Monday, May 30, 2011

Show Review: Santos Party House, NYC, 12 May 2011 (with Thee Satisfaction)

A guest review from the pen of Crooklynite artist Y. Misdaq aka Yoshi!! (photos by Eric Phipps):

This gig was an insult to anyone who wanted to hear something familiar. It was a slap in the face for anyone who wanted to be comforted with warm boredom. Ish’s lyrics may not have completely burst through the heavy bass of the speakers that line the walls of Santos Party House, but enough shiny nuggets passed through the void to assure familiar fans that the inspirational-heart, beating deep inside the million-styles-per-hour is still thriving-vibrant on the new LP. What more to say? It was an onslaught, with pleasure (pleasure, pleasure, pleasure).

It’s difficult to describe how impressive it is to see a man in such control of his throne. Ish stands behind a desk that was not there during the warm up acts moments before; a desk packed to the brim with electronic devices that are somehow all linked together. And this is not impressive in its own right. I have played a gig at Santos before with a troupe of electronica musicians who had almost as much gear. But to hear such finely crafted vocals linked up with those machines, those beats, those trillion-styles-per-hour, and to hear those beats and those flows linked up so nicely with the percussion, and to have ALL those elements the subject of momentary filters and effects that seem to rise from the kinetic of the moment, of the second... It is in line and fitting with what the 11th century philosopher Al-Ghazali said

In the [spiritual] worlds of Power & Royalty, things do not have the fixity we associate with rocks, mountains, tables etc. Rather, reality moves rapidly, shifting from moment to moment. Each single moment brings a new order of being on whose face is written an entirely new meaning... "Every moment He manifests himself in yet another (wondrous) way." [Qur'an, 55:29]

At the start of the show Ish would place his hand over a glowing red-light that created effects in relation to where he moved it. The sound was incredible, and embedded perfectly within the beat, both in terms of its timbre, texture and even its volume. And of course, it made him look like Ryu from Street Fighter 2 with a thunderball of sound emanating from within the palm of his hand. The vicious, merciless snares ripped through the air like jets, and yet they were kept under the control of the man behind the desk, like wild dogs at the total command of a master. It makes one respect the concept of hard work, the kind of work I know it must have taken to craft and polish such near-flawless execution. In this respect, gig is such a pathetic word, I have never much cared for it before. but here it seems even more insulting. Perhaps for some tired ageing rockers, gig is okay, but this performance should not be called a gig. It should be called Ice Ageless. Fire changes. A Returning. A Performance.

Such mastery makes one inspired and at the same time, completely intimidated (this is speaking as a musician with some basic understanding of shows, venues, electronic setups etc. I should like to think for other listeners, perhaps there exists only sheer escapism, with zero intimidation. This would make sense). All in all, between the two performers and the audience, it was a tri-symbiotic relationship of wild osmosis bordering on telepathy and resulting in black’d up manhood, in breathing bodies that are made to feel refreshed. Ready to run back out into the world with their own idea, fuel’d.

The beautifully choreographed moves of Ish and Tendai served as one such informant of that aforementioned heart beneath the music, they seemed to say, ‘if the music is too much for you, which we understand it might be, then we still want you to be involved on as many other levels as possible’. And so, periodically, despite their distance from each other, they would spin in perfect harmony, or clap hands on a snare slap, always repeated three or four times, because the beat always saves, and these beats are all about repetition of thunder, and power. Being saved by thunder feels great; and the hand-claps set to rhythm did indeed keep the audience involved. Everybody was feeling it, despite the multitudinous ways in which they showed it. There were numerous hip-hop heads, hoodied and all, who seemed too inhibited to do anything other than cooly bop from left to right (reacting as if this were a grimy Wu-Tang production from ’93!) and yet the very fact that they were bopping, and doing so non-stop throughout the entire show spoke of something very significant. Countless young (incredibly young) and curious people were there. Many young African-Americans. One could sense from their hip-clothes and earnest expressions that they were expecting something special, awaiting something to believe in. It sounds incredibly corny, and who knows if they found it, but for absolute sure, everybody was as blown away as I. Indeed, halfway through the set, some people, including myself, were no longer dancing like maniacs, but stunned and standing still, mouths hanging open. This happens when you are beaten over the head with the future.

Afterwards Ish came straight back out and we spoke for a very few nice moments. He sent a whatsup to brother O of this very blog. Most memorable however was the sheer enthusiasm. It had been 5 years since Ish had graciously invited brother O and I backstage at the Jazz CafĂ© in London where we spoke for a good hour or so about all new things under the sun. At that time, the digables were doing a reunion tour, and Ish still looked like very much like Butterfly. Things were awaiting then, time was building. This year, especially with his shaved-Palaceer head, Ish definitely looked much less Butterfly and much more the seasoned music veteran. And this year, along with last, when the world seems to be imploding, this music feels to be absolutely on point. Ish’s age, however, is the counterpoint of what so many remarked on after the show, to see someone in their 40s with such a commanding presence, radiating such pure youthful energy and power. It was part of what made the performance so surreal. What other words can one use but Hip-Hop? And Elemental? And Spirit? And indeed, this was what I found most remarkable about my brief exchange after the show.

At the side of the stage, which as I said, I know well, the audience are basically standing at eye-level with the feet of the performers. And there are black bars separating you. When he had come back out, Ish asked me, with the smile and enthusiasm that I recognize from an artist who knows he has just done a really good gig, ‘what did you think?’ And as I tried to convey, in blunted words that probably made no sense, what I felt, I saw a radiating smiling face, full of sweat, that was right next to my own, through the black bars. I do not know if he was literally lying down on the floor of the stage, or kneeling down, either way it seemed so very child-like. I was facing a pure, radiant smile of happiness and enthusiasm. And this face is the answer to the chorus of the song ‘Find out’. When an artist is expressing his art, and doing it to his perfection, the answer is this kind of happiness. This look of Life.

Ish’s grin, as I stumbled to get the right words out, was that of pure youth, belying age, experience, and belying what we think of as time. It finally spoke, in a categorical way, without words, of the need for us all to do what we love. Evoking, or kindling in all of us willing to listen, our natural ability to remain ageless. I frequent art modern exhibits in Chelsea from time to time, and I don’t know why I do because it is all so affected compared to this. There is no contemporary art I have come across as powerful and inspirational as this music. Find out what you are and free it.

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