The Winnipeg International Jazz Fest is on right now and I’ve been to a few shows. Not as many as the organizers I know would like, I am sure, but more than I’ve been to in years. Now, when I say Jazz Fest don’t go thinking I’m off listening to Charlie Parker or anything like that. One of the things I like about the Jazz Fest is its non-traditionalness. So on Saturday I went to see some hip hop.
The opening act was a Winnipeg rap group called The Lytics. They were good classic kind of crowd-moving hip hop. The four MCs are all related and they had good flow and stuff. Fine opening act for Buck 65 (who does a much different style of hip hop himself), and one more appreciated by the crowd than the last Buck 65 show I went to where Cadence Weapon was greeted indifferently.
I am a big Buck 65 fan and he didn’t disappoint. His part of the show started with some technical difficulties (in that the laptop holding all his music wasn’t connecting to the sound system) but while people frantically tried to get it back to how it was for their sound check, he told a joke about a talking dog and then did an unaccompanied piece about being the mayor of the world whose life got all flipped over because of a run-in with a sexy sexy mannequin. Great stuff, and then things got working and it was even better.
One of the things I appreciate most about my favourite musical artists is the storytelling aspect to their work. Danny Michel does a great live show because he’s good at making the connection to the audience in between songs. For me, Buck 65′s songs themselves are the connection. He did his hits and he did stuff I’d never heard before and it was great. The loops for Roses and Blue Jays were based on the theme to Twin Peaks, which was awesome.
As always I felt a little like as an audience we let him down. Near the beginning he did this raspy “Winnipeg. Winnipeg. Winnipeg.” into the mic and after a couple of repetitions he had to ask if we knew what he was referencing. I don’t know how to have told him that some of us got it. It was the same thing that happened last time I was at one of his shows when he made a baseball reference and no one got it. He had a woman named Valerie helping him out on some songs and she was good. The crowd really liked her so maybe that makes up for missing the Guy Maddin bit.
Then two nights ago I went to see Deerhoof, who I’d never seen. Deerhoof is hard to explain. They use a lot of weird offbeats and noise combined with poppy nonsense lyrics from their Japanese-accented singer. I really like them and their show was very bouncy. I’m glad I saw them.
Deerhoof’s opening act was Mahogany Frog who were really good. The MC introduced them as “Winnipeg’s Prog Rock Gods” and there was a bit of that Godliness to them. They came on and used their keyboards drums and guitars to make really neat noise for however long their set was. No words, just these mutating sounds. There were a few slight dips in the sound (resembling the ends of songs) where people could applaud but they barely acknowledged that there even was an audience at all. They were creator deities concentrating on making art not on the mere adulation of mortals. It was really cool. And at the end of their set none of the mics were on so no one could hear the bass player thank the crowd (and spoil the illusion).
After Deerhoof, Questlove from the Roots came in for a DJ set. It was funny watching the demographics of the room shift for the after party. I couldn’t afford tickets to see The Roots, so this was as close as I got. He played some good stuff, barely any of which I’d ever heard before. People were having a good time.
Except for this one couple. Oh they were intriguing. They were a guy and a girl, the guy who looked like a bit of an MBA kind of jerk, who looked tipsy and self-satisfied with his cleverness. The woman was much shorter and sharper, very thin with glasses and severe eyebrows. I think I’d seen her before at the last 1234V launch party. The guy was talking to her and she was talking back with periodic looks of disgust. He’d swoop in right next to her ear like he was going to kiss her neck but just talk because it was loud in there. And then she’d talk back, emphasizing her points with jabs of her finger, while he had a “Yeah, whatever” kind of look on his face. Then she’d walk away into the crowd of people and then he’d follow her or she’d come back to say “And another thing…” This continued for at least an hour. I wanted to tell her that arguing with a drunk guy isn’t going to win anything. It was lots of fun to watch though, especially when other guys came along and were doing the “Is this guy bothering you?” bit, because she was pretty hot. She stared those guys down and maybe talked about what a douchebag her boyfriend was being, but refused to stop arguing with him. I bet I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much if I could have heard them. As it was, they were a nice diversion from watching Questlove do his thing.