Mixmaster Mike, The Arsonists, Zion I

Mixmaster Mike, The Arsonists, Zion I
Starr Hill Music Hall, Thursday, April 18

By Damani Harrison

I arrived at Starr Hill promptly at 9:30 for Mixmaster Mike, The Arsonists, and Zion I— in plenty of time, I thought, to catch the first act. Zion I already finished their set minutes before my arrival. Scanning the room revealed at most 30 people. Either no one was going to come to this show, or I wasn’t the only one who had the wrong starting time. I tracked down one dude from the San Francisco based group later that evening to try and explain why no one was there.
Me:  “Uh, thanks for coming all this way… shows normally start at 10 around here.” 
Dude: “That’s cool. This is the ninth show of the tour and everywhere else it has been off da hook.” 
Way to represent, C’ville.
The Arsonists were next. By now the crowd was pushing 150. It didn’t take long for the three New York MC’s to get into a rhythm. The next 45 minutes were non-stop emceeing. As impressive as their rhymes was their well-choreographed stage show.
Why does a group like this sell more albums overseas? These cats were tight! In less than 10 minutes they had taken the sleepy onlookers into a bouncing frenzy with lines like, “Rappers in videos got iced chains and lots of naked chicks, to make up for their small dicks!” I love it when they tell it like it is.
By the time turntablist Mixmaster Mike took the stage, the room had filled to about half capacity, decent considering this was the first hip hop show at Starr Hill.
For those not familiar with turntablism it is the art of using turntables and a fader to chop, scratch, and recreate existing music into something unique and new. Mixmaster Mike worked a full spectrum of music. Nothing was safe. His set included old and new school hip hop, reggae, and dance hall, as well as modern and classic rock.
In 90 minutes of music there was hardly a dull moment.  He even squeezed out two encores to the delight of the fans that stayed until the end. After the show I headed over to Miller’s for a little John D’earth to help me unwind. The crowd was minimal but appreciative.
Way to represent, C’ville.
I sat in the back thinking how much jazz and hip hop have in common and why people don’t support them outright more frequently. 

DJ Q-bert
Memorial Gym, Saturday, April 20

By Amy Briggs

Determined to lighten my heavy diet of rock combos, I remembered a friend’s suggestion and followed my virtuosometer over to Memorial Gym to see DJ Q-bert. (If you’re wondering, yes, his name’s taken from that early ’80s video game, the one with the cute orange creature who bounced on a cubed pyramid.) It wasn’t opera, but at least it was something different.
Buffered from the drive-by university crowd by moving vans and police cars whose lights strobed through the gym windows, the show had the appearance of a Big Deal.
As I arrived, the audience was in the process of being pre-heated for Q-bert by a somewhat tiresome freestyle rap competition, with the victor determined by cheer decibel level.
 Next up was breakdancing by The Street Brats, or more likely spelled, Tha Street Bratz, whose defiance of natural laws took the cake. In the crew, a child of about 10 put down with the best, evoking wows from the crowd with master moves— six-steps, windmills, flares, and head spins— motions guaranteed to result in stiffness and back sprains during home replication. 
DJ Q-Bert, known to his parents as Richard Quitevis, finally took the stage around 11pm. This professor of turntablism first emerged on the scene in the late eighties, garnering fame as a highly skilled innovator and orchestrator. Pushing the technical envelope, he helped to elevate the role of DJ from platter-spinner to improvisational musician through matching beats, splicing and looping cuts, and creating complex sound collages with jaw-dropping skill.
Q-bert made his mainstream introduction as part of San Francisco’s Invisibl Skratch Piklz family, a collective which sacrificed its vowels for the enormous skills of its members (also including Mixmaster Mike, who appeared this weekend at Starr Hill). Together, the Piklz proved to be such formidable opponents that one national contest barred their entry on the grounds that they were “too good.”
As the group headlined concerts, they often took time to visit junior high and high schools, and even produced a couple of educational videos.
After the Piklz split several years ago, DJ Q-bert continued to spread the gospel of his signature sound, a lightning quick squiggle on the cross-fader, to clubs and college campuses. 
In front of the awed crowd on Saturday, he performed flawlessly, reaffirming the fact that he remains one of the most indisputably talented DJs of our time.