July 11, 2009
The Urban Lounge
with Yak Ballz, Blue Collar Theory
Photos by Conor Dow
I’ve always been picky with hip hop. Testosterone-fueled lyrics boasting about how awesome someone is will usually disinterest me right away. I am, however, always drawn to creative lyrics, humor, and honesty from hip hop artists. Despite my unfamiliarity with much of his material, Cage has always intrigued me due to his traumatic life experiences, D.I.Y. attitude and generally anti-hip hop approach to things. When I saw he was coming to town, I knew it was a show I didn’t want to miss. Cage was performing at Urban Lounge, a venue I am all too familiar with—I’ve seen many of my favorite artists here, and have grown to really enjoy the place despite a lot of interesting situations that have occurred during my attendance. This night was no exception.
As I was ordering my first drink during the first performance by a local group of dudes called Blue Collar Theory, one of the bouncers approached me with a California driver’s license in hand. Now, I’ve already had some pre-game drinks before even setting foot into the show, so I’m in that comfortably buzzed state of enjoying the surroundings while remaining aloof to the many possible distractions. He caught me by surprise and asked me if the license he had in his possession was mine. The photo was of a man who had a surfer mullet, and was easily 50 pounds heavier than I am. In fact the photo looked more like the very bouncer talking to me than it did me, and I genuinely thought he was fucking with me. I told him it was not mine, to which he started vibing me and demanded to see my own driver’s license. This was confusing since I was already in the bar yet this not-very-nice fellow was harassing me over a photo that didn’t even resemble me. After some discussion with him that resembled banging my head against a wall, I finally coughed up my license for him to see how wrong he was.
Figuring that this was the kind of weird shit that was in store for me tonight, I ordered a second drink right away.
Coming straight from the colon our wholesome, strip malls and green jell-o culture, Blue Collar Theory was surprisingly decent. They had a really infectious chemistry on stage, and the crowd was really enjoying them. It was pretty apparent that they have their own little following here, and I can see why. We caught only the tail end of their set, but I’m glad I was able to see some of it. Local Utah music once again surprises me.
Up next was Yak Ballz. Yes, that’s right Yak Ballz from Queens, New York. These guys shared a DJ with Cage, and put on a pretty damn good show. His Persian descent results in a memorable look, with long curly hair and glasses with black frames. It was a lot like watching “Weird Al” flowing some nasty rhymes to some pretty great beats. Musically, Yak was especially interesting because it is very much like electro-indie pop, yet with hip hop beats. The crowd enjoyed him but didn’t seem too familiar with what he had to offer. Regardless, it was very fitting to pair him with Cage on the bill.
Because it was cooler outside, we sat on the new back patio between sets. Before Cage came on, I was treated to a beat box performance by a circle of friends who were very into it. Some were good and others were just boldly giving it a shot. It was a great deal of fun watching this because hey, I grew up in Sandy where the most rap I experienced for a long time was the “Dangerous Minds” soundtrack.
Cage was up and everyone was ecstatic. The lights were already dim and three men took the stage, the DJ, a guitar player, and Cage wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt. No bling, no ironic sports jersey or baseball cap with the price tag still attached, no Bathing Ape hoodies. Minimal at best was the presentation here, and I really appreciate that. This show was like the Pentecostal church services I remember as a child with one man on stage spitting fire and brimstone, holding the mind and heart of every member of the audience as hostage. His audience was filled with friends and foes, and the heckling foes were dealt with quickly after Cage dove into the crowd to fight, and the venue’s bouncers were forced to break it up and drag a cantankerous audience member outside. Stockholm syndrome was clearly going to take hold of some of us in this sweaty venue as his verses flowed out one after the other. Much his time was spent up close and personal with the crowd, and the crowd participation seemed almost essential. After an encore, Cage performed a few more tracks which ended in the crowd continuing to chant his moniker as I walked out of the venue satisfied with what I had experienced.
Though I had to work early the next morning it was worth the meager amount of sleep to attend this show. Cage is definitely unlike any hip hop act I have ever seen.