The Observatory swelled almost to capacity last night as the crowd awaited a night of swiftly delivered cerebral lyrics from the Epitaph Records' lone rapper, Sage Francis. The bald headed of emcee appeared on stage looking more like a bodyguard than a revered lyricist. With a drawn-on comb over, likely the work of Sharpie, Sage seemed to be giving us his best recreation of Bill Murray hairdo in Kingpin.
With his back turned to the crowd, a sign rose above his usually bald head that would be disappointing to most attending your run-of-the-mill hip-hop show: “No DJ.” The crowd cheered before the tacky sign was thrown into the crowd. Following that, a more obvious sign arose: “No Band.” The next sign read:”No Hypeman.” What kind of hip-hop show would this be then?! The final sign notified the us there'd be “No Problems” that night before the Rhode Island rapper faced the crowd to reveal a black shirt bearing red, cut-out paper hearts. Sage Francis was ready to rock!
Beginning with “Escape Artist” and then transitioning into “Crack Pipes,” it became clear that what also should've been mentioned in that sign-waving intro should have been notices that there would also be no effects to his voice–only raw emotion–and the crowd would be his only back up. As the lyrics of the song began to outline his anti-establishment persona, he holds the mic stand up to his shoulder and points it in the air like an M-16 as he discourses on the legitimacy of our America's military-industrial complex.
Serving as his own selector, Sage made trips to a bedazzled laptop sitting atop the altar where turntables are usually praised. Alongside the magical laptop was a large, intriguing gift bag. Finally taking a break after working the sardine packed room to sauna-like temperatures, the sweaty emcee took his first break with the impeccably horrid comb over still intact. He jokes that his most played track on Spotify, “Sea Lion,” should've been called “She Lyin.” Soon thereafter he flicks one of the paper hearts off his chest (no lie, the hearts flies through to the back of the room and lands dead on the left side of my chest).
For his next act, he gave us some of his acclaimed spoken word. The crowd, who'd been singing along to his lyrics with an occult like affection quieted for the allegorical “Waterline.” Exhibiting his diversity as an artist even more, Sage appears from what should be called his magician's table with a melodica to play us his best John Williams cover of the Star Wars theme.
The 37 year-old also took the time wish the audience a happy Valentine's Day, when it became apparent that the red hearts on his chest were his décor for the holiday. He carved out a little time to talk about his love life, saying his music was generated by the failures of his relationships as a sappy ballad played in the background. And while it may have been a good time to sympathize with the big guy, he took a dude in the crowd, who'd come with his girlfriend up on stage and slow danced with him as the sad song played, capping the dance off with a kiss and a very vulgar “now get the fuck off the stage!” In an attempt to keep the romantic feel of the night going, patrons were blessed with pseudo-striptease that ended with Sage's chubby fingers in his mouth and his black pants on the floor.
Before leaving his fans, Sage told the crowd that he'd been diagnosed with walking pneumonia. We would have never noticed. As the show came to a close, B. Dolan, the show's opener joined Sage for a few songs and to share some goodies from the earlier mentioned goodie bag on stage. It was broccoli trees! (That also happened to come in my direction, hitting me in the leg). But better than ending the show with vegetable fight, Sage jumped down off the stage and took the time and to stop and take pics with every single fan that waited. Salute!
Overheard: When Sage announced that he'd be diagnosed with pneumonia, a lanky figure replied, “I want your pneumonia!”
Critical Bias: Sorry to all of those who paid but I had the best spot in the house. First getting hit with a heart -for my girlfriend's amusment- and then a piece of broccoli, I was a part of the show!
Random Notebook Dump: Throughout the night, Sage teased classics like “Hey Sister,” Steve Miller's “Swingtown,” and even the Team America theme song interluded Sage's actual music.
The Crowd: Tons of baldheads with the stage lights reflecting of or their heads among some frat boy types and a few punks. Quite the mix.
I listen to music. I write about it. I like hot sauce on my chicken.