Let it be known that I'm completely okay with performing in front of large crowds. I don't get nervous to the point of vomiting. I don't pace. I don't jump up and down with anxiety. I don't pee myself (at least not enough to see through me drawls).
What makes me nervous is relying on other people. Putting my faith in someone that I know or don't know, to follow through on shit that could potentially be considered a hassle.
What the Fuck am I talking about?
I'm talking about the logistics of getting 10 people (including 5 musicians) from Chicago up to Minneapolis for Soundset. That shit kept me up at night. Sure, I was excited to perform with Rubberoom in front of the Soundset crowd, but I feared the day would come and all of the logistical plans I had fought over would all poop out. I feared people getting lost, hotel's claiming we didn't have reservations, rappers getting drunk, power cords fizzling out, producers not getting along...
It seems I fear nearly everything not involved in the actual performance, but leading up to and following the performance.
So let's talk about the weekend and we'll see where my fears became reality in a few key instances.
Rubberoom and crew all left from my home in Yorkville, IL at 9:45am on the Saturday before Soundset and hauled ass north to Minneapolis. It took roughly 7 hours.
Immediately after pulling into the downtown area of one of the twin cities (how the Fuck would I know which twin city?), I was in love with the area. Clean, people said hi, there were head shops, I saw some chick itch her snatch and then smell it - things were just awesome in St. Minny.
We stopped at Fifth Element (the Rhymesayers store) to scoop our credentials, but they were with Bird, who was out running around. During the fifteen minutes or so we stood outside of FE, I was fucking shocked at the amount of people at that store paying cash money for music, clothing and festival tickets. Something right is happening in Minneapolis, and the rest of this fucking country better fucking take a look at Rhymesayers and fucking learn. shit was poppin'.
Finally heading to our hotel 30 minutes from Minneapolis, and 3 minutes from Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN, shit starts to settle down as I realize we've all arrived at our destination and we didn't lose anybody and nothing's broken yet.
The Saturday before Soundset was chill as hell, until the 7th beer. Right across from our hotel, was a Ruby Tuesday. Right across from Ruby Tuesday, was a liquor store. Right across from the liquor store, was a 3am-last-call bar called Arizonas.
Add about 20 hip hoppers and all of these ingredients together and you have a hilarious night of booze, laughs, dry heaves and a luscious hangover salad for the next morning.
I don't remember much, but i can say with strict certainty that DJ Rare Grooves, Bobby Silver, 2Mex, k-the-i??, Crushcon7, Vurbles, Bleubird, Zavala, Void Pedal, Isle of Weight, Mr. Echoes, Roy, Pauly and Brandon had a fucking ball together. We will probably start a traveling circus together that will stimulate the economies and collective clitorises of small towns everywhere.
Somewhere around 2:45am Kevin (Mr. Echoes) finds me on the floor of a hotel room and tells me in his fatherly way "Joel, you have a big show tomorrow and load in is at 9, so get to snoozing."
When Kevin speaks, I listen. So I shuffled off to Buffalo to find my hotel roommate Roy staring at me. "What's up Roy?" I asked.
'Did you just type "Shuffle off to Buffalo"?'
And then the fucker just gets up and leaves.
So sleeping, yeah, I did like 3 hours of that shit before waking up like a lush who let a cat shit in his mouth. I showered for 45 minutes and brushed my teeth for about 30 minutes of that shower trying to get the taste of 77 different kinds of inexpensive beers out of my mouth.
I met the rest of our crew in the lobby around 8:00 and we proceeded to individually eat cube shaped eggs and greasy, paper thin bacon out of bowls. It is what the rock and roll people do my friends.
So I volunteer to be solo shuttled to the venue with some equipment and I'm sitting in the white rent-a-van with non other than Paten Locke (DJ Therapy). This is the dude that put out an album a few years ago called Super Ramen Rocketship that I was completely the gay for. It isn't every day you ride in a van with someone you appreciate musically, and while I AM a superfan and not afraid to shower people I respect with praise, it was neither the time nor place for me to ask for an autograph on my bowl of bacon.
Fast forward three minutes.
Arriving at Canterbury Park was something out of a dream. Two huge fucking stages. A churro vendor. A huge fucking half pipe. A churro vendor. Tents and tents of independent vendors. A churro vendor. Red Bull tents and VIP lounges. Port-a-potties galore. A churro vendor. Golf carts running everywhere. A churro vendor. Soundchecks. A churro vendor. Huge ass video screens. A churro vendor. Dozens of awesome fucking cars. And a fucking churro vendor!
If you've never been to a festival before the masses arrive, it's fucking creepy awesome. I kept saying to myself "there's no way they're going to fill this place up".
Fast forward a few hours and all you heard was this huge gradual amplification of crowd sounds as the place went from vacant to half capacity in about twenty minutes.
Soundset, and Rhymesayers on the whole, has captured a segment of the fanbase that is both extremely participatory and excited as Fuck to stand next to the people they have in their earholes throughout the rest of the year. I have never seen such excitement for a laundry list of rap acts in my life. It was inspiring to hear kids half my age discuss who they were going to see and when, and who they would miss because of who they would see.
I'll get to that in a second.
In the hours leading up to Rubberoom's set I had the privilege of seeing Longshot, Mally, Qwazaar, Looptroop, Brother Ali, Grieves and Budo, and a fucking INSANE beat display from X144, Void Pedal, my brothers in The OPUS (Isle of Weight and Mr. Echoes), and Evidence of Dilated Peoples.
What can I say quickly about each of them?
Longshot deserves the praise he gets, dude is a fucking performer. Bringing the lusciously gorgeous Psalm One up on stage with him was a wise move as many of his songs increase in intensity with the presence of a hype man/woman. Plus she's fucking hot.
Mally is one to watch. Not only is he a really nice, genuine guy, he's fucking fun to listen to. If I didn't already feel his shit prior to seeing him live, I would easily say he had earned himself a fan in me.
Qwa is one of my fucking favorites. I walked up behind Longshot and said to him "Fuckin' A that guy is so much better than you" and before he could give me a weird look he said without thinking "I know". Energy, intensity and one of the best voices in hip hop, Qwazaar is unFuckwitable on stage. Plus he hugs like a man. GRRR.
Looptroop is fucking awesome. Four guys all dressed up in red, with Promoe's deliciously dangly dreads whipping the other three in the face (on beat), they put on a hell of a show. And I was extremely happy to not be the only one who knew some of their lyrics. I LOVE YOU MATTIEUS!
Brother Ali. This dude could read the assembly instructions of a fucking desk chair from Ikea and I would put my hands up. Talking with him backstage I got the distinct feeling that HE REMEMBERS EVERY fucking PERSON HE'S EVER MET. Which works to my advantage since I seem to be quite forgettable somehow (IT HAS TO BE MY CALVES, THEY ARE THE SO SMALLS). I love Brother Ali. 4EVERZ.
Grieves and Budo again earn the fucking shit out the respect they're given. Grieves can rock a crowd like nobody's bidness and Budo can fucking play anything amazingly. IT'S BOTH ANNOYING AND INSPIRING. After threatening to steal Budo's delicious Nashville Tele, I silently apologized while planting a GPS tracker on his collar. I NEED TO KNOW WHERE THESE TWO fuckers ARE AT ALL TIMES DAMNIT! They're that fucking good.
The beat showcase was exactly what I wanted to hear. Void Pedal is easily one of my favorite producers ever. X144 stole my heart, AND A fucking GUITAR TRACK I DID 4 YEARS AGO I HEAR - I WANNA HEAR THAT shit YOU EGYPTIAN SCROLL OF ARTIFICIAL PAPYRUS! The OPUS demonstrated why I brag about them and pinch myself when I realize that I'm in their fucking band. And Evidence, not only is he a cool muthafucker while standing outside our hotel, his never ending beat cd was fucking tight, he just needs lifts in his shoes to be as big in person as he is in my brainz.
Standing around this beat showcase inside the Red Bull BBoy Tent, I was floored by all the talented muthafuckers just standing there listening. DaVinci and Swam from SOS, Kid Cut Up (CLEAN YOUR ROOM!), my brother in sin DJ Pratt, the real teacha Kevin Beacham, Zavala, Exile, shit I could go on but I assume if you know who these people are you will know that over 1/5th the crowd was the actual talent!
So getting closer and closer to our set time, we converged once again on the Fifth Element Stage to peep Macklemore. Now, anyone not familiar with this dude, myself included, this dude is the blonde 1950's greaser definition of fucking performer. Dude had chicks taking off their clothes and dudes ironing their shirts shit was so bonkers. He pulls out a jean jacket with David Bowie painted on the back, then adorns a blonde wig and sequence cape, then the dude raps in a British accent, all the while PEOPLE ARE shitTING THEMSELVES. I don't even think I realized dude was actually rapping I was so impressed with his stage show. Props to Macklemore, and yes, I did tell you not to Fuck it up, and you clearly didn't, but yes, I'm mad jell of you. AND THOSE JEANS, WOOOOWEEEE WHAT A TAUT SUPPLE MANPURSE!
Back to the Rubba: Being in a group with a bunch of mpc's, kaoss pads, midi triggers, mixers, and the like - we can't set up in under 2 minutes without something going wrong. Everything seemed to be going great. Echoes and Weight were all set up and line checked, and as I turn up my guitar volume I get FRRRRRRRR. Nothing. That's what nothing sounds like: FRRRRRRRR.
A feeling of utter panic sets over me. I've driven all this way (Pauly drove, I lied) and at go-time I can't even hear my fucking guitar?
What the Fuck happened?
Thinking quickly, with the help of our sound man with the excellent glasses, I try every combination of cords to get the sound back. Nothing works. I look back at my brother Brandon standing there and he had this look on his face like "I can do nothing but watch you bleed" it was so shitty. Mind you, this is only 30 seconds after we first heard the FRRRRRRR, but it feels like 30 minutes. I try one last thing and boom, I have sound. It isn't what I set up for, but I have sound.
I look to my left and Mr. Echoes calmly nods and I start the set completely out of breath, completely shook, completely numb to any of the excitement I had had leading up to this point over the past three months.
My heart is pounding like I just got hit on in prison I'm so fucking shaky. But I nail the opening riff and the set fucking starts flawlessly.
Now that the feeling of failure is starting to dissipate, I notice the crowd did the same thing while I was freaking out. See, we played at the same fucking time as De La Soul. So while none of the kids really cared, and many stuck around, all of the people our age RAN over to the main stage to see De La. shit, I would have too.
Would you stick around to see a reunion of one of the best Chicago hip hop acts of the 90s or one of the internationally known best hip hop acts of the 90s?
Well, I saw a few faces I recognized and they made the entire trip worthwhile. Standing in row were Blueprint, 2Mex and Casey from Face Candy. Not only are these dudes musical heroes of mine, they're on par to be written into my will for sticking around.
And while those guys put my confidence back up, one of those dudes did something that to this day is one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. As we went into SMOKE off of Architechnology, I look out and fucking Blueprint is mouthing every fucking word. Not fake rapping the shit, the dude is fucking murdering the lyrics.
I had no idea Blueprint was into Rubberoom, but maybe this dude has no idea how much that shit means to people who are just getting back into the swing of things after an 11 year hiatus. I mean, The OPUS is still performing a few times a month, but Lumba and Meta don't always realize how widespread their reach was and still is. I owe Blueprint a lot for that simple gesture of standing there and listening with that huge creepy Blueprint smile on his fact. Next time I see him I'm kissing him, social mores be damned.
Now because we were up against De La Soul and all of the 6,000 screaming teens left from Macklemore, we were fighting an uphill battle. Thankfully, Lumba and Meta Mo know how to fucking rap because the crowd only got bigger as our set progressed. And by the end of our 30 minutes, we were handling a crowd close to what Macklemore's gifted ass was juggling. (I'm lying)
With our set complete, we got off the stage and took a quick breath (aka 2 luke warm Budweiser cans). Embracing my brothers in Face Candy, JT and Casey, I wished them luck in the set to follow ours, as I knew it would be difficult to play through. See, like syffal friend Slug, JT and Casey (and Kristoff) lost their band leader last October with Eyedea's passing. Having to play Soundset with a visible hole in your stage set up is something I couldn't even imagine.
What Face Candy did on that stage was as musically memorable as it was flat out inspiring. If Eyedea inspired anyone to do anything (and he did), Face Candy just cemented that inspiration even further by letting all emotion flow while doing what they do best in the off-the-cuff-creationz. JT uses his fucking elbows on the drums people. HIS fucking ELBOWS. Casey looks like a fucking policeman and plays bass like a dolphin trainer flings smelt. SMELT PEOPLE. Together they are, and I've already told them this, the band I always wanted to play with. Face Candy are fucking phenomenal.
While I didn't know Eyedea personally, I know what he meant to some of my closest friends. And having met JT and Casey and shared such an awesome connection with them, I realize that it's these types of people that make Soundset, and the music scene in general, so much smaller than it once seemed.
You don't have to dream about meeting the people you look up to. You don't have to send them fan mail and never get a response. These people are just as fucking human as you are, and most of them are just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them. Problem is, not all shows are like Soundset.
I think this is an important time to note that this whole experience of Soundset was like a huge fucking camp for hip hoppers. We met, we became best friends, we drank a shit load of booze and stuff, then we all watch each other play music and become even bestier friends, and then we leave and never speak to each other again or we text each other like little girls with a new crush.
I was going to tell you all about how we lost Lumba at the Soundset after party, but I won't. Just be warned Lumba, if you ever leave me in another state again and don't show up back at the fucking hotel before we leave, WE LEAVIN YO FuckIN ASS!
Peace to Minneapolis. Peace to Rhymesayers. Peace to the churro guy with the limp.