Aesop Rock, Troubadour, September 14, 2008

PHOTO: Aesop, not at the Troubadour, but in Brighton UK earlier this year. Via kind CC license on delarge’s flickr.

How to concentrate on Aesop Rock from the balcony, sitting next to Busdriver:

Sitting hip to hip on tiered wooden benches at the Troubadour overlooking cascading bass lines and blue light. We could slide notes along the narrow table joining our elbows. Or watch surgery through plate glass. Instead, here was Busdriver and his mustache, some water, a beer, and a half-eaten lollipop. Aesop Rock played verbal hopscotch on stage with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. What color are your pants, Busdriver? Red, he agreed. Dark ketchup high-waters tucked under a mustard yellow shirt.

Take a keen interest in other people’s bodies:

Hand gestures converged at “the rap show,” as Grayskul’s JFK called it. Each MC had personal flair, tapping, pouring, waving, and poking fingers around like ventriloquists. The bobbing audience responded with the crocodile pet, reaching out to “pet” the air, the fist pump, or clapping to their own accordion. From an aerial perspective, the image is not unlike flushing raw noodles down a toilet.

Aesop and Rob could be two strangers fate brought together at a supermarket. One’s on his way to a rooftop party, the other’s just gone bowling. Some sort of beat stabs the lite FM radio, their eyes lock, and the supermarket turns into a graphic novel. They start rhyming. Their hand gestures trace collages outlined in thick marker. DJ Big Wiz adds turntables.

The Grayskul duo’s full body outbursts involving all limbs at once commanded more attention than their finger-flanging. Blink, and you missed a quick little boogie. AntiMC, on drum machine behind Busdriver, consistently busted moves while making beats, donning his towel as cape. Back to Busdriver, who belongs at the gesture spectrum’s multi-syllabic end. His fingers guide an invisible puppet through karate routines.

Say something clever in response:

2-Mex joins our row, sliding us down the bench, squished milkshake close against the armrest. With all the observing everyone else’s body language, it’s no help figuring out how to maneuver your own. Where to put your arms, your eyes, slouch, cross this leg or that one, which is better? Inevitably words come out.

Busdriver mentions he grew up in Koreatown.

“What color was your house?”

“Blue,” he says.

“Oh. I just ate a blue lollipop.” [shows tongue]

When the show’s over and the brain works again:

Beyond gesture dynamics, which claimed most of my attention at this show, thought can now be dedicated to verbal onslaught and textual abstraction. The style of rapping tonight was grammatically Modern, emphasizing industrial structures of onslaught rather than capitalistic gain (as might be identified with short, clear lines and phrasing, and less text). Moreover, these rightfully badass rappers are all a little bit goofy, intense but not predatorial. No bling and not one female body on a projected image, sex was not at stake in bonding with the vibe. Except maybe in imaginary places.