The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Beards, Blazers & Backpacks- DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist: Hard Sell @ the Hollywood Bowl

Photo by Carlie Armstrong

The Hollywood Bowl is probably the best venue in the world. Yes, I'm aware that you can't prove those types of statements, just as I'm also aware of the probability that there are probably a half dozen other places on earth, equally as fantastic. But for all practical purposes, the Bowl is Los Angeles at its best, a gorgeous natural amphitheater carved into the sloping green and brown Hollywood Hills, filled with clarion sound, perfect unobstructed sight lines and a liquor policy that lets you to bring in as many bottles of wine as you can stash into your picnic basket. (No Yogi Bear.)

Accordingly, playing "the Bowl" is the sort of honor that lets musicians know that they finally "made it," so it was a little strange hearing that DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, were going to play 2007's opening weekend. Not strange as in bad, but strange as in how far hip-hop and the DJ art form have come in the decade-plus since Shadow re-invented hip-hop instrumentalism with Endtroducing. Indeed, it was almost a coronation of sorts for the two pioneers of the art form, especially since Cut Chemist is a hometown boy and one of the the greatest DJs the city has ever produced.

So maybe it made perfect sense after all, for a legendary venue like the Bowl to host two master craftsmen unveiling "Hard Sell," Chemist and Shadow's latest impossibly funky concoction, following on the legendary heels of their two previous collabos,"Brainfreeze" and "Product Placement." And in spite of the colossal expectations raised by its predecessors, the "Hard Sell," set completed what might be the best trilogy since Back to the Future.
Sadly, "Hard Sell" Contained No ZZ Top
Commencing with a short parody tutorial film about vinyl and the art of DJ-ing, Chemist and Shadow managed to school the uninitiated on the science of turntablism, while simultaneously winking at the hip-hop heads and beat junkies who climbed out of the basement to make their way to the Bowl on a warm and clear June night. As for the set itself, as Oliver Wang astutely pointed out, it's a little pointless to run down the playlist. You just can't articulate what it's like to have your mind blown by these herky-jerky, sliced and diced symphonies, while sitting in a cathedral of noise, watching the pair control eight decks with near flawless precision. Behind them, a video screen flickered with weird stoner images of Transformer jukeboxes firing 7" records, giant Big Brother-esque eyeballs and even old black and white clips of Bogart in Casablanca.

Less funk and soul based than its predecessors, "Hard Sell" ran the gamut, from oldies like the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You" to post-grunge like Foo Fighters "Everlong." The set's highlight (and perhaps its heart) was a segment devoted to the hip-hop classics. The Pharcyde's "Passin' Me By" melded with Gangstarr's "Dwyck," Prince Paul breaks from 3 Feet High and Rising bumped heads with Nas' "Made You Look" (the only song I can still actually listen to from God's Son).

"Hard Sell's" quasi-experimental fusion of genres make it a bit less seamless than Brainfreeze and Product Placement, yet it's no less brilliant, particularly when pared with the opportunity to see it at the Bowl. It might never reach the almost mythic status surrounding the first Brainfreeze performance, held on a winter night eight years ago in San Francisco, but it's hard to imagine any DJ show getting much better than this.
From the buzz floating around at the after-party, Chemist and Shadow are planning on taking the show on the road and I highly recommend checking it out. It really shouldn't be such a hard sell.

Also see: Oliver Wang's incredibly comprehensive and knowledgeable take.

MP3: DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist-"Brainfreeze" (left-click)


At 5:50 AM, Anonymous The Fake Kim Fowley said...

I have to kindly disagree with your review of the show. I was there too and I thought that it was really under-rehearsed and disappointing. The best part was the Ode to Prince Paul/3 Feet High set when they slapped together (in real time) live versions of Jenifa, Potholes in my Lawn, Plug Tunin' and more. That was thrilling and the "Passin' Me By" mix was on point, but I thought the rest of the show was pretty weak... and I worship those guys. If you're going to spin records in front of 17,000 people, you have to do a better job than that. Just my 2 cents.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Did you see any people there taping the performance?

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Hey Kim, I can see where you're coming from. I spoke to a lot of people afterwards who felt similarly, but I honestly think maybe just everyone's expectations were so high that barring Jesus coming down from earth and mixing in "Respect," most of the die-hards would've been dissatisfied. I don't mean that as an insult. as I said in the post, it's tough to live up to B-Freeze and Product Placement.

Supposedly, they threw that all together in seven days. So you're right in that it was a probably a little under-rehearsed and I'm prolly a little biased because the Bowl makes everything seem that much better, but oh well, agree to disagree, thanks for the comment.

Ben: I'm sure someone was but I didn't see anyone. I bet they'll release a Cd or DVD of the performance.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

At 2:37 AM, Blogger Idris said...

What was that about God's Son? Why did you have to go there? Why?


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