel like venting about this entire Heineken ordeal...

Now if you've been reading my blog since the beginning, you would know how I feel about the party throwers and PR people from Heineken, they are (or at least WERE) the reigning champions of the event. Last year they threw the coolest hip-hop concert of the year in New York City, complete with performances by Nas and Cee-Lo, lots of free food, and of course, free Heineken until your eyes bleed. The best part was how easy it was for people to access the show: send a text message to a number, after that you're added to the list. On the day of the show they text you with the venue and the time and you go and party it up. Brilliant. It really couldn't have been done more perfect. This year's show was nothing like that.

Heineken's Facebook page was filled with nothing but useless "updates" from Heineken on how you could get access to this year's show, which of course featured GOOD Music's own Kanye West. Everyone thought that the party masters Heineken would do a sort of RSVP thing that they did last year. Heineken up until a couple weeks ago weren't very clear as to how it would be done so there was no reason for people to think otherwise. Come to find out the only way you were going to get into this secret Kanye show was to win tickets on Hot97! Yes, the radio station! Hot97 was apparently giving away 12 sets of four tickets and you had to call in and win them, and that was the only way any actual Kanye fans would have gotten to go. Terrible right?

It was so terrible and Heineken got so much backlash from it (on their Facebook page) that they decided to give out 50 more pairs of tickets through an email contest basically the day before the show. Maybe they should have done that from the get go? It doesn't matter, because it was quite clear from the way it was set up that most of the people that were going to be in attendance were people who worked for Heineken, friends of those people, or other corporate sponsors. What a difference a year makes right? While I was actually at the show I randomly asked people I ran into at the venue, how they managed to get in. All but one person was a worker with Heineken or a friend of someone who works at Hot97, etc. Unfair indeed. Having said that, of course, I got tickets the same way. I know someone who had an extra ticket and they were nice enough to pass it to me. Off I go to the venue, which was apparently in Downtown Brooklyn?!

Skylight One Hanson is owned by the people who own Skylight Soho, a really awesome event space down in the Soho area, obviously. The Brooklyn version is a gigantic residential luxury apartment building with a huge event space inside that held the show. After checking in with the guestlist and getting my wristband I made my entrance, and it was about as nice as I'd come to be accustom to with Heineken and their stuff. Skylight One Hanson has high ceilings, maybe over 70 feet high. It looks like an antique building and kind of resembles a train station (a la Atlantic Terminal, which is across the street). There was free Heineken all over the place, as well as free hotdogs, but that was the only free food they had on hand. There was also a downstairs lounge are with couches and you could order Heineken by the bucket, and watch the Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks on one of the many HD TVs. I cannot tell a lie, the set up was amazing. On to the performances...

The early warm-up DJ was DJ Mano, who I'm told is Kanye's new DJ. He was warming things up with the hip-hop tracks getting people into the party mood. It probably would have been more fun had their been less suits and more actual hip-hop fans in attendance, but it happens. After him the artist known as Q-Tip took the stage, for a DJ set! Q-Tip isn't as good a mixer as Mano, but he of course played a whole lot of older tracks that people hadn't heard in a while. Both DJ sets were good, but nothing to write home about.

After Q-Tip finished up, the host for the evening came out to introduce the man of the night. The host being Aziz Ansari of course, who I always run into nowadays at events or just in the street! He came out and announced everyone who was in attendance, and that we should prepare for some GOOD Music. Out of some serious smoke and lights came the headliner, Kanye West! I was rather surprised because I was expecting there to be some opening acts, but they set it up so everyone got a chance to rock through out the night. It is now I think I should touch on something else that made me angry about this show. The space like I said before was quite large, and looked even larger because of the ridiculously high ceilings. The unfortunate thing with ceilings this high is that it can create acoustic problems if the speakers aren't up to par, and for the microphones, they weren't. In fact, I can't think of a show I've been to in my life, with worse sounding microphones than this show last night! Seriously! I could barely hear anything anyone was saying. It was pure echo, and not the good kind, like screaming down a long hallway with a beat behind it. Honestly if it wasn't for the recognizable beats no one would be able to decipher what song was being performed by the artists on stage. It upset me because I thought, did they even do a sound check, at all? They went to so much trouble for everything associated with the show and spent so much time on not letting fans in that they forgot to pick a venue with better sound?! Man, that really made me angry. Despite the best efforts of Heineken though, Kanye West cannot be denied...

He came out and opened with a little ditty called "Dark Fantasy," and from there he was off and running. The hit-maker did "Power" then "Jesus Walks," and then introduced Pusha T! Pusha came out and rocked it a bit, doing "My God" and "Grinding," but despite the fact that his perfomance was filled with energy like the one I saw of him the day before (FlashFWD II), the crowd I guess weren't as into it as we were on Wednesday. I chalk this up to the lack of hip-hop fans in the house. Pusha made his exit and out came Cyhi Da Prynce. He did a couple tracks before he was joined by Kanye and Pusha T and they did "So Appalled."

They exited after to give Mr. Hudson some room to do his thing. He did a couple songs before finishing with "Forever Young," which made people in the crowd think that maybe Jay-Z would come out and help him finish up? It was not to be. Big Sean was the next GOOD Music artists to bumrush the stage. He's probably besides Pusha T my favorite of Kanye's signings. Also it's great his name is Big Sean when he happens to be maybe 5'5 and like 120 pounds soaking wet! Either way he did a couple tracks as well, and finishing up with his big song "My Last," which features Chris Brown (who I hate, so I'm glad he wasn't there).

The last guest artist to make it out was my boy Kid Cudi! He came out to a raucous response from the crowd and jammed out with "Pursuit of Happiness" and a couple other solo tracks before bringing back Yeezy, for a couple of duets: "Erase Me" and their smash hit "I Poke Her Face." From there however, Kanye took over the reigns and let the hits fly. He dropped "All Of The Lights" and "Flashing Lights," which was rather fitting because the lights at this show were so fitting that he really needed to drop any songs he had left in the bag about lights! He did some 'classics' like "All Falls Down," and even went into "Through The Wire," his first big single.

He reminded everyone to be wary of the "Gold Digger," and reminded us that he was indeed living the "Good Life." He didn't drop any songs that I remember off of the 808s & Heartbreak album, but I didn't really miss it, that was my least favorite album of his. He made his exit only to return for a quick curtain call, playing what looked like an MPC Sampler and putting together a performance of "Runaway," his self-loathing and self-praising track that marked his triumphant return to hip-hop so many months ago. To help him finish up Pusha T returned to do his verse in the song, and the GOOD Music night of terrible acoustics was over.

Honestly, despite the bureaucratic set up to get tickets, and the horrible, horrible sound coming from the mics, the show was still great. Kanye is an awesome performer, and even though he didn't sound good there were moments where you didn't care at all. He's a repeated hit maker with a lot of great talent in tow, and with a bunch of GOOD Music shows already booked for this summer (with Heineken no less), I don't think this is the last time we'll be seeing Mr. West in the building. But hopefully it's the last time we see him in THIS building...

FlashFWD 20II @ Gramercy Theatre, June 8, 2011

SOUNDCTRL to Major Tom! Your boy is back with a new review (finally). This one comes from the middle of Internet Week, and was presented by SOUNDCTRL and Fuse TV, called FlashFWD II. It's essentially an award ceremony for companies making an impact on the future of music through different types of technologies, which of course is why they would have such a ceremony during Internet Week. I wouldn't be covering this event for you guys if of course, they didn't have some artists perform, and you bet they did!

Now before we get into the artists, let's discuss the confusion with this event. First of all, the ticket says it starts at 7PM. That's not a big deal right? That is until you take into consideration that the flyer says the award ceremony starts at 8:30PM, and the actual performances start at 10:30PM. The flyer also makes a mention to the open bar (which was sponsored by Corona and Absolut). So we decide that since this is a bit confusing, we will get there around 8PM, so there is really no way we could be wrong on both the flyer and the ticket. We got there around then, and decided to go somewhere and get a bite to eat. Again, everything seems to be fine so far. We get back to the entrance of Gramercy Theatre at about 8:30PM only to find out that "the place is at capacity right now for the awards, and they will be reopening the doors at 10PM." Awful. So we then decided to kill sometime and return to line up and wait to get in, in the 90 degree scorching heat that was Wednesday night. When we finally get in, at minutes to 10:30PM, apparently the open bar was only until 10PM, and it started at 7PM. Ohhh! Now it makes sense! Oh well, no big deal, I was there for the music anyway; it wasn't really until the last minute that I even found out there might have been free drinks, so I wasn't really stressing about it.

One good thing about these guys though was that they were on time. The host came on stage and announced the first act, Break Science, at 10:30PM on the dot! That was nice of them to not keep the patrons waiting. Break Science are a musical producer duo that consists of a DJ and a drummer, and they play home-made remixes of songs that people know and perform it live, with said drummer putting up the back ground beats. It's actually a really cool recipe for awesome sounding music, remix songs everyone likes then add some more bassline to it; sounds good to me. They made songs more like techno, more hip-hop, and even turned a couple hip-hop tracks into dubstep. Yay Dubstep! This was great because I happened to be in the venue with my dance crew FireCry, and we LOVE dubstep; it's awesome music to dance to.

After they rocked it they brought out a band and a DJ and the DJ started playing some party tracks. He asked us, "Are you guys ready for Ryan Leslie?" Everyone cheered. We however didn't, we knew he wasn't coming out: When I showed up to the venue Mr. Leslie was just arriving. Nice, showing up early and hanging out, or so we thought. By the time we were standing on line waiting to get in at around 9:30PM, Ryan exited Gramercy and got in the SUV that brought him there; it then drove off. Needless to say, the next act on stage was Pusha T...

Pusha T is the Bronx born Virginia based rapper who represents one-half of the rap duo Clipse, with his brother Malice. Pusha is riding a new wave of popularity since he got mixed up with the one Kanye West and his GOOD Music record label. Even though he hasn't released any albums under the label yet, he's dropped quite a few singles and we can expect an album forthcoming. With that said, Pusha's got a few hits, but like I've mentioned before, it takes quite a bit for a rapper to perform and actually make me say that he's a good performer. Having said that, Pusha T is awesome live! Let's analyze this...

He has the on-stage antics down pat: great breathing so he doesn't miss any lyrics, lot's of energy, crowd interaction, and quite possibly the best rapper "lean back" I've ever seen in real life! Pusha's rap style is essentially southern, but with a northern twist, and his topics? Well his name is Pusha, so, it's about drugs, more specifically coke. He's been rapping about cocaine for as long as I've known of him, even back when he was in the Clipse, but he's somehow managed not to make it monotonous. Just about every rapper has rapped about growing up in a rough neighborhood and "hustling" to make money, but I'm not sure if they've managed to mention drugs for as long as Pusha has, and definitely not as well as he has.

He went through a bunch of songs, touching on his big tracks with Kanye ("So Appalled" and "Runaway") and even took some time out to do my jam "Grinding," which of course is a song he did when he was with Clipse. For the most part though Pusha was concerned with people hearing his new stuff from his newest mixtape "Fear of God," which has quite a few great tracks on it. He went through quite a few of them, like "Cook It Down," and my personal favorite "Open Your Eyes," which was produced by Nottz and features a sample of the great Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody." He also did "Feeling Myself" unrehearsed, a fun party track that features singer/songwriter Kevin Cossom. He closed his amazing energy filled performance with "My God," and left the crowd hyped up for Ryan Leslie to close, and left at least one blogger (myself) in awe at how amazing of a live performer this guy is. If you get a chance to see a Pusha T show, please do so, if you're a fan of hip-hop you won't regret it.

Now Pusha T was backed by a band AND a DJ. This of course added to the awesomeness of his performance. It was only right though, because multi-instrumentalist, rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and musical ninja Ryan Leslie was about to take the stage. Lucky for us he had a tough act to follow. He did pretty well though!

They brought out a piano and a couple extra keyboards in anticipation for the music genius to arrive. He started on the piano and began playing a song, and softly serenaded the crowd with "I Choose You," which of course erupted into a full out production where he jumped up from his seat at the piano and started jamming out. He of course utilized all instruments before him, as you would guess. Ryan Leslie is a true musician, a musician's musician if you will. He has a sort of Prince talent but a vibe not unlike Ray Charles (he always wears sunglasses and makes gestures sort of like Ray did). He has plenty of videos up on Youtube where he shows himself making many of his famous tracks, with possibly his most famous video being the making of his hit song "Addiction," which he of course performed on Wednesday night. He called out singer Mr. Hudson so they could do their track "Breathe," which of course had a big finish with Mr. Hudson showing off that he has a little bit of instrument manipulation himself, by playing the drums while Ryan did the verses. The main background music was coming from Ryan's DJ, who bore a striking resemblance to rapper Tinie Tempah (it wasn't him). Needless to say, I was quite captivated by his performance; seeing him live is like seeing three or four really good musicians at once. He performed "Beautiful Lie," and finished strong as well with his big track "Diamond Girl." I thought it was a great performance, I however was told otherwise...

I spoke to a friend of mine afterwards who was rather disappointed with his performance. Apparently he usually performs with what can only be described as an "amazing band," but on Wednesday night he was on stage alone with his DJ. This apparently was not acceptable to a few people in the audience, who'd come to know Ryan as an amazing performer who is out of this world live. I've never seen him perform prior to Wednesday, and like I said I thought he was amazing, which is great because apparently when I see him REALLY do his thing I'm in for a treat. I suppose I now have something more to look forward to! FlashFWD was an awesome show and I'm sure the award ceremony went off without a hitch. Internet week has been a fun one indeed and I'm really looking forward to upcoming shows this summer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yo Clint ZER0, where you been?!

Sorry readers, I've been a bit MIA on the blog updates. Trust it's not because I haven't been running around and going to shows, because I have. I've seen quite a few great artists in the past couple of weeks, to the tune of Apache Beat, Caveman (who are just AWESOME), and even a special performance by Nas! I've also gotten to see some great DJ sets, ranging from the Brooklyn band The Drums (whose selection of music is a bit out there, to say the least) all the way to straight up turntable veterans like Rich Medina.

Now you're probably thinking, why haven't you been writing about these awesome shows? Honestly because I wasn't really in coverage mode at most of these events, so I hate to review a show without paying attention fully to what's going on. I will do better for you guys, my readers, and my future readers! Coming up very soon is a review of a show I went to tonight, with performances from Pusha T and Ryan Leslie! Don't worry guys, Clint ZER0 is back!