Monday, July 16, 2012
Better than: Shows where they don't find random shoes, watches, and other detachable items strewn about afterward.
Last night, the rising Sacramento hardcore band Trash Talk and freaky Florida rapper SpaceGhostPurrp shared an unusual billing at Slim's. While avoiding the moshpit and most of the cups, shoes, and other items flying out of the near-constant storm at the foot of the stage, we learned a few interesting things about these artists and their fans. Here are five of them:
1. Hardcore punk and hardcore rap are both after a similar kind of hideous transcendence.
There's been some discussion of the apparent oddness of billing a furious hardcore punk outfit like Trash Talk along with a dark, foreboding rapper like SpaceGhostPurrp. Why was that, again? Watched in sequence, it was clear that these artists used their disparate musical styles to pursue similar ends. They seek new frontiers of ugliness -- transgressions so crudely extreme they're liberating. SpaceGhostPurrp invites the whole room to chant "suck a nigga dick" repeatedly over a blackened bass throb, eliciting a gross-but-infectious reptilian delight from the mob. Trash Talk cultivates a semiviolent (yet totally egalitarian) free-for-all through pounding guitar, bass, and drums at inhuman speed, while a man shreds his vocal chords live onstage.
Both share the same bent on brutality and extreme-ness for its own sake, a sense that the bass can never be loud enough and the tempo can never be fast enough. Both groups' rise could be seen as a reaction to the creeping gentility in both popular (read: "indie") rock and mainstream rap and R&B -- something scary and elusive and indifferent and untouchable to counter a world where rock stars wear dress shirts and rappers play Carnegie Hall.
2. Lee Spielman is a really nice guy.
At our first Trash Talk show, we found the band a bit scary, watching it preside over a space that was larger and more violent than Slim's last night. But between songs, Spielman, the tall, longhaired ringmaster of the band, comes across as friendly and compassionate. After the three-song opening assault had subsided, Spielman asked with seemingly genuine concern, "How's everybody doing?" Later, after the melee had left a patina of sweat on nearly everyone in the room, he asked who was thirsty, and tossed out water bottles to the pit. During every break, he seemed genuinely concerned for the well-being of the audience (many members of which seemed to be doing everything possible to injure themselves). He implored fans -- everyone in the room -- to come forward and stage dive, which someone did about every three seconds. And he would motion for fans to make their way toward him, then put the mic in their face for them to sing. We've rarely seen this level of concern for fans from any artist.
3.Rap kids are punk kids and punk kids are rap kids now.
We were a bit surprised when, after SpaceGhostPurrp's set (and pit) ended, the circle that had been full of moshers immediately turned into a kind of circular dance-off, as kids in Vans and baseball caps strutted their stuff to Internet rap tracks like Chief Keef's "I Don't Like" and Lil B's "Pretty Bitch." The dance-off/moshpit continued for most of the 30-minute break between SpaceGhost and Trash Talk, while the giant video screen above showed old Target Video clips of Black Flag playing "Rise Above" and Flipper playing "Love Canal."
We've all heard how the iPod and filesharing prompted a great thawing of the boundaries of taste, with "rock fans" getting into hip-hop and "rap fans" discovering indie rock. Those categories didn't seem to exist at all for the kids (and they were kids) at last night's show. They pounded each other to hardcore one minute, and in the next rapped along in unison -- the entire room, even the members of Trash Talk setting up gear -- with obvious delight.
4. And all the kids have way too much energy.
A summary of last night's kinetics: Running and play-fighting on the sidewalk beforehand. Pitting to the boomy low-end of SpaceGhost, even though it's better music to sway and bounce along to. Dancing/pitting to the DJ during the break between bands. Then: Spastic lunacy, stage-diving, and shoe-removing, circle-pitting mayhem all during Trash Talk's set. There was one moment where Spielman got the whole front of the room to sit down and take a rest, while the band went into one of its slow, grinding tunes. Spielman sat on the edge of the stage, trying to hold back the crowd's energy. As the grinding continued, he slowly stood up, motioning for the crowd to remain seated still. Then, in what felt like a milisecond, the band leaped into another insanely fast song, and the crowd snapped to its feet like a single, stretched rubber band. The pounding resumed, even crazier than it had been. After the band's 40-minute set, some of the young'uns sat down to rest on the sidewalk outside, shirtless and catching their breath with a cigarette. Others went back to play-fighting with each other in the street.
5. Even young hardcore bands get tired.
Trash Talk -- especially Spielman -- wasn't as wildly active last night as our previous experience with them. Which isn't to say they were boring: Spielman still stage-dove semiconstantly, waded through the pit, and ran around the stage like a madman. Between songs, though, you could tell he was tired. He barely had time to catch his breath between each assault. He seemed wearied by the stage-divers who would bump or kick or push him before diving back into the maelstrom. (After one blow to the jaw, he gave his bandmate a particularly pained, exhausted look.) On one hand, we were sad not to see the kind of awesomely terrifying, unhinged chaos that we remember from our first Trash Talk show. On the other hand, it's nice to know these guys are human.
Overheard 1: Kids recounting their pitting misadventures with friends afterward. "First time I got hit, busted my lip wide open!"
Overheard 2: Various Slim's staff and crowd members trying to return items in the post-show wreckage. "Another shoe!" "Who lost a watch?"