Tracking down a copy of the Crown City Rockers' Earthtones in this town is like investigating an urban legend. Everybody's listened to it, but nobody actually has a copy, though everyone knows a guy who does. Ben Cater didn't have one, but he built it up huge like the story of Candyman: "That CD is in my top 10, all time," he says. Seriously? "Yeah, dude." I couldn't decide if that was honesty or club-owner salesmanship. Then he called back: "Uh, like top 25. Top 10 sounds like I'm gushing too much." So it was honesty, I guess. He paused again, "But, like, in the last five years? Yeah, top 10."
Unified Groove Merchants didn't have it either. Tony Brown told me, "We get five and they'll be gone, then get five more and they'll be gone." I asked him about what Cater said (top 10, all time). "I wouldn't go that far," He said, laughing, then added, "In the last five years, though, it's up there. It's got that fresh, fun vibe that's [often] missing."
It's also funky and soulful (I eventually heard it -- from a friend -- but never did land my own copy). They're a live group, meaning they still have beats, but they also fold in live drums, a bass player and a keyboardist. I talked to Crown City's MC, Raashan Ahmad, about how he and his band mates rock a party, which they'll do Saturday night at the B-Side.
On the dynamics of MCing with a live band: "It's my favorite thing in the world. I thank these cats all the time for letting me rock with them. It's amazing. All the musicians went to Berkley School of Music, and they've been playing music since pre-double-digits. Coming from an MC standpoint, I need to have the crowd with me. Having a band behind you does that. When it all gels, there's like this big ball of energy."
On live Hip-Hop's audience: "We can play places I could never had gone without a band. We can go and rock it like a funk festival or like a jazz caf & eacute; or an underground Hip-Hop spot. We can rock all those different types of parties, which is, in a sense, broader [than traditional Hip-Hop]. A lot of people who come to our shows are like, "I don't usually like Hip-Hop," but they can see elements that they like that they can see on stage. That opens up the spectrum even more."
On live Hip-Hop as a gateway for indie kids: "Definitely, man, and it's crazy. I can't even explain it. It has something to do with instruments, but at the same time it has something to do with positive Hip-Hop, and a lot of people not being exposed to, you know, positive Hip-Hop. We've got hippie jam kids rocking out with us. It embodies a certain spirit of what Hip-Hop was when it first started out, which was partying, having fun and raising some social awareness."
On Boston's (recently exploded) underground scene: "It's so great when I see cats like Edan and [Mr.] Lif, Akrobatik and Fakts One really, really exploding because, you know, they haven't really changed much. It's just, now other people have gotten to the point where these cats have always been.
"The very first EP we pressed up had a track that was produced by Edan on it, you know, and it was at his dorm. It's cool remembering that and then seeing these cats up on billboards and hearing people talk about them."
On what he took from Boston as an MC: "My big brother raps, so whenever I'd rap [in Pasadena], people were like, 'Whoa, look, Dean's little brother is rapping.' [Boston] made me step up my game. The intensity and how much these cats really, really got into it made me realize how fun it was. More than anything else. I was like, 'Ah, man that's right, this is fun - this so much fun.'
On whether I'll finally be able to get my hands on a CD at the show: "Oh, yeah, man, we're bringing them with us."
Crown City Rockers play the HipHopolis Now! Festival at the B-Side with Eleven Eyes and MC Supervillain on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $10, at the door; $25 for the weekend. Visit www.ticketwest.com or call 325-SEAT.
Fun Like Animal Fights & r & The name alone ought to get the masses to Fat Tuesday's on Friday night -- if for no other reason than to investigate what kind of musicians dare assume the moniker Bear vs. Shark. For those in the know, BvS promises a righteous, frenetic, sonic and aural assault that falls within the parameters of screamo and post-hardcore, but transcends these very limited terms. BvS will be a sight to behold. The indie kids will love it; the emo kids will love it; the metal kids might crack a smile. Make sure you arrive early.
Though touring in support of this summer's Terrorhawk, it would be unfair and incomplete to judge the band by the studio work alone. Certainly the music will sound similar, an amalgamation of influences and interests as varied as Zep-style classic rock to Motown to the avant-garde post-rock sounds of At The Drive-In. In less capable hands, the result might be a muddled and muddy mess. For BvS frontman Marc Paffi, too much just isn't enough. When playing live, Paffi transforms into the musical equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil, a whirling dervish of screams and slobber unleashed into and upon the crowd. But his is a controlled kind of chaos, one that BvS exploits to the most pleasing end. The pounding drums crash around the driving guitars in an effort to keep pace with Paffi's cathartic wails. If the band manages to wreck itself in the process, it will be for the audience's benefit and delight.
Still something of an underground phenomenon, BvS stands on a precipice. The raw power of the live shows assures they won't remain out of the spotlight for much longer. Fat Tuesday's is a good venue to catch them: It's large enough to bring a good-sized crowd and small enough for BvS to mow them down. If all goes well, attendees can look forward to the most gorgeous kind of noise as a portent for the most beautiful kind of demolition. -- Carey Murphy
Bear vs. Shark at Fat Tuesday's with Fear Before the March of Flames, Since by Man and the Fall of Troy on Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 pm. Tickets: $8; $10, at the door. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.
Partner Swap & r & Parker Moosman, the Side Project's pianist, calls Tingstad & amp; Rumbel "healing music" as a way to sidestep the term "New Age." Healing music, though, still sounds like mysticism. The Recording Academy seems to agree, as Tingstad & amp; Rumbel's Acoustic Garden won the New Age Grammy in 2003. When the question is put to Eric Tingstad (the guitar to Nancy Rumbel's various woodwinds), though, he takes a hard line. "We're not New Age music," he says. "People think that, when something is quiet and instrumental, that's New Age." Quiet and instrumental, to him, doesn't offer the proper litmus test. "You can't find our CDs in crystal shops," he says, "We're not that woo-woo."
Woo-woo meaning, it seems, diffuse and formless, songs that contain no discernable structure or internal logic. With that rubric, Enya isn't New Age, either. (You can debate that among yourselves.) He explains his and Rumbel's work as "definitive compositions with a central lyrical melody." They are proper songs, not ambient textures. They have direction. They tell stories. "Nancy has always felt we had more folk sensibilities than anything else," says Tingel. Instrumental folk, then, not New Age.
Which isn't that far a cry from the Side Project's languid, soulful wine-glass pop -- a brand-new genre I'm coining based on the desire of SP's vocalist, Suzie Bradford, that people listen to them "over a glass of wine." It makes sense, then, that the groups would collaborate. Tingstad says he loves "tapping their youthful energy." What he tries to give to Side Project, as their friend and their manager, is a desire to push past the space they've assigned themselves and explore everything open to them: "Their melodies and lyrics don't need any help, but I'd love to see them take a few of their songs and put them into a pop form."
We'll get to see exactly what the collaboration has yielded this week at the Met, where the two bands are playing sets -- and each others' sets. "Nancy and I will do the first half of the show and Side Project will do the second," Tingstad explains. "But Ben [Bradford] will be doing a tune with us. So is Parker and so is Suzie. Then I'm doing two with them and Nancy is doing one." He pauses. Over the phone, I imagine him counting on his fingers or something, making sure he's listed them all. "And we're all going to do the last song together." -- Luke Baumgarten
The Side Project with Tingstad and Rumbel at the Met Theater on Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 pm. Tickets: $15. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.