Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Jneiro Jarel w/ Animate Objects and Berto Ramon @ Subterranean

It had been a while since I’d taken in a live hip-hop performance, so I was excited for a packed show at Subterranean. Chicago’s Berto Ramon was up first, and they came out blazin’. With ten members onstage, their style was punchy and direct. They remind me a bit of 2 Skinnee J’s, but in place of that irritating glam-rock influence, they bring a multi-cultural approach. Of those ten members, three are percussionists and one plays an electric violin. With representation from various types of ethnic backgrounds, they’d make quite the Benetton ad. The crowd fed off their energy and gave plenty back as well. My only complaint is that their guitarist was wearing an Ohio State hat. I realize they won a semifinal game that day, but, you know, screw them anyway.

Full disclosure time – I am friends with Animate Objects drummer Brian Derstine and I’ve seen them several times over the last few years, witnessing quite a progression from them during that time. After the popping energy from Berto Ramon, the Objects took things back a notch with a more loungy, jazzy approach. That’s not to say that things began to drag, on the contrary - the crowd was equally engaged. MCs CZAR Absolute and Wondur Wie adeptly passed vocals back and forth throughout the set, using their contrasting styles to give each song a certain ebb and flow. The peak of the set occurred when Charles Hammond Jr. joined the band to sing “Beautiful” with his voice carrying the melody and the entire band picking up the intensity. This doubled as a CD release party for their new album, Riding in Fast Cars with Your Momma. You can get your own copy here.

Headlining was NYC’s Jneiro Jarel. Now, generally when there’s a band coming in from out of town at one of these smaller-venue shows, the local band will headline, ensuring that their fans don’t all take off before the headliner does their set. This show served as an example of why that’s generally a good idea. About two thirds of the crowd had gone by the time Jarel hit the stage. The other problem was that he had one other guy with him and just beats coming from the turntable. After two tight bands with a lot of varying elements, it’s going to be hard for any crowd to get into two guys rapping over records. That’s just how it is. Jarel was clearly frustrated, asking the crowd to pay more attention. My friends wanted to leave, so we didn’t even stay to the end of the set.

Overall, it was a really good show. Is it possible that we could be seeing a comeback for hip-hop with actual musicians onstage? Let’s hope so. I’m sure there are probably plenty of other bands out there doing the same thing, playing shows about the same size, fighting the good fight. It’d be nice if the public got more interested in it. These two acts are well worth seeing.

No comments: