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Todd Hamm
WD4D & Shorthand

By the time I arrived at FRED Wildlife Refuge on Friday, five acts had cancelled in the past 48 hours--one

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Rapper-Wrangling Duty, or, How No-Shows and a Sub-Par Sound System Can Still Add Up to a Good Show: City Arts Fest Friday

wd4dshorthand.jpg
Todd Hamm
WD4D & Shorthand

By the time I arrived at FRED Wildlife Refuge on Friday, five acts had cancelled in the past 48 hours--one via text message--and the crowd gathered in the well-lit room was minuscule. The sparsely populated visual-art space--with its 25-foot wraparound projection screen--looked like the scene of a school dance on a tech campus. I assumed my "cool" stance next to the Vitamin-enriched flavored water beverage booth accordingly. The start time was pushed back repeatedly while the organizers waited for the venue to fill up. I was bored but well-hydrated. What else could go wrong? If you're thinking that the PA could cut out repeatedly and squeal all over the place--well, that happened too. Taking in the scene, one might not have guessed that by the end of the night, the place would be completely full of people having a killer time, but through thick and thin, it happened.

Dreamed up by Members Only co-owner Rob Milliron (who unfortunately could not attend due to a string of recent health issues), "The Factory: Northwest Hip-Hop Redifined" set out to squeeze original songs out of the three- and four-person groups that had been formed at random from a pool of over 50 local rap and R&B artists. After crafting their tracks over the course of a few weeks, Friday was their night to perform them for the first and potentially only time--a truly unique performance that, given the apparent difficulty of corralling rap artists, would literally be impossible to recreate.

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Todd Hamm
B Flat & EvergreenOne

At one point, another MO co-owner, Jeff "dj100proof" Lawrence, told me he was on "rapper wrangling duty," to which I winced and replied "Good luck."

"I know," he nodded. "That's what everybody's said."

While people filed in, DJs WD4D and Shorthand (from the Filejerks) spun a side-by-side set, tossing the cue back and forth, rushing to match bpms and mesh thematically with whatever the previous selection happened to be. (The large squad of DJs turned out to be a major highlight throughout the night: parading up two at a time and challenging each other to the benefit of the audience, who decided at some point to dance their asses off.)

By the time the first act--a spry MC named Lurrell Low--popped up onstage, much time had transpired and the room had filled substantially. Low's "bandmates" appeared to be no-shows, so he performed a solo track, which went over well. The mashups were interesting, and through sound issues and lyric fumbles, there was not a down moment: B-Flat (of Hi-Life Soundsystem) read his lyrics partially from his phone screen; Sonny Bonoho plain forgot his lines but smiled wide enough to make us all forget; The Terry Radjaw (Mad Rad) x Neema x Hollis (Canary Sing) set was the rowdiest; Reva Devito (Dark Time Sunshine) and Shaprece performed a beautiful (duh) impromptu jam; Rik Rude juggled co-performer Malice Sweet's volume troubles and eventual restart like a champ (explaining the meaning behind the song); and between quality verses, City Hall's EvergreenOne registered the dirtiest mustache in the rap biz.

Chemistry was the order of the night, which showed strongly between the unlikely group members and their interplay with the audience. While hardly any of the producers took the stage to spin their backing instrumentals, the raw showmanship of the MCs took up the slack, and while most of the songs followed a common formula (hard-hitting beat, loud, catchy hook, inaudible verses), the crowd was drawn in both out of intrigue for the concept, and the creative energy it inspired.

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