I just got back yesterday from another quick visit to Atlanta to see 'Beaner', 'Bowser' and 'Buddy'(formerly known as 'Jamhands'). The trip was a spur of the moment decision, with me buying the plane ticket Thursday afternoon and flying down on Friday. Frequent flyer miles - gotta love 'em.
The whole thing started last Monday when 'Mr. Kyle' e-mailed me about him thinking about going to see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in concert on MLK day. I simply replied, 'what if I flew down to ATL and went to the show with you?' ... and then the rest fell into place.
Visiting the 'Bowser-Kyles' is always a treat (I'll get into more of that later) but this trip was topped off with the chance to go and see DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's all new, all 45rpm record DJ performance.
Back in 1999, the two collaborated on a live mix album called Brainfreeze, which was then followed in 2001 by Product Placement. Both albums featured them only using 45 rpm records (7 inches). Now they are touring with their most recent collaboration, entitled The Hard Sell:
This was the opening video that they showed at the concert to start things off. AS you can see, the film explained, in a great parody style of old grade school instructional filmstrips, the history of the 45 RPM single, the technical difficulty of mixing 45s (smaller surface area, they spin faster), and exactly how they were going to pull off this feat: using eight turntables going into four mixers, with effects processors and guitar foot pedals, allowing them to loop passages and sustain tones.
I own a DVD of their Product Placement tour which shows tons of concert footage so I sort of knew what to expect ... but seeing one of these legendary '45 only' shows live is something else entirely.
Unlike its two predecessors, The Hard Sell didn't strictly rely on only funk and soul records. This new set was extremely varied, going from kitschy (a robotic 4 on the floor "Rock Around The Clock" or a doo-wop "Eye Of The Tiger") to romantic (The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You" overdubbed with audio samples from the movie Casablanca) to Afro Latin / Brazilian Carnival Music. They even threw in some trashy electro, 80's metal and some more modern Rock and Roll ala the Foo Fighters and Metallica. Of course they still played a lot of funk and soul but it was scattered about in between the more eclectic segments. At one point, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist started recreating early 90's rap songs (songs from De La Soul's '3 ft High and Rising', Digable Planets, the Pharcyde) using only the original records and samples the songs were created from. It was incredible ... mostly a seamless performance, there were a few missed cues resulting in the old 'shoes in the dryer' sound, but the glitches made you remember that it was all live. They also just started this tour so I'm sure they are still learning what works and what doesn't.
But for close to two hours, Shadow and Chemist never stopped moving. When they weren't flipping through boxes to find the next 45, they were cueing one up, or looping another, or fiddling with the mixer. They even ended the show with a little performance using portable turntables hung over their shoulders so they could move around the stage.
Here are some videos that better explains what we experienced:
From the ATL show:
Steel Drum interpretation of The Doors
'Psychedelic' part where they stopped using the 45 adapters and let the records spin off center
The wide array of source music made it feel less focused than the all funk and soul sounds of Brainfreeze and Product Placement. This worked against them too at some points with a few segments feeling too long and showy and not that interesting. The crowd would seem to lose interest and start talking. (they didn't call it The Hard Sell for nothing i guess). I assume this song selection was an intentional move away from what's expected of them at this point though ... expanding what the audience has come to expect from an all 7" show. I really enjoyed this more eclectic mix and had a huge grin on my face when they played the Gilligan's Island theme set to the tune of "Stairway To Heaven". Ha.
Oh and Kid Koala opened up for them. Yeah, could you pack any more turntablist talent into one room for one night? I've seen Kid Koala about 4 times now but this was the best I've ever heard him play; more rock and roll, blues and reggae ... and he of course did his signature psychedelic juggling of double copies of Katherine Hepburn singing 'Moon River'.