Might Win Some but She Just Lost One
Im not writing this to make enemies. I was just as excited as you were, if not more so, to hit the Cuthbert Amphitheater and watch Lauryn Hill crush it. Lauyrn Hill isnt just a musician to me; she is a cultural icon who shaped an entire portion of my life and the lives of people who identify as the conscious hip hop generation. I feel guilty for writing what I am about to write, and I really mean that. But I am going to write it anyway.
Friday, May 20, Lauryn Hill broke the hearts of hundreds of Eugene fans that came out to the Cuthbert Amphitheater. Her disappointing performance was so lackluster that nearly twenty minutes into her set, I turned around and saw most of the crowd going and gone.
Hills band was not terrible by any means, but they played terribly; the instruments sounded as if they were in a race against each other. Hills voice was unusually raspy, and she seemed to be playing catch up with the musicians as she strained to hear her own vocals through the onstage monitors.
"Kill the sound man!” a frustrated show-goer bellowed. Im not into violence, but I got his point. The music sounded muddy, like it was being played through a sock. I was on the lawn of the amphitheater, sitting on the concrete lip just behind the gravel path, and it was a struggle to hear Hills lyrics over guitars, drums and back-up vocals. Something was seriously imbalanced. Every single person I have talked to who attended this show was upset, and some were very pissed off. No one was stoked, which, given the impresario talent of Hill, is astounding.
Why, Lauryn? Why? Eugene Oregon loves you (And I still do, regardless of the show)! From the white kids with bleached dreads to the handful of brown folks that live here, from the mothers who came to dance with children in arms, to the scantily clad college girls who shivered through the evening, we were all there. And no one understands what happened. Maybe it was just a bad night on a long tour? But people whod seen shows in Portland and California relayed the same information: Hill, struggling to keep up with a hyperactive band playing her smooth joints way too fast.
The night wasnt a total loss if you caught the opening act Dead Prez. The revolutionary hip hop duo put on an excellent show, engaging an audience much smaller than Hill had the privilege of playing for. ã Dante Zu¿iga-West
Yelawolf with No Walls
|photo by Todd Cooper|
Any shlub or shlomo with earholes at the Wiz Kalifa gig last October at WOW Hall ã no, fuck that, anyone with red blood cells and a head screwed on proper had they shit totally torn down and reorganized by a righteous piece of skinny white trash who stomped and stormed the boards with the good-to-go charisma and genius chops of a deep South rapper on the cusp of superstardom. Mans name is Michael Wayne Atha ã Yelawolf to you and me ã and he is a pure product of Alabama, a lupine-eyed intensity of Caucasian and Cherokee descent who grew up rough in Faulkner country with those eyes open, sucking through the gills the thick, swampy air of his culture ã Lynyrd Skynyrd, dented truck doors, chicks, pills, poverty, meth, violence ã he feels called to represent that American South in all its authenticity. He discovered old school hip hop, NWA blasting straight out of Compton, let it into his DNA, mastered it, and transformed hometown Gadsden into his 8 Mile. Recorded a slew of badass songs. Yela signed to Interscope recently. Any fucker at WOW that night ã me included, photographer Todd Cooper included ã felt the sheer power and truth of Yelawolf. That dude, only a matter of time, people. That time is now.
I had the very good fortune of spending post-show with Yelawolf at WOW. Guy scared the shit out of me ã he exuded the kind of amped energy and outa-my-way drive that peels all falsity from the room. But we talked and talked and talked. I told him I hadnt had my skull popped like that since the first Nirvana show, and he was genuinely touched and humbled. It was one of the most intense and rewarding interviews Ive ever done; I left that room vibrating with excitement. Yela is real, in the realest sense of real: Focused, crazy talented, principled, on a mission to bring it, stay true, keep moving, take it as far as it will go. So fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and fuck you, like the song says. Feel the love. Yelawolf loves you true, for real. He aint no savior, but he wants the music to save you, tell you that no matter what shit you ate all your life you gotta own that shit and then rise above it.
Stoked like hell for Radioactive, Yelawolfs first studio album for Interscope, due to drop sometime this summer. For now, you got the man himself arriving in this land of bud, toejam and jam bands for one night. Thats not enough, but well take it.
Yelawolf plays with some other fuckers at 5 pm Sunday, May 29, at Cuthbert Amphitheater; $41. ã Rick Levin
Kill the Shamrock, Pass the Pipes
What happens when you combine Irish pride with roaring metal, in-your-face lyrics and biting vocals so magical delicious you want to light Guinness on fire then chug it? You get Flogging Molly.
The cult band of Irish punksters began in the mid-•80s, when Dave King decided to bail on the band Fastway in order to form a new band. He was actually bailing on the future members of UFO and Motrhead, but whatever. His new label said he was crazy for wanting to play hard rock with classical Irish instruments, but he knew it was genius. Freaking leprechaun-choking madness.
The band went nowhere for a few years, eventually emigrating to America. Playing regularly at the Los Angeles bar Molly Malones, gathering a fan base of rowdy patrons. After landing a record deal, they took a name in honor of Molly Malones ã after all, the audience mustve been sick of them by then.
As much as Flogging Mollys been sliding into metal the last couple of years, you cant help but love them because theyre not fully metal. Theyre Irish metal, a completely different beast. They still use mandolins and uillean pipes in addition to their craggy vocals. Their new album, Speed of Darkness, will be released May 31st, and is likely going to be a calmer kickback from last years Live at the Greek Theatre. But just wait; one second Flogging Mollys got the pub-goers singing, the next everyones head-banging. Flogging Molly play 7:30 pm Wednesday, June 1, at the McDonald Theatre; $25 adv., $30 door. ã Brit McGinnis
These Arent LeRoy Bells Only Friends
For a guy who doesnt look that old, LeRoy Bell has been around the music business for a long time, and he has the resume to prove it. As a young staff writer for his uncle Thom Bell in the late •70s, Bell wrote songs that would go on to be recorded by such big names as the Spinners, The OJays, Rita Marley, The Temptations and Elton John. In fact, Elton John earned a Grammy nod in 1979 for his performance of Bells song "Mama Cant Buy Me Love.”
You might expect that someone in the industry this long wouldve put out a solo record by now, but it wasnt until last year that Bell finally checked that off his to-do list. Traces is an acoustic journey into deeply personal area ã life and death, love and loss.
The year 2010 marked another momentous achievement for Bell when he participated in the re-recording of the historic 1985 classic "We are the World” with artists like Michael Franti, Youssou Ndour, Angelique Kidjo and Lila Downs. Bell also contributed his track "A Change is Coming” to the digital compilation We Are The World/United in Song.
Musically, Bell treads the same easygoing folk/soul/pop territory as relative newcomers like Jason Mraz, Ben Harper or John Mayer. But with his longevity and credentials, Bell definitely shows those whippersnappers how its done.
LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends play Friday, May 27, at the WOW Hall; $12 adv., $15 door. ã William Kennedy