P.O.S. @ Kilby Court

Posted February 25, 2009 in
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February 13, 2008
Kilby Court
With Sims, Mike Mictlan and DJ Lazerbeak

I really hope that the next time P.O.S. comes through Salt Lake City, he plays a bigger venue than Kilby Court. That’s not to say that I don’t like Kilby, because everyone loves Kilby and nothing compares to seeing your favorite bands play in an actual garage. But Kilby was more packed this time than I’ve ever seen it, and it seems to me that P.O.S. is popular enough here that he really deserves a bigger stage, if only so that all his fans might actually be able to see him.

Shows at Kilby are unique experiences. When the musician is only a few inches in front of you and the sound guys are only ten feet behind you, it often feels like whomever you’re there to see is a peer rather than a performer. Usually this is a good thing, creating a level of intimacy that can’t be replicated in any other venue, but it works against lesser MCs—if the performer isn’t dynamic enough, it starts to seem like they’re just speaking to you quickly rather than rapping. I arrived halfway through the opener, and maybe I would have been more hooked by Sims (one of of P.O.S.’s crew Doomtree) if I had seen his set from the beginning, but as it happened I was under-whelmed. He was fun enough, bouncing around the stage and engaging the crowd (although it would be more difficult to somehow fail to engage the crowd at a Kilby show). But considering that the place was packed and the kids were already pumped out of their minds, he should’ve been able to come up with more than just a comfortable, mildly pleasant performance.

After Sims left the stage, I tried to make my way up to the front but decided that the garage was way too crowded and annoying to put up with between sets when I could be getting fresh air. Normally I think the more packed a show is the better, but no one at this particular show knew how to move through a crowd. It pisses me off more when someone wants to get in front of me and they say “excuse me” and touch my shoulder, rather than just shoving their way through. Haven’t you ever been to a show before? If you’re going to try and get closer to the front, just shove me aside and then get out of my way again, don’t try to be all polite about it while invading my personal space more than you have to. Standard concert etiquette, man.

So I left my spot to go breathe outside, and thus gave up any chance I might have had of being able to actually see P.O.S. when he eventually took the stage. I could only barely glimpse the next opener, Mike Mictlan, another Doomtree member. DJ Lazerbeak was still spinning, but this time his beats were a little darker and Mictlan’s rhymes and urgent delivery style demanded more of my attention. When Mictlan stopped the beats to launch into spoken word for a minute or two, I actually found myself pretty into it, despite the fact that spoken word interludes usually make me roll my eyes.

I’ve seen P.O.S. once before, so I knew that he was fantastic live, even if there were too many people in the crowd this time for me to actually see him perform. I had high expectations, but for his first two songs, I was a little disappointed: he was giving a good performance, but not a great one, and it was almost hard to hear his voice above the crowd yelling along with his words. He didn’t find his groove until he launched into the gripping first track from his latest album Never Better, “Let It Rattle.” P.O.S. is a performer who really knows how to utilize momentum and let a song build, and that was very evident during his performance. This particular song starts with P.O.S. rapping almost without accompaniment, with DJ Lazerbeak slowly adding layers of drum loops until the chorus emerges, hitting you in the chest with frenetic percussion as P.O.S. spit his manifestos. It was like talking to someone who’s staring into your eyes and speaking softly and deliberately, then two minutes later they’re shouting in your face and shaking you by the shoulders.

P.O.S. has a very distinctive voice: he always sounds raspy and a little choked off , yet his vocals have a wider range of emotional expression than I’ve heard from most rappers. He can emote everything from personal dejection to communal joy to political urgency to the kind of aggressive rage that’s heard more often in gangsta rap than in the socially conscious indie set. His range doesn’t come across quite as well live—his voice gets a little raspier and a little thinner than on his records, so he has to make up for it by upping the ante in other ways. When he’s performing he seems to be shouting so loud and so desperately that you can’t imagine how his voice hasn’t died completely. Though he comes off like a big smiling teddy bear in between songs, when he starts rapping he personifies an urgency that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

Towards the end of the night, he explained that he wasn’t going to be playing many of the standard loved songs that he usually plays, because right now he’s super pumped about performing his new material. And while he did deliver a couple songs from his previous album Audition (“P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life” and “Stand Up”), he didn’t play “Duct Tape” or the other standards that fans have come to expect from a P.O.S. show. He apologized for this, saying that he knew fans wanted to hear those songs but that he thought it was better to not play those songs rather than half-assing them because he was more excited about other material. And maybe some fans left the show disappointed because they didn’t hear their favorite song, but I for one was glad that he played what he felt like. It was an excellent show that wouldn’t have been the same if he hadn’t been as excited about the stuff he was rapping.