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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Last Night: RJD2 and Busdriver at the Independent

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 7:37 AM

RJD2, Busdriver 
Wednesday, April 7, 2010 
The Independent

Better than: Karaoke night with R2D2 and a bus driver.

Indie-rapper Busdriver called last night's bill at the Independent a "weird rap night." The music was eclectic, to be sure, but the vibe was strange too. It was the type of night where you couldn't drink beer because the trip to the bathroom was a punishing gauntlet of feet swinging from the railing and elbows swinging from the bodies in the pit; the type of night where a guy offers you a hit from his hash pipe one minute and accosts the guy to your left the next.

  Nevertheless, both RJD2 and Busdriver put on entertaining shows.


LA's Busdriver, who has been putting his elastic voice on plastic for more than a decade, delivered his abstract spitfire message while handling half of the beats himself. "Casting Agents and Cowgirls" and "Unemployed Black Astronaut" got people rocking, and Busdriver fired off a climactic cannon of confetti mid-set, calling it a "premature ejaculation."

After his show, Busdriver handled the action at the merch booth for a few minutes. Then he fell into the gauntlet, telling a fan, "I can't get around here."

RJD2 opened up his set in costume: A homemade Boba Fett-style mask and a beatbox strapped to his crotch. He spoke through a robo-coder type of effect and called his package "the first ever scrotum of musical instruments."

RJD2 performed a drum solo on the beat pads while robo-posturing, and spun the unit around like a ZZ Top guitar.

 After a strong 20 minutes on the decks, a full band took the stage. This is a solid for RJD2, whose work often contains heavy layers of instrumentation--and it turns out he can shred, too. When RJD2 returned to the decks, he juggled beats beneath a trifecta of live keyboards. Damn straight. Why get your beats from a can when you can get them fresh? 


DJs usually aim a little video camera at their turntables to help you get into the action. RJD2 took this a leap further. He had a beatbox painted to look like the videogame board of Donkey Kong, and then basically puppeteered a game. In his left hand, a Mario puppet bounced over the pads, triggering the appropriate Donkey Kong sound effects. In his right hand, a log puppet rolled and rolled and finally took out little Mario. The whole drama played out on screen in glorious 2-D.


If this was "weird rap," I want more of it.

Critic's Notebook 
Personal bias: A smoky club isn't a lot of fun when you're nursing a spring fever with tea and lemon juice.


Random detail: Busdriver covered "Space Oddity," an enjoyable choice for me, since I was playing a Bowie mixtape (yes, cassette) on the ride over. 

By the way: RJD2's set was interrupted by the occasional skip. He excused his vinyl with the proverb, "Skips happen." 
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David MacFadden-Elliott


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