Music Review: Escape from NY

April 7, 2010

by Bijan Rezvani

This weekend I was in Los Angeles for the Paid Dues hip-hop festival, but I also managed to catch a set from techno champions Acid Circus on Friday night.

Acid Circus
Acid Circus

Their performance followed headliner Tiefschwarz at Avalon, right in the club epicenter of Hollywood & Vine. This intersection is a strange late night spot, and I’ve yet to find something like it in New York. I’ve definitely passed by some clubs on Houston and on other streets with Hollywood-like crowds, but not the same strange mix of cultures, ages, and crazy automobiles. There’s something extra special about the “club scene” that makes me dread going to Hollywood.   Maybe I can find an NYC crowd like this at Pacha or Cielo (haven’t been)? Somewhere else?

Despite my aversion to the particular scene, one thing it can offer is serious sound, and Avalon is a pretty good example.  Although I prefer the system at Love in Greenwich Village, I’m yet to hear an installed dance-oriented system in New York as BIG as Avalon’s.  Acid Circus did their thing and got to sound great doing it.

These guys haven’t been brought to New York since I moved here, which I suppose I find surprising. To put them in New York terms, they have the personality / vibe / stage energy of Trouble & Bass, the (computer-based) mixing bravado of someone like Bunker‘s Detroit transplant Derek Plaslaiko (who has played their events in LA), and a contemporary, but history-infused dance aesthetic somewhere near Levon Vincent (whose tracks they’ve been playing out in recent sets – catch his “Late Night Jam” 28 minutes into the mix). Circus finished sometime near 5am, and I had to head home to get sleep for Paid Dues the next day.

You can hear most of the set below.

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I actually went to LA for Paid Dues, which was on Saturday.   The lineup was worth a flight from New York, and I doubt we’ll see much of the same size and quality from hip-hop this year. There is of course Rock the Bells, the LA-based parent festival that makes its way to New York, but I’m curious to see how it manages to top this past weekend.

Murs & 9th Wonder
Murs & 9th Wonder

12 hours of quality hip-hop + an engaged audience + smartly-EQed systems that actually allowed the lyrics to be heard = worth the trip.  I’ll avoid a gushing laundry list and pull out a few highlights.   Afro Classics (Scarub + Very) jumped on the smaller stage early with an ultra-energetic set of fast rhymes and coordinated tradeoffs. Underground stalwarts Freestyle Fellowship closed the same stage with a similar energy, matched with impossible coordination and speed and a truly unique style.  Myka 9 is a beast.   The highlight for me was possibly festival organizer Murs, who performed with producer 9th Wonder an exciting set of favorites and material off his upcoming album Fornever, which I was able to buy from his mother at the merchandise booth.  The album is another set of strong tracks from the duo and worth checking out, despite one embarrassing song.

The festival was on point with a tight schedule, strong showmanship, quality rhymes, and a supportive crowd.  Hopefully Guerilla Union has something just as special to offer when they send Rock the Bells to Governors Island this summer.

Next:  Back in town with Toshimaru Nakamura at Issue Project Room

Murs image by Flickr user Lucky R.

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