I'll tell you one thing. There were a lot more folks at last night's homecoming of James Christos, PL and Jamel Rockwell than there were when the trio kicked off their Anarchy Tour a month ago, also at the Riot Room, also on a Wednesday night. (Hopefully, you've been following the tour through the Wayward Blog's exclusive Anarchy Tour Diary. If not, go back and read up.)
Last night, the mood was boisterous and celebratory, the two MCs and their DJ throwing it down like it was the culmination of something, not the end. Christos took the stage first in order to get his set out of the way so he could kick back and enjoy the rest of the evening (though, in fact, he would spend the rest of the evening running around talking enthusiastically to his friends and fans). He strutted and stalked around the stage, demanding that hands be raised and calls be responded to with more confidence and energy than I've seen come from the guy. Rockwell's role as vocal sidekick -- teaming up on punchlines as often as cutting beats -- appeared to have come into full bloom, too. And with PL on the side mic adding to every chorus, Christos' stage act isn't just one dude rapping -- it's a force.
As I presume they'd been doing all throughout the tour, Christos rocked only four or five songs. It was a set loaded with audience participation and between-song banter, including a Michael Jackson tribute that tied into a story from the road. And, man, what that road did for these guys.
It's amazing what a month of hard-scrabbling, DIY-style touring will do for an artists' live show. A bad road experience could leave you jaded, disbelieving, ready to pack it in. But a good one -- which I believe Christos, PL and Rockwell had -- leaves you recharged, reaffirmed and even hungrier than you were before you left. That is truly what I got last night from watching and talking with the Anarchy Tourists.
I think the crowd got it, too. Though the place was far from packed, 15 to 20 guys and gals crowded the down-front during Christos' and PL's sets -- some full-on dancing, some just grooving in place. Among the latter was Joe Good, down front the entire time he was in the club. His local profile seems to have only increased since he quit rapping over two years ago. His appearance was a hot topic of conversation all night. Hip-hop loves a man of mystery.
There's nothing particularly mysterious about our heroes, though. Their music is ultra-accessible. Christos' track "No Words" could be a Kanye -- hell, Justin Timberlake -- song. Catchy beats and crowd-friendly singalongs are the name of the game with this crew, which is great but which could make them hard to take seriously. Fortunately, there's a saving balance of lyrical artistry. On Christos' side, it comes in the form of creative, almost militant flows, as if he's imagining himself as some kind of revolutionary general (However, never wear a crown/Makes it harder for your enemies to cut you down, he raps on "Opus 13"). PL, by contrast, is a literary soul who describes heartache and longing in rhymes that are downright florid. (Wish I could quote lyrics, but I have only one PL recording, and it's not about love.)
Anyway, the whole point of this entry is to say: Very well done, lads.
I recorded a debriefing of PL and Christos in the basement of the RR, but, unfortunately, I did it on Flip Camera, and the better part of the interview ran to 17 minutes. That's more than a GB, it turns out, and I have nowhere near the skills or resources to edit that shit down. So, in keeping with the fellas' own modus operandi, here's a brief moment from the back-- er...under-stage party.
They loved it, they needed it, and they plan to hit it (talkin' 'bout the road, holmes) again in October. I got the impression that they're looking for a few good men of hip-hop to join them, but don't call them -- they'll call you. One of the best things anyone said all night came from PL, who talked about how in Kansas City (and I paraphrase), all hip-hop artists are essentially struggling to bring the same 150 people out to their shows. But, he said, when you leave town, you realize there are millions of other people out there who might be interested in what you got to say. Unfortunately, so few local artists in town have what it takes to get it together for something like a tour.
The story of the Anarchy Tour is three guys hitting the road with no budget, only a handful of shows booked and couches reserved to crash on and just going out and kicking open doors and making shit happen.
Bonus: If you want audio of the night's complete performance, featuring thePhantom, the Soul Servers, Bucc$ and Big Frame, the podcasters at Tombcast.net streamed the whole thing. It's available somewhere at that site, or at Tomb's iTunes channel.