Last Night: Shabazz Palaces, Erik Blood and Ricky & Mark at the Tractor Tavern
by Todd Hamm
on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 11:36 AM
Red Bull Sound Select is a periodic installment of live music, sponsored by Red Bull, and curated by Sasquatch! founder Adam Zacks with help from both the Capitol Hill Block Party team and Sub Pop. Yeah, that's a lot of brass, but I'll tell you what: The talent lived up to the hype and then some last night. Whether you knew much about the acts or not, I'd say you probably went home happy—each set was an in-depth look at an artist at an interesting, and actively creative moment in their career. The Sound Select series has yielded some extremely dope lineups thus far, and given the success of this night, I hope more are in the works...
..."Can I touch you guys?" asked Ricky & Mark emcee Ricky Pharoe after performing a set-opening song with a chorus that went something like "Fuck family/family loves tragedy" (and an opening line about his dad being a piece of shit/his sister performing fellatio for money). For a packed house partially waiting to see avant rap stars Shabazz Palaces, and (assumedly) hoping to discover something new, it was a great introduction to Pharoe, who may have been performing his first show as a duo with Champagne Champagne producer/Blood Brothers/Past Lives drummer Mark "Gajamagic" Gajadhar, but has been kicking around Seattle rap's undercarriage for the better part of a decade. The 45-minute set put the duo's mainly unheard material (which was created over email without ever meeting) on full display. If you squinted your ears just so, you could hear a potential Champagne single lost in the imaginative, guitar-driven beats, but Pharoe's consuming derangement made them something else entirely. Quite honestly, the new material only reaffirmed the fact that Pharoe is one of the city's (though he's currently staying in Michigan) most distinct, and innovative lyrical talents. Staged pleas to a sold out, paying audience for affection, and mock throat-slittings by hype man Tru I.D. completed the picture for the uninitiated: This wasn't your average rap show.
Ricky & Mark
Pharoe pushed the limits of the audience's comfortability with stage banter and the all-new set (aside from a remix of Art Vandelay's "Eye 8 the Crow") while maintaining a very relatable pop chorus presence, and easily affirmed their worthiness to share the stage with the established marquee acts. "Put a one up if you had a horrible childhood," said Pharoe between songs. With few-to-no willing respondents, he taunted: "You guys are lying."
Erik Blood, who on the side has produced all of Shabazz Palaces' material to date, performed second. His set was an entirely new song-filled, old rock style-eschewing set of trippy ambient star-gazing. He sewed beautiful guitar parts and soaring vocal lines (along side a female co-singer) between programmed drum beats, and thick electronic atmospheres. It was a complete departure from his past successes, and it was a glorious re-emergence. Keep on the lookout for more Blood.
Headliners Shabazz Palaces never disappoint. Each time they take the stage results in a unique and rewarding experience. They played twisted mashups of, and extended jams on their recorded songs, which were at once warmly familiar and freshly imagined to longtime fans. There were "Youlogy," "An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum," and "Gunbeat Falls," among the mix, but with tweaked or altogether replanted instrumentals and segues. Although I'm a bias longtime fan myself, I also can't imagine a first time viewer being anything but intrigued. Shabazz reached a level last night that peaked above what they've previously touched during past live sets—a bar that they seem to raise with each outing. Really the only indication they weren't an untouchable—and amazingly stylish—godly device was toward the end of their set when Palaceer Lazaro's mic chopped and cut out mid-song during "A Mess," but even then, he wandered over to percussionist Tendai Mairare's station, and finished with finesse.