Aesop Rock at Irving Plaza, NYC (Photos & Review)

first_imgOn Saturday night, February 9, 2013, the legendary Aesop Rock took to the stage at Irving Plaza, NYC. This was a huge relief for many excited fans who were concerned that the snow storm of the night prior would jeopardize the touring artist’s travel plans.There are several things to note about this event. First and foremost, Aesop Rock is currently touring in support of his latest album, Skelethon. This record marks Aesop’s first solo project since the dissolution of the NYC indie-rap label powerhouse, Def Jux, founded by El-P. Skelethon was released on Rhymesayers Entertainment last July, and was produced entirely by Aesop Rock himself. Although the man was nowhere to be seen, El-P’s presence was definitely felt throughout the evening, specifically during opening act The Juggaknot’s abridged version of “The Fire In Which You Burn” and Aesop’s surprise throwback “Nickle Plated Pockets”, both produced by El-P.It seems in recent years there has been a resurgence of genuine excitement for independent and alternative hip-hop, something that dwindled in the late 2000 era. Aesop Rock has definitely been at the fore, and curates a devilishly creative cast of artists to be his supporting acts. Past tourmates recently included Dark Time Sunshine and Open Mike Eagle, both burgeoning art-rap icons in their own right, and Saturday’s sets by The Juggaknots and Busdriver were equally impressive.The Juggaknots are of a historical legacy in NYC rap, stemming back to the early 90′s, and performed many songs from their classic Clear Blue Skies LP. It was questionable as to how much of the audience were truly aware of the gravity of such a rare and classic performance. Nonetheless, main MC Breezely Brewin commanded the attention of the crowd and delivered flawless verses for the duration of their set, and even brought out his equally talented female counterpart, Queen Herawin, for a special cameo.If we’re speaking on impressive verbal gymnastics, the next act, LA’s Busdriver, followed suit. Busdriver is known for his unorthodox rhyme patterns and manic live performances, and this evening’s set was nothing short of impressive. Keeping in trend with his beat-oriented Californian peers, ‘Driver brought to the stage an array of strange small electronic boxes, and proceeded to manipulate the music through various effects and loops while rapping. He delivered an amazingly high-energy set of dreadlocks flying, knobs turning, and heads bouncing, all the while rapping quadruple-time, creating a frenzy one might expect more from an electronic music party.Both of these performances warmed up the audience for the main event. Aesop Rock took to the stage, opening his set as his album does, with the eerie and urgent “Liesureforce”. Backed by his crew, Hail Mary Mallon, consisting of long-time associates DJ Big Wiz and rapper Rob Sonic, he traded lines of the chorus between frenetic scratches and impeccably rehearsed backup vocals. These artists have been on tour for “Skelethon” for months now, and it is no surprise they’ve found a confident and powerful stage presence to match the power of their studio recordings. By that same principle, it worked to the crowd’s advantage that this was their second outing in NYC for the tour. One would imagine playing a record from front-to-back each night would grow weary, and we were given a number of unexpected songs from previous projects to keep things interesting. In particular, the bounce-laden “None Shall Pass”, produced by Blockhead, as well as the previously mentioned “Nickle Plated Pockets”, a hard-hitting favorite from years past, and “No Regrets”.Stage antics abounded, including an impressive show of DJ skills during Big Wiz’s solo scratch routine. Also entertaining was the now customary “haircut” during Aesop’s “Racing Stripes”, where a fan is brought to the stage to receive a personalized (and always ridiculous) buzz from one of Aes’ tourmates, in this case Busdriver. This is an important and playful addition to what some might find to be a generally dark, hard-edged, and serious playlist.If it is any indication of the quality of work, many of Aesop Rock’s peers could be seen in the audience, enjoying themselves as both fans and co-creators. Billy Woods, Despot, Blockhead and many other NYC hip-hop luminaries were in attendence and showed their support enthusiastically. For fans, there may have been only one thing left in question at the end of the night. For many years, crowds have patiently waited for encore to hear what is arguably Aesop Rock’s most well-known and popular song, the Blockhead produced “Daylight”. It is the duty and decision of an artist to either deny or indulge their audience’s expectations, and after years of concerts and hundreds of miles on the road, as well as a night of particularly polished and exciting performances, Aesop Rock closed the evening without this fan favorite. But who could blame him?–Hazel Chamberlain(Photos Courtesy of Shannon Nallan)last_img

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