Legaspi: Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 Day 3: Shabazz Palaces, Baths, Kylesa
Special Pitchfork Music Festival Contributor
After Twin Sister, I wandered over to the outskirts of the large audience gathering for OFWGKTA, who started 15 minutes before the only other hip-hop performance on Sunday, Shabazz Palaces. There were a few women wandering off the field, whom I asked if they were leaving for any particular reason. Turned out they didn’t know who Odd Future was, and judging from the few conversations I had around the field, perhaps their impact is less than whatever attention they’re drawing from media or otherwise. Closer to the soundboard, there was another gathering of 20-year old women, all of whom said they were fans of the band. They also waved the Between Friends fans that were being passed out to increase awareness regarding rape and other violence against women.
"I’m a huge Tyler fan,” said Ranna. However, she wasn’t very familiar with the lyrics. “He was tweeting about it this morning,” explained her friend Kelly. “I’m not comfortable with it.” Another friend Jenn added, “A lot of rap artists do this, degrading women with violent messages. It’s hard because you don’t want to like it…clearly he knows this sh*t is wrong…when you promote that kind of lifestyle it gives some people the OK.” Despite that, they said in the live setting the group was enjoyable and they didn’t have an issue with them.
Eleven-year old Tobie was with his mom watching the set. “I don’t know them that much. I’m a fan of Eminem and I heard he’s [Tyler’s] like the new Eminem. I like him being controversial.” His mother Heidi said, “I’m here investigating to see if there’s something musical beyond the words . . . but I think the energy he brings to a new audience needs to be matched and original, musically…what is he saying about race, sexuality, and what’s he adding to the conversation beyond being a great showman? That’s not enough.” Toby concluded, “I haven’t looked into his interviews, I think he’s trying to push boundaries. I haven’t seen if he’s sexist or not [in interviews] but if he is, I won’t listen.”
After hearing myriad B- bombs, F-bombs and bombast from the OFWGKTA set, I was ready to check out Shabazz Palaces, the first hip-hop act signed to Sub Pop. While it was a more subdued affair at the Blue Stage, the musicianship and message were more culturally impactful. Period. Rapper Palaceer Lazaro, better known as Digable Planets’ Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler is about empowerment, a solid nod back to earlier hip-hop roots, eschewing the bling, before the shock, critiquing the gangsta persona. And his criticisms had purpose, “I do it for my people so you know y’all can have it” went one of several repeated, compelling refrains.
Next up Baths, aka producer Will Weisenfield, drew a packed “house” for his club-like set. Unlike the chair-dancing Gatekeeper from Friday, Baths moved swiftly around his laptop and tweaked various knobs intricately, like good musicians wield their instruments. Much of it seemed like compelling improv, where he added and subtracted sounds that included quirky samples alongside electronic and live instrument samples to keep the crowd moving. And that they did.
Onstage he joined along, bouncing to his beats, and he sang live as well, such as during the slippery, smooth groove of “Lovely Bloodflow.” DJ/producers could take a cue from this kid when it comes to how to make laptop music more inventive and interesting live.
While I mentioned the lack of dynamics earlier in the day, Kylesa embodied them, adding some much needed muscle into the weekends’ lineup. While metal was definitely their bag, their set touched on chugging stoner rock, which paired well with the crowd that populated that stage throughout the festival. Guitarists/singers Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasant's vocal interplay during “Scapegoat,” coupled with the doomy lyrics simply slayed.