Monday, May 05, 2014

Run the Jewels 'Analog Migration' show at Reverie Gallery, Chicago [Review]

When BK-based underground hip hop vet El-P produced Outkast affiliate/ATL rapper Killer Mike’sR.A.P. Music” album they came out with one of the unexpected highlights of 2012. Little did we know that the slightly unlikely pairing would spark a bromance that grew into the duo ‘Run the Jewels’ and a free eponymous debut album that would be one of the best of 2013. They continued in the spirit of that album by performing a free show this past Thursday May 1st in Chicago. The show kicked off a series of events for FADER magazine and brewery Goose Island's new "Analog Migration" series which will span Chicago, San Francisco and New York this summer.

The concert took place in the spacious but intimate Reverie Gallery in the Lacuna Artist Loft Studios located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The gallery was decorated with graffiti-inspired art and even had a small painting of the duo on display. There was also a Goose Island 'beer truck' dispensing free cans of their 312 Wheat Ales and dozens of free FADER magazines scattered about. The event featured two opening acts: Long Beach, Garage pop-punk trio Tijuana Tigers and Chicago’s own DJ Timbuck2. Not satisfied with simply playing a set of throwback 90s Hip Hop, Timbuck2 decided to take it a step further by giving Serato a break and spinning an all-vinyl set. Unfortunately old methods also brings back old problems as a few of his records suffered from skips, but it still wasn’t enough to stop him from successfully taking the crowd back with old Redman, Black Moon and Common tracks. I can tell you that it was real nice to hear the crackle and hiss of a well-worn record in a ‘club setting’ once again, and I applaud Tim for actually ‘keeping it real’ instead of merely abusing the term with empty actions (he of course never actually used the played-out term- like a true DJ, Tim spoke with his hands not his mouth.)

Despite taking place from 9pm to 12am on a weeknight the event was well promoted with a packed, but comfortable crowd.  The show was a stark contrast to the last time Run the Jewels performed in Chicago at Pitchfork’s somewhat-pricey, super-hip, outdoor daytime festival. Despite the chill atmosphere and laid back setting even El-P noticed that the crowd was extremely hype.  I chalk it up to Run the Jewel’s core demographic being a huge presence at the event, with most of them being only an arm’s length distance from the duo (the free admittance and free beer didn’t hurt either.) There were definitely some present who were unfamiliar with the group or their songs but it was obvious from the chants and ‘call and response’ that the majority of the crowd were hardcore fans. Among those in attendance was Chicago rapper Rhymefest (famous for helping Kanye West write “Jesus Walks”) whom Killer Mike shouted out during their set. It turns out that ‘Fest showed them some good old Chicago hospitality by taking them on a tour of Donda’s House; an organization started by Rhymefest and Kanye West that provides access to premium arts and music instruction to the youth of Chicago. It was nice for both rappers to show unity and support while highlighting the good done in Chicago as opposed to concentrating on the bad like most media outlets do.

The first thing I noticed when they started the show was the bass, which was clear and punchy not muffled like most venues. The sound system really accented El’s bass-heavy beats and it actually turned out to be some of the best sound I’ve heard at a Hip Hop event yet. If they could keep that same set up without pushing the Fire Marshal maximum occupancy this loft could have a huge future as new venue for Chicago, although I fear that this was only a one-time event made possible due to the Fader and Goose Island sponsorships. The clear sound and throat closing bass thumps only heightened the fervor of their performance as they blazed through tracks from their album, absolutely destroying renditions of Banana Clippers, 36” Chain, DDFH and Sea Legs while stirring the crowd excitement to a fever pitch. The enthusiasm did die down a bit as the treble went out midway through the set unfortunately, and it remained that way for a couple of songs until El-P noticed and asked the sound boy to start over until they got it right. After finally getting back on track the pair finished off the night with a couple more songs before exiting the stage. The closing song was immediately followed by shouts for an encore, as DJ Trackstar looked towards the crowd confused as they chanted ‘RUN-THE-JEWELS’ (the confusion likely coming from the fact that they had already performed the group’s entire album PLUS Butane and parts of ‘Big Beast’ from R.A.P. Music!) The genuinely surprised rappers returned to the stage to satiate the crowd and  performed another solo track each with Mike performing his Untitled track off R.A.P. Music (ending with an acapella repeat of his best verse from it) while El-P closed the night with a hype rendition of his single ‘The Full Retard’ from his Cancer 4 Cure album.

With records sales quickly decreasing for artists, shows are becoming far more important as a revenue stream for them and events of this magnitude and higher may not be possible without sponsorship of some kind. The artists just have to figure out the right balance of chemistry and corporate money without sacrificing too much integrity. Luckily Goose Island, Fader magazine and Run the Jewels have gotten it right with this one.  Those that attended should feel lucky that they were able to see a El-P and Killer Mike for free; Run the Jewels is a rising star that can very well start packing arenas if they keep making music of this caliber and putting their all into their performances like they did with this Analog Migration concert.
~GodzIL

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