[MetroActive Music]

[ Music Index | Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

[whitespace] DU Still Doing The Hump

Hip-hop party-time comes to P-ville

By David Espinoza

WHEN THE Digital Underground first broke onto the scene during the early '90s, hip-hop was going through a transitional period where smiley, big-gold-chain-sporting, party-time rappers were giving way to hard-faced gangstas (Ice Cube solo, Ghetto Boys) and mellow highbrow jazz figureheads (A Tribe Called Quest, the Roots). Roughly 11 years later, despite all the burnouts of the era (Arrested Development, Naughty by Nature) and the absence of Tupac Shakur, Oaktown's Digital Underground still managed to turn the party out at Palookaville last Friday (May 18).

The show was a healthy mix of nostalgic twentysomethings and younger hip-hop heads eager to hear some freak nasty old-school sounds. MCs Shock G (later Humpty Hump) and Money B did drop a few new songs, but it was the heavily funkified, libido-driven tunes like "Same Song" and "Kiss You Back" that folks came to see. For the most part, Shock G, looking like Jimi Hendrix's illegitimate son with an uneven 'fro, '70s sunglasses and a bandanna, delivered the goods, though he was very careful to save the best moments for last. Milking the fact that the legendary Tupac was once a member of DU, Shock G and crew had the audience hold their lighters up in tribute as they let the song "Hail Mary" play for a minute or so.

The rest of the night was something like a Funkadelic show with I'm Gonna Get You Sucka sensibilities. When it comes to being the Mac, Shock G takes himself only so seriously, especially when the MC changed outfits to become Humpty Hump--the skinny, Groucho Marx-looking, boxers-and-no-pants-wearing pimp.

As party-time shows high on the randy factor go, the Digital Underground couldn't resist filling the entire stage with women to dance with the band. The Mardi Gras "Show me yours, and I'll give you these beads as a reward" trick didn't seem to go down well with the other women in the audience. I could've read the audience wrong though; maybe it was just time to go outside for some fresh cigarette-filled air.

Onward Minimalism

Two local musicians posing as Siamese twins; avant-garde puppet theater with a cello and a theremin; a short, shy singer/songwriter from Olympia named Mirah singing Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark"--these are the acts that stood out from a Tuesday night at the 418 Project.

Though billed as a gig featuring Mirah, the event was more of a variety performance-art show with a subdued surreal setting. The Brothers Manswan, featuring Jeff Manson (Hate Mail Express) and Rick Swan (sometimes of the Barometers) attached at the waist, offered raw experimental low-fi sacrifices to the Beck god by way of tape recorders, drum machines, a banjo and tom drum.

Mirah was sweet as toffee, with her Tonya Donnelly cooing voice, guitar and keyboard. Missing from the stew were the musical textures laid out on Mirah's brilliant full-length number "You Think It's Like This, But Really It's like this," where she is occasionally backed by drums and various looping effects reminiscent of the Velvet Underground. Armed with only a keyboard perched on two folding chairs, Mirah sang, in French, "Of Pressure," while an attentive audience sat quietly on the floor. It was blissful and over too soon.

More Places to Play

The reopening of the Rio Theatre as a multipurpose art and cultural center seems to have spawned a resurgence in venues open to the talents of local bands. Not only has the Wired Wash (formerly the Wash Rock) begun featuring local all-ages shows for free, the Cayuga Vault in Seabright on Soquel, where Sin In Space debuted its CD Asteroid Band last Friday, is also available. Meanwhile, KMBY continues to sponsor gigs at the Aptos Club, though you gotta be at least 21 for that.

[ Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the May 23-20, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.