Author: Darcy Russell

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Give the People What They Want
Daptone Records
Street: 01.14
Sharon Jones = James Brown + Alabama Shakes
After a battle with cancer this past summer and the subsequent delayed release of the album, Sharon Jones returns with her Dap-Kings, more powerful than ever, with the appropriately titled Give the People What They Want—the follow-up to 2010’s I Learned the Hard Way. Give the People What They Want isn’t just a subtle throwback to ’60s soul music—it is the resurrection of soul music. “Retreat” revives a crisp ‘60s psych sound with stabbing guitar that is softened by a super funky bass line, warm horns and Jones’ smoky voice. “Now I See” is the anti-love anthem that has you jumping around your living room and forgetting all your bad relationships, and the album ends with a sweet and soft, horn-heavy love song, “Slow Down Love,” which leaves you lamenting the good ones. Jones & The Dap-Kings only get stronger with every release and every obstacle, making this one of their most solid albums of the past decade. –D. Russell

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Action Bronson
Saaab Stories
VICE Records
Street: 06.11
Action Bronson = A lazy Ghostface Killah + MF DOOM beats

I expected more from Bronson’s debut, Saaab Stories, but was disappointed by his monotone raps. The album is laid out with nostalgic beats thanks to Harry Fraud, but is lacking in the lyrical wit that Bronson is known for. “72 Virgins,” with its porn groove, gets washed out by Bronson’s incessant chattering, and “No Time” has a nostalgic crime movie feel that makes Bronson’s whiney verses tolerable. The album’s heavy weights are from appearances by Wiz Khalifa, Prodigy and Raekwon. “The Rockers” brings a faster rhyme style and energy to the album. “Seven Series Triplets” by far takes the cake as the album saver. As Raekwon and Prodigy bring a fundamental hip hop sound to the album, paired with Fraud’s dramatic beat, this track serves as a great closer to a non-cohesive album. –Darcy Russell

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Earl Sweatshirt
Doris
Columbia
Street: 08.20
Earl Sweatshirt = Dälek + Madlib

Fresh out of Boarding School, Odd Future wonder child Earl Sweatshirt drops Doris on a firm and steady step out the front door with an array of guest appearances from Tyler, the Creator to RZA. Simple, self-produced beats are met with Earl’s dense and wise-beyond-his-years raps that propel the album in a mature direction for this young rapper. “Burgundy” sets the biographical tone with raps about the pressure to release Doris and the sadness over his grandmother’s passing: “I need them raps…I don’t care about what you going through.” Sweatshirt’s heavy play on words about the recession and L.A. culture in “Hive” lightly bounces over his ominous beat and the opposite can be said about the dark lyrical content in “Chum” over an upbeat piano track—he spits, “From honor roll to cracking locks up off them bicycle racks.” Doris chronicles Sweatshirt’s transformation and growth as a promising and much needed hip hop prodigy. –Darcy Russell

 
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Deltron 3030
Event II
Bulk
Street: 10.01
Deltron 3030 = Handsome Boy Modeling School + DJ Shadow + GZA
The return of Deltron Zero and Automator is finally here to continue the fight against the New World Order in Event II. Packed with an eclectic group of guests, the album opens with Joseph Gordon-Levitt setting the backdrop to what feels like a play as the album progresses. “Nobody Can” features Aaron Bruno, and despite its cheesy hook, serves as the duo’s superhero anthem, whereas “Melding of the Minds” is a battle cry, featuring Zach De La Rocha’s unmistakable rebel yell. “The Agony” depicts the shattered landscape of the post-apocalyptic Earth through Automator’s futuristic beat, featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s eerie vocals. Damon Albarn returns to the front in “What is this Loneliness,” sending you on a journey through atoms on your way to the album’s heartache closer, “Do You Remember,” featuring Jamie Cullum. Put down your GMO freak food and join the resistance against the NWO—start with this album! –Darcy Russell

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Playing through a sprinkle of solid tracks from their discography with a similar setlist to their last show in SLC, the new track played stood out as a beautiful, bluesy respite from the hits. Photo: Esther Meroño

It could only be fate that gave me the opportunity to review Mr. Gnome two years ago on Halloween at Bar Deluxe, because since then I have become a maniacal, dance-around-the-livingroom fan. It’s a true love story like no other; I found one of my favorite bands while partying next to a male Princess Leia with a beer belly and The Muppets. Having just completed a tour that included a stop at SXSW, Mr. Gnome graced this salty, allergy cloud of a city with an aerobic and intimate show at Urban Lounge.

Oh, Urban Lounge and your fresh crop of 21-year-old self-important hipsters. I can describe tonight’s crowd in one sentence: for the first time in my life, I heard someone order “a beer.” A BEER, a Beer, ‘A beer’? I’m so confused! I reflect on the last decade or so of the amazing acts I’ve seen and gallons of alcohol I’ve purchased at this fine establishment as I make my way to a dark corner and realize how much I hated my 20s. I may come to some wonderful realization tonight about the meaning of my life and existence in general, stuck to the beautiful floor.

Heaps & Heaps start off with what sounds like the theme from 90210. I feel like this band gets together and plays “show and tell what song you wrote over the weekend and we’ll play it.” There’s no common thread running through this band except the shrill shrieks of the unfortunate lead singer. One moment they sound like Feist, then the next like a baby seal being eaten alive. I do have to say, though, as much as it pains my cynical nature to admit it, this band genuinely seem to enjoy playing together. Later I realize their problem while they are tearing down as the drummer carries a cinder block with his percussion equipment. “A cinder block does not a snare drum make.”

I’ve heard Mr. Gnome described as “psychedelic,” which I think is how people describe bands they can’t describe. Naturally, one would compare Mr. Gnome to another two-piece band. Visually, a two-piece band is usually nothing too exciting on stage but imagine cramming nine musicians into two people—that’s Mr. Gnome. They pack the loudness, visionary dreaminess, and breadth of a full band while remaining intimate with the audience. One of the best things about Mr. Gnome is watching people try to dance to their ever-changing tempo. They begin with the guitar swells of “Cleveland Polka.” Singer/guitarist Nicole Barille stands with her hair almost completely covering her face while drummer Sam Meister beats the living shit out of his drum kit. All chatter in the room is ended when people adjust their mustaches and try to figure out how to dance to the chainsaw love-song as Barille wails “Let’s set it off!”

Next, they play one of my favorites: “Night of the Crickets” from Deliver This Creature, a gentle whisper of a song that is sweet, emotional and full of violence at the same time. Barille then pummels the poor crowd with “Plastic Shadow” after a brief moment of recovery from the first attack. Her guitar tone is at once warm then sharp and intruding into everyone’s attempt to hold a conversation. They transition smoothly from “Run for Cover” to “Bit of Tongue” as people pick their mustaches up off the floor and try to figure out how to dance to this song, awkwardly shuffling from swinging slow tempo to godspeed. Someone forgets there’s a railing around the dance floor and plows through my life to make it closer to the stage, disintegrating my ankle like chalk. With a puff of smoke, my ankle is gone and so is the culprit. Barille’s voice pierces through the ankle-dust, the goddamn stink of someone’s BO and another’s offensive cologne, and the inane chatter with “House of Circles,” and I forget about my once-normal-sized ankle. I continue observing drunks in their natural habitat feeling a bit like David Attenborough peering between trees the rest of the set.

Playing through a sprinkle of solid tracks from their discography with a similar setlist to their last show in SLC, the new track played stood out as a beautiful, bluesy respite from the hits. Hopefully we’ll be rewarded with a single off the upcoming album soon, as it was due out this spring but has been pushed back to fall. Afterwards, I introduce myself to Nicole at the merch booth like a gushing schoolgirl asking her crush to fucking Sadie Hawkins.

 

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Peelander-Z started an anime-style riot in SLC. Photo: Daisuke Yoshida

After a long journey from Planet Peelander (New York City), Peelander-Z landed at Urban Lounge as part of their US, West Coast tour of planet Earth. They will maintain a low Earth orbit as they loop through the rest of the West Coast before heading back to their home planet. Self-identified as a Japanese Action Comic Punk band, Peelander-Z are known for the unexpected stage antics and near catastrophe that made for the best night at Urban Lounge I’ve had in a long time.

After watching Problem Daughter, I eagerly zone in on Peelander Yellow, Red and Green toting massive amounts of props, instruments and signs onto the stage only to play an extended version of “Check! Check! Check! Yeah!” and ask the audience, “Are you ready!?” to which the audience enthusiastically replies, “Yes!” only to be crushed with, “Good, we need two more minutes!” What can only be intro music to the insanity that’s about to unfold begins to play as three anime characters come running onto the stage yelling in nearly indiscernible Japanese accents: “Salt Lake City, PARTY TIME!!!!” I rouse from my stupor and run to the stage as Peelander-Pink pulls a dude dressed like an anime character and a girl on the stage and passes out pans and sticks to the audience as they go into “Mad Tiger.” Pink teaches the new band members the choreography and holds up a sign that says “Mad Tiger” signaling the audience to yell along and it’s complete chaos everywhere! It’s like being at the fucking circus. Everyone somehow knows exactly what they are doing in this clusterfuck. The audience is out of sync with the band, Yellow has wrapped a rope around everyone on the dance floor, then has Pink jump rope on the stage, the two honorary members of the band are dancing wildly making claws with their fingers as the band tries to play around them when suddenly Yellow demands everyone to “Shut UP!” as Pink plays “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on a toy melodica before going back into a super fast jam only to stop abruptly.

The poor volunteers from the audience awkwardly make their way back to the crowd as Pink digs out another sign, “ABCDEFGHIJKLMN,” signaling the audience to sing along and yell “Ohhhh PEE!” One moment they are pulling another awkward audience member onto the stage and instructing him to stage dive when all of a sudden Yellow has extended his mic stand (which I later realize is a painter’s pole) all the way to the ceiling and is seeking out the tallest man in the audience to pick him up to reach the mic. One lucky fellow lifts him onto his shoulders while having a bright yellow flying V played on his head with Yellow, in his sweaty leggings yelling into the microphone. Yellow tosses his guitar to the audience so he can scale the ceiling rafters like Spider Man, nearly knocking a speaker off the ceiling, then gracefully falling backwards into the crowd to retrieve his guitar and finish the song.

During “Taco Taco Tacos,” the ever-smiling drummer comes to the front of the stage to solve a Rubik’s cube in about 35 seconds in front of the cheering crowd, then runs back to his drum kit. Yellow asks the audience who’s named Mike, and several people hold up their hands as Pink reveals the lyrics to the next song, “So Many Mike!,” stirring up a huge pit in the middle of the dance floor in this tiny venue. Some of the crowd is trying to get closer to the stage to be part of the spectacle while others are avoiding it so as not to take part and look like an idiot.

Now, at this moment there’s a massive mosh pit consuming the dance floor, three brightly clothed cartoon punk rockers running about onstage, people banging pots and pans over their heads, and as I’m taking all of this in, suddenly Peelander-Z is no longer playing their own instruments, two audience members are! Yellow says to the giggling guitar usurper, “Sneaky Chinese boy, gangster style!” Pink is holding a sign that says “drummer wanted” as I see Yellow and Green clearing a path to the door where they spin around in wild circles. Green let’s go of Yellow, who takes off like a rocket toward the exit, scaring the shit out of Will Sartain and turning back around to launch toward the stage to knock over bowling pins they had laid out on the dance floor. The gap closes up and the mosh pit continues as Peelander-Z finish their set with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” While Pink and Green tear down, Yellow sings “My Shake” karaoke style (the lyrics to which are “Shake My Shake”) while he shakes damn near everyone in the audience’s hands and kisses people on the forehead; he ends the evening with “I love you Peelander-Salt Lake City!”

A super fucking fun night, that started out lame, but my silly frown was turned upside down within 30 seconds of Peelander playing. I’m certain the tinnitus will never go away. So, unless you’re an idiot, if this band is anywhere near you in the future, go see them!

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Photo: Helen Leeson

Upon meeting Brandi Madrid, aka Oddescee, for the first time, you wouldn’t think you’re talking to Salt Lake’s one and only female battle emcee. In fact, the incredibly humble and down-to-earth mother of two is a self-proclaimed introvert and nerd—she proves it to me by proudly displaying the “NERD” tattoo on her back and telling me about her passion for books and the show Ancient Aliens. Her necklace, however, speaks of the woman that lies beneath: “Fearless,” it says.

Born in Utah, Oddescee developed a passion for hip hop from her older brother, Tommy, who would spin N.W.A and Dr. Dre. “For me, hip-hop is a lifestyle. It just is. I dream it—I breathe it,” she says. Drawing her true hip-hop inspiration from the now-deceased Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC, Oddescee began writing at the age of 12 as a form of therapy that soon became a compulsion, she says—a way of bleeding her pain and anxiety onto paper. “After hearing Left Eye, that’s when I was like, ‘I can do this,’” she says. Oddescee takes on a real-world approach to writing, with no pretense or misrepresentation. “I don’t write about money I don’t have and cars I don’t drive. I write about things I know, things I’ve lived through,” she says.

Oddescee expresses her inner "nerd" self in her rhymes and with her matching, lighthearted tattoo on the back of her neck.
Oddescee expresses her inner “nerd” self in her rhymes and with her matching, lighthearted tattoo on the back of her neck.

After moving to New York at the age of 14, Oddescee was quite literally pulled into the freestyle battle scene off her stoop, with “hip-hop around every corner.” This aided her in overcoming her shy and self-conscious nature, as she was thrown into the sink-or-swim freestyle cyphers. Oddescee moved back to Utah in 2000 to find the Salt Lake hip-hop battle scene to be poppin’—much larger than she expected, and probably larger than any of us realize. “[The Salt Lake scene is] close to the scene in New York,” she says. “There’s a lot of new talent, and a lot of people do it.”

Oddescee’s preference and comfort zone is freestyle battle or topic freestyle battle, where the audience yells out topics for the emcees to include in their round. “I think my topics [at the last battle] were a grumpy cat, a penguin and a top hat,” she says. However, since battling within the Utah chapter of AHAT (All Hip Hop All The Time), Oddescee has had to get her feet wet in the world of written battles, where the opponents have several days to write, prepare and practice their battle material. Written battles do present their own set of obstacles, Oddescee says—forgetting your rhymes being the worst one. Each opponent is presented with three rounds of 90 seconds with which to slam their fellow emcee. Oddescee says, “Sometimes you say random stuff, but it gets a reaction out of the crowd, which is what you want.” Including but not limited to: “I’ll put a hollow clip to this hollow clit and blow out her cervix/Call it a public service”—lyrics from a recent battle versus Vegas emcee Vicki Myers. She goes on to tell me of her last opponent and good friend, Big Al, rhyming that her nipples look like poppy seeds. “You have to know not to take it to heart—part of battling is to put on a good show. Sometimes you have to say some mean shit,” she says. Water under the bridge is the name of the game afterward, and maintaining a level of professionalism and knowing that it’s all part of the job helps Oddescee get over some of the sexist and vulgar rhymes with which she is often slammed back.

AHAT was formed in California and spreads throughout the West, including Las Vegas, New Mexico, Utah and Texas. The Utah chapter was founded and funded by Nicholas Fonseca and often turns out up to 300 attendees. Oddescee encourages anyone who is interested in signing up or just checking out a battle to visit the organization’s website, ahat.tv, or to check out their YouTube channel, youtube.com/user/allhiphopallthetime.

Oddescee hopes to be an inspiration to young women and empower them to come out and exercise their passion for hip-hop emceeing, partially because she is the only female battle emcee in the state, but mostly because rapping and writing have helped her deal with so many hurdles in life and continue to be a form of therapy for her. She was super stoked the day her 10-year-old daughter, Akaisia, spat out her first rhyme, and hopes her daughter will follow in her mother’s musical footsteps, though she doesn’t share the more vulgar battles with her children.

In addition to battling, constantly writing and being surrounded and supported by amazing friends, Oddescee is currently working on recording an album with producer Krem, with a tentative release date of summer 2014, which will include some passionate work by this amazing rapper. I fortunately got a private show of some of her personal work and highly recommend you check out and support Utah’s only female battle emcee to date, Oddescee.

Photo: John Barkiple

When I hop on my motorcycle, a Hunter S. Thompson quote always goes through my head: “Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” It elicits the mindfulness and focus that forces you to clear your head and use all your senses in order to pick up on the things you don’t notice in your car—the smell of summer BBQs, flowers in spring, getting a fucking wasp stuck up your sleeve while going 45 mph. It’s a form of meditation for me, where the absence of intrusive thoughts allows for renewal, cleansing and, as Jessica Haggett, co-founder of Salt Lake’s premier women’s motorcycle club The Litas, declares, the love of going “really fucking fast.” I met up with Haggett and a few of the Litas to find out how this group was born.

The Litas is the brainchild of Haggett and Paige Macy, thought up one inebriated night outside of Dick N’ Dixie’s. Loosely borrowing the name from Macy’s former tag name for her artwork, the idea finally came into fruition this past fall after four years on the back burner. The group is composed of 22 of Salt Lake’s most fearless female riders, many of them former strangers who, through the shared love of riding, have become good friends. They hope to encourage the fairer sex to be less fair and more badass by taking the reins—make that handlebars—and, as Haggett admits, to “weaving in and out of traffic and … going 120 mph.” As a responsible rider, myself, I cannot possibly advocate such action … but it is rather fun.

In collaboration with Salt City Builds, the ladies had their first group ride and BBQ, appropriately named Sunday Mass, on March 15, which brought out an unbelievable 65 riders, both male and female, from all riding styles and levels of experience. “I have a lot of friends who ride, but I didn’t even know anyone who showed up,” Haggett says of the awesome turnout for their first big ride of the year, resulting in a five-hour long BBQ afterward. “There were older dudes on sick, chopped-up Harleys, younger guys on their Enduros.” Through the power of social media, the word about the ride has spread like wildfire, and the ladies predict an even bigger turnout on rides to come.

Riders of all styles and experience are encouraged to come, but one should be cognizant of the skill sets of other riders. Haggett pointed out that though the turnout was great, it was kind of scary riding with that many people because some ignored the rules. “You have to be really aware of people’s experience level,” Haggett says of riding in a large group. “It’s scary, and someone can cause an accident, especially riding with that many people.” When riding in a group, sticking to a pre-planned formation or line is really important, not “surfing your damn bike,” as Haggett says.

Felicia Baca and Haggett highly advocate taking the MSF Basic Rider Course where you can learn the mechanics of operating a motorcycle and evasive maneuvers before you hit the streets and have to deal with soccer moms and people taking selfies while they drive. Most importantly, always ride within your limits. You have nothing to prove to anyone, and no one cares anyway—they’re just there to have a good time.

When I rolled up on SLUG headquarters to meet up with The Litas, I was greeted by Baca, bassist for local group Color Animal, and her beautifully restored ’73 Honda CB 350 Four. Soon, the deafening sound of Haggett and Macy’s Harley Evo Sportsters descended from both directions. We made our way through Downtown, up to the Capitol and later stopped at Beer Bar for lunch. We found it interesting, as a group of ladies on four different styles of bikes, how many head-turns we got—old bikers gave us thumbs ups, people even took photos, and some ass hats made fun of us from their weak-ass Corolla. Psh. Seeing one female rider is a common thing, but four girls riding in tight formation must be a novelty, or maybe it’s just intimidating. As with other phallic pastimes, women can feel discouraged to pursue something like motorcycling. “It’s a very sexist community,” says Baca. Whether it’s by concerned family and friends or some other clown-haired fool who makes fun of your 250cc starter bike, you have to move on and do what nourishes your spirit.

All three lovely Litas I rode with on that perfect Sunday afternoon agreed that though the fear of what could happen on the road nearly stops you from riding some days, or, as Haggett says, nudges you into “selling [your] bike,” the joy of letting yourself go and trusting your life in your own hands completely negates those fears. The damn-near only downside to riding— ”Winter,” Baca says. “We hate Winter.”

After having ridden with the Litas, I am refreshed and motivated by a group of fearless ladies who have had the same challenges and fears as me. I want to do what I can to spread the gospel of the bike to other ladies. Visit thelitas.co for more info on ladies-only events as well as collaborative events with Salt City Builds—and hey, they have a website, too! Check out saltcitybuilds.com for info on rides and bitchin’ custom-bike builds. If you’re a prospective rider or a rider who wants more practice, visit utahridered.com for info on the different courses taught depending on your level of skill.