Low End Theory at the Airliner, Eagle Rock
Feb. 29, 2012
A roster such as this at Low End Theory is one not to go unnoticed. Having the Bjork-Lee Perry hybrid of the western United States' beat culture Gonjasufi perform with manufacturer of skull cracks and broken necks the Gaslamp Killer is akin to a musical séance. Not just that, but rounding out the bill were Brainfeeder's Jeremiah Jae, newcomer Dot, and the usual suspects of Low End stalwarts.
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The OGs of the scene, visionaries Daddy Kev and D-Styles, began the night's brain jostling festivities with short, perfectly fluid sets rooted in hip-hop. The two craftsmen began the set by giving the audience members a basic representation of what constitutes a night out for Eagle Rock's Low End Theory. With the exception of D-Styles' inimitable scratching, there was nothing over the top, overbearing, or flashy about their productions. Instead, that flair and crowd-hyping was left to the battle-rhyme ready linguistic barbs from the night's MC, Nocando.
When the clock and Nobody's moment aligned, the first rounds of mass sweat evaporation and sardine-style packing began. Nobody can always be counted on to take an approach rooted in the music street singles (yes, there's some yelling obnoxious phrases over mixtapes in there). If you want to listen to that new SODMG acolyte Souljah Boy signed, or you actually take stock in what Lil B blasts from his twitter, Nobody is it. It's astonishingly fun to watch him perform. There's even a hint of emotion-bingeing crooner The Weeknd in the scroungy-haired auteur of revel-in-ignorance rap's set.
To celebrate her EP release on beat scene institution Alpha Pup Records, Dot hit the stage for her very first LET appearance. Her mix of carnival crunk and nod-inducing beats ensured that everyone's attention was focused directly on her. From the beginning, her music (working with the visuals behind her) created an atmosphere of circus-like psychedelia. E-40 may have psychedelic jewelry, but Dot has psychedelic everything in her everything.
Jeremiah Jae and the start of Gaslamp Killer's brutal multi-duty followed. Through his recorded work Jae has made quite the fan out of me, and seeing him performing live forced me to make the mental note of adding him to my unwritten list of genuinely underrated rappers. At various moments in his set he acted almost as a spoken word poet, albeit a spoken word spazz. He wasn't there to rap, trap, or be "on one"; he was there to astrologically project himself into Eagle Rock.
The night's true headliners (I say that because technically Gaslamp Killer is a resident) turned it into an event audiences should mentally laminate and ingrain into their stored memories. Gaslamp Killer's set started off with an epic introduction suited for a creative crusade, and once that subsided, the tears, cracks and rattles began. The GLK's first outing of the night was so heavy and punishing with its lower frequencies and throbbing, chainsaw-sharp blows one could have mistaken the setlist to be nothing but unadulterated half-step. Yet, those who know Gaslamp's miasma know it's just his style.
When Gonjasufi joined him onstage, the energy skyrocketed. I had always envisioned Gonjasufi as a Tom Waits figure rising from the siren-soundtracked streets, those types of places where crude graffiti tags marking their confines declare the region's identity. As I witnessed him onstage, my whole perception shattered. More punk rock than the corporate-funded bands of today, more NWA than the sugary-sweet and soft rappers we like on Facebook, Gonjasufi is beautifully terrifying and viscerally authentic.
Watching him throw his head down to the ground and stare down the equipment is like watching Iggy Pop in the '70s, a balls-to-the-wall catharsis. Screeching, frenzied vocals mixed with rough, untamed dreadlocks and mansion-sized bathtubs full of sweat marked his set; it was definitely an "I was there!" moment. The Sufi is a treat to watch and a treasure to have, and it is headlining acts like this that make Wednesday nights in Eagle Rock so transcendent.
Critic's Bias: I grew up on punk rock and hardcore, and once viewed Keith Morris' luxurious dreaded locks as downright heroic. After seeing Sufi's, I now know better. Now those are some locks worthy of punk rock.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Special Guest!" "There's going to be a special guest?!" "There's going to be a huge surprise guest!" "Huge special guest?!" Alas, there was no surprise performer. Oh well, next time.
Random Notebook Dump: At the very, very end when there were only a few stragglers and bar hoppers left, beatmaker/rapper/lumberjack Jonwayne took the stage to rap for a couple minutes. The reactions from a couple of the older, bar-hopping types were hilarious. They probably thought the bearded guy in the large coat and beanie was just a lucky homeless guy who managed to sneak in. Who would of thought he was one of the dopest rappers on the West Coast?