I have a confession to make – I’m a bit of a hip hop traditionalist. I like my massive snares, a kick that feels like a punch to the aortic valve, a few soul samples and some damn funky groove man! So when M-Phazes dropped Hilltop Hoods’ Nosebleed Section and demanded the crowd sing it, or Illy wouldn’t be taking the stage, I understood his drive.
I was slightly confused that such an underground movement could be coerced so easily, but where has free thought ever gotten a rabid music fan? Would they really stop Illy from performing if we didn’t all sing in unison? I secretly wondered what Immortal Technique would do in such a situation, and contemplated rebelling until I realized I was already singing along like a good little sheep. “I got those hip-hop taste buds, wanna hear that bass when I make love.”
M-Phazes’ lead-up to Illy played like a who’s who of Aussie hip hop – moving from the aforementioned Hilltop to some newer Seth Sentry and Drapht. While the crowd was no doubt engaged, and all the tracks were bangers, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for the times I’d go to a hip hop gig and the DJ would be turning me onto a whole host of stuff I hadn’t heard before. However, if the purpose was to get the crowd amped for Illy himself, then the fingers definitely hit the right buttons.
As far as smaller venue local hip hop shows go, this was about as extravagant and polished as it gets – big lights, a killer line-up including Tuka, Allday and Elemont, and Illy hiding a GoPro for someone in the crowd to find. It speaks volumes about the scene itself when R.A. the Rugged Man, one of NY’s finest, is playing down the road at the Transcontinental Hotel but you’ve still got a full venue of punters for a local artist.
A self-described lover of pop music, Illy hit the stage with a sing-a-long style set, and the crowd lapped it up, particularly the young folk throwing themselves around with the reckless abandon a boozy Friday can bring. The set itself covered all ends of his catalogue, from 2010’s The Chase to some newer material that will be released on his upcoming album, Cinematic, available in November.
Backed up by his drummer, and M-Phazes on the ones and twos, Illy’s older tracks, particularly Cigarettes and The Chase, were received extremely well. I wasn’t a big fan of Illy’s new single, Youngbloods, featuring Amity Affliction singer Ahren Stringer. Maybe it’s just me, but I generally like to keep my hardcore and hip hop separate, unless you’re Anthrax and Public Enemy, and I found that Stringer’s vocals didn’t really mesh that well with the hip hop beat.
While the performances were well executed, I wish the same could be said of the sound. Oh Hello! provided an exceptionally tinny experience that sounded increasingly flat as one walked towards the back wall of the club. I’d go as far to say that due to the acoustics and the mixing quality, some of the songs were almost unrecognizable to their recorded counterparts. This is an issue at many hip hop shows, but this was one of the worst sounds I’d ever heard at a hip hop show.
This proverbial sore thumb of an otherwise good night reminded me of another Hilltop Hoods lyric, which I sang to myself – of own free will this time – on my walk back to the train. “Who cares? I hate clubs. Give me a pub any day.”
Photos: Illy – Oh, Hello!, Brisbane 13/09/13
(Photos by Bec Reid)