Beards, Blazers and Bumbershoot: Day 2 Or Foot-Long Corn Dogs, Human Statues and A Tribe Called Quest
Like many music festivals, Bumbershoot provided more than just music. In many ways, the set-up was like a county fair, with carnival games, rides, comedy shows and most importantly foot-long corn dogs. Now, before arriving at Bumbershoot, I wasn't even aware of the possibility that humanity was capable of constructing a corn dog 12 inches in length.
At first, I was baffled by the fact that human beings actually eat an entire feet of corn and dog. I considered this might be the most disturbing development since the time I'd heard that they were frying twinkies at the Los Angeles County Fair. (Honestly, who needs to fry a fucking twinkie). But Bumbershoot seemed to evidence a nascent corn dog-mania rising on the American continent, as people throughout the festival queued to devour this delicious deep-friend processed meat.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a long-time fan of the corn dog. In fact, I regard it as one of the most underrated lunch-time cafeteria meals ever (next to the wicked good turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy slop that they used to serve at the Beverly Vista Elementary School). However, I remained uncertain that a corn dog could be satisfactory in such obscene quantities. Oh how wrong I was. Indeed, while it may represent the decline of American civilization thanks to our constant desire to consume more and more of everything, I can safely say that the foot-long corn dogs at Bumbershoot were/are delicious. Sure, you so-called health advocates might wonder about things like heart attacks, clogged arteries and triple by-pass surgeries. However, all I can say in response is to look to the foot-long corn dog for the answer. Sure, that doesn't make a shred of sense. Logic be damned. To paraphrase something once said in Field of Dreams, If you deep-fry it, they will eat it.
Another strange element of the festival was an interaction that my friends and I had with a human statue. Of course, my first thought was what in God's name drives someone to be a human statue. While staring at this monument of weirdness, I couldn't help but picture myself one day as a father with a son who would do would approach me with a vision:
It's Just Like Miles Davis...If Only Miles Davis Were Clinically Retarded
"Dad...," my future son would say. "I know what I want to be in life. I want to go to festivals, fairs and crowded shopping areas around the country and stand still for hours at a time while people gawk at me."
I think at that point, I'd know that I failed at parenthood. Who exactly are the people that become human statues? Has anyone ever discussed life with a human statue? These are all things begging to be answered. Unfortunately, I didn't get any of these things answered. I'd had an intriguing appointment with Samson about an hour previous and was in no mood to prod the human statue for details on the nature of life. That being said, I want to know how one practices becoming a human statue. How does one cope with such stupefying levels of boredom? I imagine they just watch episodes of Frasier over and over again.
At any rate, watching the human statue and watching people actually giving money to said human statue, made me decide to open a school for human statues. I'm sure I can buy Frasier Crane on DVD and I can probably get David Hyde Pierce to even guest-lecture. I'm sure he's not doing very much of anything these days.
But David Hyde Pierce jokes aside, the real reason why I came to Bumbershoot was for the music, specifically the back-to-back bill of Atmosphere and A Tribe Called Quest.
Slug: Showing Off His My Chemical Romance T-Shirt and His Latest Attempt To Destroy Any and All Street Cred
I've seen Atmosphere three times now and written about it twice, so there's no real need to write it again. He put on a solid but unspectacular set, practically the same one that he put on at Coachella this year. Atmosphere is a good live performer and a good rapper. His Overcast album is one of my favorite hip-hop albums ever made. And Lucy Ford and God Loves Ugly aren't too shabby. If you like hip-hop, I advise you to pick them up. I just wish he focused on those songs live, rather than the ones off of his last two albums, 7even's Travels and You Can't Believe How Much Fun We're Having. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. The only old songs that Slug played were "Woman With the Tattoed Hands," "Shrapnel," and "God Loves Ugly."
Download Atmosphere-"Blame Game" from God Loves Ugly
On Q-Tip's Command, No One in Tribe Called Quest is Allowed to Show Their Face
So Tribe Called Quest rolled into Seattle for their latest stop of their "Getting the Band Back Together" Reunion tour '06. I'm not sure if the tour is actually called that, but if it isn't, it should be. Going into the show, I was skeptical as to whether Q-Tip and Phife could still bring it more than a decade after their prime.
Of course, like any hip-hop fan in the 90's, I worshipped at the alter of Tribe Called Quest. I must've played Low End Theory about 8,000 times and still to this day I know every single word to the majority of the album. Of course, there was the greatness of Midnight Marauders and I'll still throw down for Beats, Rhymes and Life and The Love Movement if even some of those songs were abominable ("Da Booty" anyone?). I'll never forgot one fabled week my Junior Year of High School when Aquemini, Hard Knock Life Volume 2. and The Love Movement came out and how I might've been the most excited to hear the Tribe album (in hindsight, that was prolly the wrong instinct). Or when I saw The Source cover with the details of the Tribe break-up and immediately viewed this as a horrible blight on the face of humanity. Needless to say, I liked the group.
So it was a pleasant surprise to see that even at their advanced age, neither Phife nor Tip had lost a thing on the mic. From the first strains of "Buggin' Out," the crowd went nuts, as the duo, delivered a dynamic set, clearly reveling in their newfound status as hip-hop's elder statesmen. As one might expect, Tip and Phife showcased unparalled chemistry on-stage, never missing a beat, chiming in on each other's ad-libs and knowing every word of the other's lyrics.
In particular, Phife was much better than I expected. Spending all "that time with his children" (because we'll just pretend that that was the reason why he was absent from music for the last decade) seemed to pay off, as his voice has aged into a raspy but powerful growl. Gone is the boyish, non-threatening sounding Phife that you heard on the old albums. In his place is a fiery Junior Reid sounding voice that mixed well with Q-Tips's timeless "I've just inhaled a tank of helium" pitch.
As it should've been, the set was heavy on their Greatest Hits, focused mainly on Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders material. "Buggin Out," segued to a Busta Rhymes-less "Oh My God," to "Jazz" to "Butta" to "Sucka Niggaz," which provided an unintentionally hilarious moment when Tip exhorted the crowd to sing along. Needless to say, you will never see anything more awkward than 10,000 lily-white Washingtonites gulping their throats and trying to mouth the words "sucka nigga."
From there, Tribe launched into "Steve Biko (Stir It Up)" which got the crowd going nuts, singing along to every word. Then weirdly enough, Tip performed "Vivrant Thing," from his abortion of a solo album Amplified. One couldn't help but wonder what the rest of the group thought about that decision, considering it wasn't like Phife was about to bust out hits from Ventilation: Da Lp. Then again, only three people actually listened to that album. All of them members of Phife's family.
Following Tip's solo track, the group launched into "Hot Sex On a Platter," a little heard track from the Boomerang Soundtrack.
Sadly, Eddie Murphy Lost Out on His Original Goal: Replacing Robin Givens and Halle Berry with a Pair Of Trannies In Need of Rides HomeAt this point, Tribe decided it was time to bring out the big guns, trotting out a hall of fame trio of songs, "Bonita Applebum," "Electric Relaxation," and "Can I Kick It?" After making the fans cheer for an encore, the group returned to deliver another stellar triumvirate: "Scenario," "Check the Rhime," and "Award Tour," to rounds of thunderous applause.
All in all, Tribe definitely put on a good show, as good as you're going to find in hip-hop, a genre of music sadly dominated by musicians who think a live show is playing abbreviated versions of songs punctuated by gun-shots (yeah..I'm looking at you Mobb Deep). Watching the group that had been my favorite in high school made me a bit sad, considering that no group since Tribe has emerged that could match their energy, charisma and mic skills. We're pretty far from Hip-Hop's golden age, but for an hour and fifteen minutes in Washington, Tribe Called Quest did their best to make you forget.
Download A Tribe Called Quest--"The Hop" from Beats, Rhymes and Life