- Published on Tuesday, 26 January 2010 23:02
Review/Photos: Aesop Rock with Starving Martyrs and Glitterbillies @ The Mohawk, 1.23.10
words and photos by Andy Pareti
please scroll down for photo gallery
It was a hip-hop night in Austin on Saturday, which seemed decidedly different than one in, say, Brooklyn or Philly (the opening DJ was sampling Oasis and Radiohead alongside the usual rap grab bag). Long Island’s own Aesop Rock brought his own brand of cerebral east coast flavor to South Central (United States, that is). I am by no means a veteran of rap shows, and Saturday’s show at the Mohawk was a perhaps not-surprising blend of hits and misses for me as an observer.
Opening things up was the Austinite duo Glitterbillies, and they dressed the part. Emcee Sharon Tude wore overalls under a sparkling fur coat, while DJ Dylan Camero grooved behind the turntable wearing a cowboy hat. Camero proved to be a chemist behind the set while Tude was a formidable lyricist (apart from a weak and mercifully brief freestyle session), but the group’s mysterious dancer Tyson Eberly provided most of the visual entertainment, shuffling across the stage during the “Riverside Slide” and wowing the crowd with a perfect robot dance.
Up next was Starving Martyrs, another duo that apparently had a third member that was recently incarcerated (I’m not sure if this was a joke or not). The Martyrs had a slower, more deliberate pace than Glitterbillies, with a grim tone to their lyrics that were heavy in death and mortality. It wasn’t exactly the best way to hype up the crowd, but creative use of rock samples, like At the Drive-In’s “Enfilade”, gave them an appropriately harder edge. It wasn’t until they opted to play Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name of” that the crowd was transformed into a boiling pot of rabid, moshing sweatballs, unbeknownst to themselves that they were singing along to what was basically an unaltered mp3 of Rage’s studio cut that was probably just playing off the DJ’s iPod. Does this count as a live performance? More likely, Starving Martyrs knew they couldn’t improve upon Rage’s famous rallying cry but decided to exploit it anyway, to get a reaction from the crowd.
Finally, Aesop Rock took the stage with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz in a set that, somehow appropriately, had its share of ups and downs. The crowd had not yet recovered from being reduced back to their mid-nineties, teen-angsty roots and were shoving their way towards the front of the stage, making it difficult for people who came to watch the show to, you know, watch it.
Aesop, who split time fairly evenly between his five studio albums, injected a torrid pace into his songs, which worked on the beat-heavy “Getaway Car” but completely stripped the rapper’s more narrative songs of all their meaning. “No Regrets”, a touching life story about a girl who always followed her dreams, was delivered so fast its creative prose was deduced to rambling gibberish, while the acutely-dramatic pizzicato loop was completely under siege by DJ Big Wiz, who took the opportunity to turn a touching life chronicle into a breakneck dance number, which was just…weird.
It was a strange night, with all three acts trading turkeys with triumphs, and probably wasn’t the best night of hip-hop for a novice like me to set the bar with. Aesop Rock is not a dance draw, but rather a philosopher poet, so perhaps things just didn’t quite fit. In a time where rap is all about being bigger and better than your peers, Aesop may benefit from a scaled down, more intimate setting.