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Review Tue Sep 02 2014
Sunday was a rather chill day at North Coast. I started things off by catching some of Wild Belle, an indie band heavily influenced by Lee "Scratch" Perry and his stylings of reggae with pop sensibilities.
Wild Belle is a brother and sister duo; Natalie and Elliot Bergman. Before forming this band, they found themselves as frequent artistic collaborators. You see, Elliot Bergman is one of the principal members of the afrobeat band Nomo. Nomo was, and still is, pretty much a love letter to musicians such as Fela Kuti and is almost purely instrumentation. They eventually started to experiment with vocals and Natalie Bergman found herself singing for them. The brother and sister knew they latched onto something special, but it wasn't quite right for Nomo, so they started what was supposed to be a side project, Wild Belle.
What I like about Wild Belle is how genuine it feels. As I drank my fresh cold beer and listened to them play on a picturesque summer afternoon, it felt subtle and effortlessly cool, which is the point. Max Romeo's "Chase the Devil" is an effortlessly cool song. The reggae they're trying to emulate is effortlessly cool.
Riff Raff appeared on stage wearing long flat ironed pink hair with beautifully terrible blonde roots. It was a complete spectacle and I kinda love him for it. Riff Raff is by no means an excellent or even good rapper, but it almost doesn't matter. People aren't invested in Riff Raff for his technical prowess, they're into him for his idiosyncratic personality. Riff Raff, who started the now ubiquitous "rap game" meme, is excellent on twitter and answers interview questions with complete absurdity and has built a cult like following in the process. Similar to Lil B, Riff Raff is a rap curio carefully towing the line between commentary and parody. Rapping in an absurdly thick Australian accent about how diamonds twerk on his wrist like Miley Cyrus before taking periodic breaks to exaggeratedly comb his luscious pink hair, it seemed like a performance by a performance artist of sorts. I'm not quite calling Riff Raff the rap game Marina Abramović, but it sure felt like he was channeling her.
Griz immediately followed Riff Raff and they opened with rather something rather generic. The beat started to build and suddenly, a man jumped atop the DJ booth with a saxophone and busted out a sax solo of Kenny G cornball proportions as the bass dropped. I watched dumbstruck for a few minutes then left.
I like how Zeds Dead tried to break away from complete generics and tried to incorporate jungle into their set. I want to take a moment to appreciate that. Unfortunately, most of their set seemed like a kowtow to the audience. They played Kanye's "Bound 2" then wubwubwubwubwub. They played Prodigy's "Firestarter" then wubwubwubwubwub. They played Limp Bizkit's "Nookie" then wubwubwubwubwub. They played Jimmi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and...you get the idea. This was the majority of their set and I found myself wishing they'd be more adventurous.
Snoop Dogg is at a crossroads. He's been pretty open about how he's grown weary of rap as he feels like he's done everything there is to do. This prompted him to go on a path of self discovery which led him to Jamaica where he recorded the album and documentary Reincarnated. The music that came out of those sessions has been, at best, divisive.
Somewhat defiantly, Snoop opened up his set with the single "Here Come the King" from Reincarnated which was met with predictable mixed results. However, most of Snoop's set was a master class of G-funk from one of the last of a dying breed which showcased much of his work from his Death Row Records days in between hopping around to his more modern things. Hearing him pivot around to early 90's gangsta rap such as "187 on an Undercover Cop" to his unapologetic pop appearance on Katy Perry's "California Gurls," and back again to "Nothin' But a G Thang." made me fully realize and appreciate the of his scope of his work. And in the middle of that, he threw in a couple songs from his partnership with Pharrell as well as his overlooked tenure at No Limit Records.
Towards the end of his set, Snoop's DJ played 2Pac's "Hail Mary" as well as Biggie's "Hypnotize." As Snoop waxed poetic about he misses and loved both of them, it became clear that this is a man who may be defined by his past but is eager to define his future.
All photos by Steve Stearns.