@ 330 Ritch
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Better than: A late-night spelling bee.
San Francisco came out last night to party in good faith -- to get down, make noise, say Yeeaaayyuh, the usual -- but the partying spirit was damped, at least in my case, by an hour and fifteen minutes spent queued on Ritch Street, and then (contrary to the way it was supposed to work, I suspect) by the surplus of free drink tickets redeemable only for cocktails made with V, "the new clear spirit from the house of Rémy-Martin." It was not until 11:28, by my watch, that we as an assembly were invited to get down, make noise, say Yeeaaayyuh, and all the rest. ("All the ladies in the house say 'ow'!")
Leading off the evening was Def Sound, a Los Angeles MC with a flattop fade and a style equal parts Will and Carlton. (See this page, which describes him as a "Cosby sweater bandit.") His quick set was light on rapping, heavy on repeated feel-goodisms like "we don't want your money, we just want your time," which is the closest I've yet come to hearing a rap song double as a Greenpeace sidewalk pitch. (Besides, everyone wants your money.) Def handed out glow-sticks and paid tribute to Lil B's cook dance -- "hoes on my dick 'cause I look like me!" -- and left before he could outstay his welcome.
Blu, the well-traveled Los Angeles rapper who's been up-and-coming since he started rapping in 2007, came out almost immediately following Def Soul's set. Maybe four percent of his banter sentences didn't end with "and shit." ("How y'all doing and shit?") After he stopped aborting his own call-and-response antics with "y'all don't know this shit!" reprisals, he settled into a low-mixed groove of steady lyricism without much momentum. He spit studied, syncopated witticisms over indistinctly funky productions; I'm pretty sure I heard a Deuteronomy shoutout in there somewhere. All of what Blu does sounds pretty good on record, but live last night he failed to connect long enough to move the crowd. Maybe the missing E is for "energy."
Not a problem for J*Davey, whose songs were greeted, without fail, by screams of recognition. The Los Angeles (again) pop&B hybrid is normally a duo -- a vampish frontwoman in stars-and-stripes hotpants who goes by the name Jack Davey, which isn't even close to her real name, and an earflaps-rocking producer named Brook D'Leau, which I'm going to assume isn't his either -- but last night Def Sound lent a hand on the back end. The set began with Davey alone on guitar, rolling out a sultry cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from the newly released Evil Christian Cop EP; three quarters of the way through, D'Leau joined her on drums and turned it into a dancefloor thumper.
This is, for the most part, how J*Davey does its thing: by scrambling genre cues, keeping things unpredictable in terms not so much of song structure as of pedigree -- like Gnarls Barkley covering Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails, with a little TV on the Radio-does-Deerhoof action thrown in to keep things interesting. Davey's voice is thin but inexhaustible, soulful in a weird L.A. kind of way, and for most of the set she moved around accordingly, dancing, shaking a tambourine, inviting the front row of the crowd up on stage with her. ("I fucking love San Francisco," she said as the front of the room turned into Soul Train.) D'Leau flitted between the drums and the production station next to Def Sound. On the wall behind them, the Sun Ra flick Space is the Place continued apace, on at least its third play. Finally, as 2 a.m. drew near, footage in the movie locked grooves with the beat of "Get Together," and for a few moments, and a few moments only, everything seemed prearranged.
Critic's notebook: Until well after midnight, one lady's giant mirrored earrings in a shape not unlike a lowercase version of the Enron logo -- available, I am told, at Green in Oakland -- were the most sustainably entertaining act in the club.
Overheard: "I feel bamboozled. L.A. niggas coming up here. Giants won the championship, bitch! [Flush]"