Dance much: Flailing to Bostonites: 'grooving' to MMW?
It's that time of year where there seems to be something interesting going on every day of the week. When I open the paper to check the calendar listings, it's tough to make up my mind about what to do. So this week I let my friends tell me where to go.
I got the first call Monday afternoon. The Perceptionists were headlining at Satellite Ballroom. As far as underground rap goes, they are the voice of Boston. The other two groups on the bill I hadn't heard, but I figured if they were rolling with The Perceptionists, they had to have something going for them.
The show started hella late due to two-thirds of the performers getting lost on the drive down here. There was no telling when they would arrive, so we slid down the block to Orbit for Monday Night Football. Big mistake. By the time we made it back to the venue, the first opener, Asamov, had already finished performing. People said I missed a good show.
Junk Science, featuring five-foot-one mad rapper Cool Calm Pete, was next. The content of their rhymes made the performance. Every song was a complete thought and ranged from provocative to absolutely ludicrous. The duo chose great beats to rhyme to, but they didn't quite have the stage presence to command an audience. I prefer my Junk Science on disk.
At last Mr. Lif and Akrobatik, aka The Perceptionists, took the stage. The crowd near went bananas. I'm not the type to go crazy at a show. As a matter of fact, I prefer staying out of crowds and generally not raising my voice or flailing around. But midway through the set I found myself, with the rest of the crowd, yelling and jumping. The best part? I didn't give a damn.
Mr. Lif as a soloist is responsible for a number of brilliant hip-hop records. Combine his classic material with the stage presence of Akrobatik (who looked like he could have been a linebacker for the Patriots), and you have the formula for a great night.
My hat's off to The Perceptionists because it's hard to get across an intellectual message and still rock the house. When it was over, all the groups stayed around to sign autographs. Truth is, they seemed to enjoy hanging with the crowd as much as they enjoyed being on stage.
Later in the week I was called to Starr Hill for a bit of Medeski Martin and Wood, a trio I've seen a number of times. I religiously buy their records and stand firm in the belief that they're one of the best contemporary jazz trios out there. However, I never understand why they always sell out clubs to festival kids waiting to dance.
There was a time, almost 10 years ago, when MMW played a more groove-oriented sound that could be danced to. But nearly nine years have passed since the "Shack Man" era, and almost 15 since they were playing small festivals around the country trying to impress the hippies. Now they're straight-up jazz in the sense that they don't give a hoot who's in the audience. They're there to play whatever comes to them at that moment. Nine times out of 10 that moment ain't "groovy"...and it hasn't been for almost five years.
I think a lot of the people show up because of the name but don't know what they're getting into. If they really wanted groovy improv, they could just check out my buddy Matt Wilner or any other local affordable groups who play music more for the audience and less for their own self-indulgence. In a way, I like it when the party kids come out for MMW. I get to smile and watch them try and dance to music that just isn't danceable.