Friday, October 2, 2009

Mos/Def K'Naan, ACLTV, Last Night

Well I've been trying to figure out how I'm gonna play this, given that it is ACL Festival weekend. One route to take would be to let you know who to see when and where but I just feel like there is a glut of that sort of information as it is. So I'll tell you about the Austin City Limits Television taping I saw last night. Let's talk about the past because the future is scary and Back to the Future 2 filled us all with unrealistic hopes/desires/expectations.

Last night, Austin City Limits Television studio was recognized by the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame as a landmark venue, integral to the narrative of Rock. There was a ceremony outside a plaque was unveiled, it was all very beautiful and moving. Well, not really but it was pretty cool in a ceremonial sort of way. That was followed by ACL TV's first, ever, foray into hip-hop. It was a split taping, which I'd never been to before, with Somalian-native K'Naan taking the first set and, the legendary, Mos Def taking the second set.

K'Naan - Somalia video via YouTube

The rest of the review is after the jump...

I had heard a lot of good buzz about K'Naan, he played a powerhouse SXSW showcase for NPR in March, but I still hadn't actually heard his music. After last night, I must say he stole the show. I was WAY more excited to see Mos Def before the taping and after the taping I was only thinking about K'Naan. His energy was so humble and his songs were uplifting and interesting. I would say it's somewhat like Manu Chao crossed with the Roots. There was some sampling used in the songs but it was mostly live instrumentation, including a really beautiful, acoustic/spoken word version of the track posted above.

Between sets was a drawn out process but my side of the crowd was really cool. We had someone who spontaneously organized the wave in our section. There was also a dance-off of sorts, which resulted in a couple's dance-off, which resulted in the whole crowd applauding and cheering. Did I mention there was free beer as well? Also, at one point I def smelled Mary Jane, I didn't SEE anyone smoking but i could smell it. That's a pretty risky/stupid maneuver IMHO but this is America...wait a minute that's illegal isn't it?

When Mos Def did come out, he was much shorter than I expected, he was also wearing a baseball cap, which obscured his face. He didn't really look at or speak to the crowd but, rather, walked directly to a drum kit and started playing standing up. In lieu of a full band, Mos came with 2 DJ's and the drum kit. After the first number the drums weren't really used much. He mostly did songs from his latest album, with a couple of brand new songs thrown in as well. He did loosen up a lot and did a Michael Jackson tribute, he took off the cap and jacket. He was sporting, too-short vintage tux pants, with argyle socks and some killer loafers. Not to mention some vintage-looking, asymmetrica, ivory suspenders. Accessories gentlemen, invest.

I'm, generally, pretty critical of live hip-hop as I find the sound-mixing has to be, pretty much, perfect if you want the crowd to hear/understand the emcee. In person, the best hip-hop acts I've seen, not-necessarily in order, are Jurassic 5, the Roots, and Nas. I have also seen Mos Def AND Talib Kweli as well as many others but they do not make my list, which is amazing to me because I would rank Mos & Talib's Black Star albums as ONE OF my favorite albums from any genre. Last night, at ACLTV, Mos's energy was flat. The sound-mixing is always superb at ACL but he still sounded lost in the mix as some points, which MIGHT have something to do with the DJ's each having their own mixers. Also, Mos's crowd-interaction, while not totally absent, still left a bit to be desired. It should also be mentioned that following K'Naan almost any artist might seem indifferent to their audience. K was telling stories and joking with the crowd, he got everyone to sing along to a song that I'm guessing most of us had never heard and it didn't feel disingenuous to me. That's saying a lot.

I still <3 Mos Def - Freestyling video via YouTube

People ask me how I get into ACLTV tapings and it's easier than you might think. I'll go through it for you though so we can hang out in line and talk about Twitter while we have indie-rock pissing contests. (It's funny 'cause it's true. BTW I totally saw that band before you did.)

So the first thing to do is troll the ACLTV Blog, here's the RSS, it's way easier for dorks like me. They'll post links for "Space Available Ticket" Giveaways. So, you just drop your name and e-mail address into the mysterious and magical interwebworks. Then bottle up all of your ACLTV hopes and dreams and put them under your pillow.

If you've done everything correctly in the bottling process and placed the bottle at an angle towards the western point of Orion's belt then you'll recieve an E-Mail from April Buchannan (Or possibly someone else, who know?) YAY!! She'll give you the low down on the who, when, where and, possibly, why. The where is diagonally across the street from Hole in the Wall but parking is less-than adequate, shall we say?

Now I'd advice you stand in line for at least 90 minutes before they pass out tickets. The cool part though, is you get two numbers and two tickets based on where you are in line. Then you can go do whatever for a couple of hours until the show, at which point you have your number in line. It's a smart system that should be adopted everywhere, including the deli at my local groceryplexmart.

Finally you are inside without any recording devices, your cell phone off and free beer(s) in hand(s). Now, try not to get kicked out and if you MUST get booted, for the love God, make a scene.

By the way, if you've made it this far in the post then thank you and congratulations you have a long attention span (At least for 2009). I just wanted to mention if you WERE looking here for the glut of Where2 and What2, may I suggest you check my fellow Austin Blogoratti on the side panel right? ---->