Sole and the Skyrider Band | 10.09.08

live_sole.jpgWhile many of Sole’s contemporaries are spinning their wheels about themselves or signature sneakers, this influential MC has found a way to keep himself fresh and endearing.



The Bluebird, St. Louis

live_sole_art.jpgThese are strange times for cautionary voices like Sole. With the struggling economy, disaster capitalism and the thinning worth of American labor, those who have been heeding these forlorn days have no "I told you so" in their throats but instead their heads in their hands. For Sole, the damage is done, and all that matters is the future.

Shows like this don’t happen every day in St. Louis; they don’t even really happen every other year. With Jason and the Beast and well as The Earthworms on the bill, this seemingly innocent local lineup pulled back the curtain on where future of hip-hop may be heading. No crooked promoters with bad hair, the bands didn’t spend their whole set networking, no shitty sound; this was a night for every person who has ever been bitter about the local scene.

Jason and the Beast have one goal, to prove that hip-hop is poetry. With an impressive collective of musicians behind him, the titular Jason employs a man vs. self approach that evokes not only Shakespeare but Sage Francis and Saul Williams. May not be everyone’s thing, but definitely an act worth keeping a look out for in next year, when an EP and accompanying comic book are set to drop.

I felt sort of dumb for not knowing about The Earthworms sooner. They break out a three-man MC aesthetic that’s been relatively low key for most of the decade. They may not talk metaphysics or use the pages of a thesaurus as rolling papers, but they’re clever enough and a lot of fun.

For the longest time, Sole has kept his production within the Anticon crew or those close to the influential label, working with Alias, Jel, Telephone Jim Jesus, Old Nosdam and others. For his follow up to 2003’s Live From Rome, Sole paired up with producer Bud Berning, instrumentalist William Ryan Fritch and percussionist John Wagner. Thus Sole and the Skyrider Band was not only the new album, but a new direction for all four Arizona artists.

The Skyrider Band warmed up the crowd with a short set, showcasing their powerful mix of laptop and live elements; with Sole on stage, they proved even further their presence and musicianship. Sole himself is no slouch, having a mile-a-minute flow and the movement of a Southern Baptist preacher in front of a college library. While only performing two older songs ("Salt on Everything" and "Year of The Sex Symbol") and sticking mainly to 2007’s self-titled release, he ensured that no one felt sore that their favorite wasn’t played. Songs such as "In Paradise" and "Shipwrecker" seemed to have even more weight and relevance live, not just coming from the current state of America but the almost tribal back beat.

New songs like "In da Club" and "Black" (set to be on an as-yet untitled album due in 2009) showed some first-time jitters and, though at times it can hard to keep up with a mind and mouth like Sole’s, on first  pass these new tracks felt like all four musicians may be very close to something big. While many of his contemporaries are spinning their wheels about themselves or signature sneakers, this influential MC has found a way to keep himself fresh and endearing.

Offstage, Sole and his crew talked gregariously with fans from behind the merch table. Rarely have I seen a group so comfortable and welcoming of conversation, regardless of success. Sole said that he felt that was giving the crowd too much energy near the end, a comment that led to his being met with a wall of disbelief. | Bryan J. Sutter

Playlist (Note: Not all songs performed):

1. In Paradise
2. Nothing Is Free
3. Salt on Everything
4. Aerosmith
5. In da Club
6. Bridges Let Us Down
7. Shipwrecker
8. Suicide Song
9. Longshots
10. One Egg Short
11. Year of the Sex Symbol
12. Stupid Things Implode On Themselves
13. 100 Light Years
14. Bottle of Humans
15. Black

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