April 27, 2004

Emerson students start records label
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

In terms of resume building, Emerson sophomore Molly Casey definitely has one of the most eye-catching extracurricular activities: president of a student-run music label, Emerson Records.

"The record label is run entirely by students, but nothing was really happening with it for the past few years. This year we really decided to do something," said Casey in an interview with The Heights.

In addition to their academic responsibilities, Casey and the rest of the students on the staff of Emerson Records have turned the inactive record label into a thriving young organization that recently signed its first band, Audible Mainframe. The label plans to release the band's first record next month.

"We don't really know what to expect in terms of sales because there's no precedent at Emerson Records for what we're doing. We're not getting paid or anything, so this is supposed to be a learning experience for us and it definitely has been. We're all really excited to hear the album once they finish mixing and mastering it," said Casey.

To promote the band's debut album and raise money for charity, Emerson Records brought old school hip-hop pioneer Jeru the Damaja to the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center in South Boston last Saturday.

The unusual venue wasn't an ideal location in terms of accessibility and acoustics, but Jeru and especially Audible Mainframe gave an inspired show for the small crowd of dedicated hip-hop fans.

In addition to the headliners, Emerson records brought the Deck Deamons, an amazing DJ quartet which includes DJ JayCeeOh, and the Floor Lords, who have been break dancing in Boston since 1981. From their youngest member (13) to the oldest (37), the Floor Lords left the audience in awe with their dance moves and their unique custom b-boy and b-girl sneaker from Saucony.

The graffiti of a local crew called Hi Cost Low Art complemented the music and the break dancing perfectly, making the entire experience perfect for true hip-hop fans.

Jeru the Damaga has been synonymous with quality old school hip-hop since his classic 1994 debut The Sun Rises in the East. Jeru's separation from Gang Star following his beef with Guru has apparently prevented him from performing all of his DJ Premier-produced hits

Despite a good set from Jeru, the star of the show was Audible Mainframe. The eight-person hip-hop band comprises guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, saxophone, with a DJ and emcee.

Their energetic live show and eclectic combination of rap, funk, and rock gives Audible Mainframe a contagious energy spilling into the crowd.

The band's politically progressive lyrics, musical virtuosity, and kinetic stage presence puts Audible Mainframe in good company with bands like The Roots and Ozomatli.

Audible Mainframe will be playing a live acoustic set on WAAF (107.3) on May 2 to promote its record release party at the Middle East Upstairs on Wednesday, May 5. Its debut album Framework will be available for $5, and local emcee Jake the Snake will perform.
Head to Lupo's
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Boston is blessed with a great assortment of music venues ranging from the edgy and always dependable Middle East in Cambridge to the fancy Wang Theater in the Theatre District.

The best local concert venue, though, unfortunately isn't that local. It's Lupo's at the Strand in Providence, RI.

Despite being only one hour closer to the musical epicenter of America, it appears as though many musicians would prefer to only travel to Providence if they have to leave New York, rather than coming all the way to Boston.

Or maybe it's just that Providence has the best live music club north of New York. Lupo's attracts a consistent flow of top notch performers who are too big to play in a smaller Boston venue like The Paradise, yet still not big enough to fill the FleetCenter.

In the next few weeks alone, Lupo's will host Bouncing Souls and Reel Big Fish on June 20, and Incubus on July 2. This week, BB King, whose Boston bar/club was closed last year, will be at Lupo's on May 1 in addition to Talib Kweli on April 28.

The arrival of Talib Kweli in at Lupo's is just one example of a fairly major artist coming to Providence who will not perform in Boston on the same tour. On the night after his Lupo's performance, Kweli heads back to New York for another concert rather than continuing on to Boston. This trend is especially noticeable among popular underground rappers. In addition to Kweli, The Roots and the fifth semi-annual freestyle battle called the Mic Wars will appear at Lupo's.

The superior hip-hop concert selection in Providence, despite the smaller city size, cannot be attributed to a greater demand in Rhode Island for urban music but is a direct result of how great of a club Lupo's is.

Though the Middle East and the Paradise are phenomenal clubs, they both have a reputation as primarily rock clubs, despite their often diverse schedule. The reputation isn't entirely undeserved though. The Paradise is, after all, officially called "Boston's Legendary Rock."

The ambience of Lupo's is comparable to the Middle East but considerably less claustrophobic. There is plenty of space in front of the stage for mosh pits and generally rowdy behavior without needing to worry about crashing into anything but fellow fans.

The balcony is the best view in the house and allows people to escape the crowded pit of fans near the stage. The acoustics and lighting are superior to just about anything in Boston. No matter where you are, you can hear and see the music on stage just fine.

Unlike the reputation of many other bars and clubs in Providence, Lupo's is a very strict enforcer of the legal drinking age and will only accept real identification. The beefy bouncers are not subtle with underage drinkers or anyone else causing trouble, which can add added entertainment to your visit as long as you're not the poor guy in trouble.

An announcer repeatedly reminds the crowd over the PA system that they are in a non-flammable building with plenty of fire escapes. The motivation is to calm patrons following the recent club fire tragedy in Rhode Island, but its more irksome than comforting.

For some reason, artists seem to stick around after the concert at Lupo's more often than they do here in Boston, and music fans aren't ushered out of the venue as hastily. As a result, Lupo's might be your best chance to get that coveted autograph from your favorite musician.

Though Boston offers plenty of concert options, the trip to Lupo's is worth the fast and cheap train or bus ticket to Providence. Find a friend at Brown with whom you can stay the night, and enjoy a nice night in Rhode Island.
Mixtape Friday: Classic Rock Remix
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

"Hey DJ, got any classic rock?" I love classic rock, but it's not party music. There is something fundamentally wrong with partying to music that your parents still listen to. I'm glad your family can all agree on Billy Joel on summer road trips, but at a party the music needs to bump louder, dirtier, and a lot sexier. Nevertheless, I try to accommodate everybody's tastes - but like Atmosphere said, "I'm the type of DJ that only plays what I like." Here's the closest thing to classic rock that you'll hear me play while people are dancing.

Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil (Remix)
The original version of this song is just about as perfect as music can get. Fortunately, the Neptunes respected the basic structure of the classic on their remix but threw a thick bassline under Mick Jagger's vocals to make it even more danceable. The remix amounts to something like an Irish coffee: A nice cup of joe gets even better with an added shot of whiskey for the extra kick. If you don't immediately recognize the bongos because of the new beat, then Jagger's opening lines will certainly catch your attention: "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste." The Neptunes get points for self-restraint, but that's about it.

Sublime - Summertime (ft. Pharcyde)
In general, playing this ode to the Southern California sun while I'm here in Boston is kind of depressing. A Sublime song is perfect for warm weather and wafting weed at the beach, but it's a bit chill for serious partying. Once again, Pharcyde slightly alters the original to make it more appropriate for dancing, throwing some meat on the bassline and a few rapped verses in between Bradley Nowell's singing.

Public Enemy - "He Got Game"
There's something a bit sneaky about hip-hop. It's both exciting and a little disappointing to find the original song that Kanye West turned into a modern radio hit, because it seems like he's pretending he created the song all by himself. Producers need to be more meticulous with their bibliographies and cite for the public where they stole the hook for their new song. Or they should just include a whole verse of the original like Public Enemy does with Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth."

Jay-Z - Encore (Danger Mouse Remix)
The best part about DJ Danger Mouse's brilliant Grey Album was that it didn't sound like your typical mash-up, where a DJ superglues 50 Cent's lyrics to Britney's beat. These hybrids are surprisingly entertaining when done well (see below), but they ultimately sound hollow and uninspired. Danger Mouse, in contrast, made it sound like the Beatles actually went into the studio with Jay-Z to record this song.

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ludacris - "Stand Up"
Here's your basic mash-up song: Take two unrelated songs and mash them together. What separates this song from the pack is that it actually works; the Red Hot Chili Peppers have (or at least used to have) quite a hip-hop sound to them already. Most of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, including "Suck My Kiss," was produced by Def Jam co-founder and hip-hop producer Rick Rubin, which makes it the perfect beat for Ludacris to rap over.

Jay-Z - "The Takeover"
When Puff Daddy released his painfully horrible version of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" for the Godzilla soundtrack, I blamed Jimmy Page for not only granting permission but for also actually going into the studio with Puff to re-record the guitar solo. In contrast, The Doors made the right decision to give Jay-Z clearance to sample their classic "Five To One." Though they rarely permit their songs to be sampled, The Doors' drummer John Densmore finally agreed after Jay-Z promised that he would donate a significant portion of his royalties to charity.