Last night, Seattle Times music columnist Andrew Matson tweeted, “Pity the fool who tries to review that concert.” Unfortunately, I am one of those fools, but he’s right: last night’s Shabazz Palaces/THEESatisfaction concert was so overwhelming and full of so many wild moments that it’s hard enough just to keep it all in my head, let alone communicate it to all y’all. What follows is my attempt at conveying last night’s magic.
Combining the Shabazz and THEESat sets into a single, king-sized performance was a genius stroke. Not only did this stave off boredom and help make the show unique, it also served to remind how connected the two acts are (they’re collaborators and Sub Pop signees, duh) and how intrinsically community-based 206 hiphop has become, or is becoming.
Both sets were flawless—the only thing I can recall that even remotely resembles an onstage flub would be when Ishmael “Ish” Butler accidentally triggered that “Blastit” vocal hook at least seven songs too soon at the beginning of early highlight “4 Shadows.” Then there was the moment where he almost sat on Stas, since she’d shuffled over there from the onstage couch to make room for Sub Pop’s Megan Jasper, whom Ish had called onstage towards the end of the night.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: “WTF do you mean wicker chair and onstage couch?” In between alternating sets of 3-5 songs, Ish would sit in a regal wicker chair (when he wasn’t engaging the crowd directly with Q&A sessions or prize giveaways) and banter back and forth with the THEESat ladies, who were chillin’ on a stage-right couch. There was a quasi-talk show vibe, which may explain why Ish introduced himself initially as “Lonnie Michaels.” The quips between the three rappers lent a lot of humor to the proceedings, with THEESat scoring early points for telling Ish—who had on a mauve Member’s Only jacket, gold chain, cargo pants, and nothing else—they “didn’t know it was Don’t Wear a Shirt Night.”
The Palaceer totally earned his macho gesture, looking hale and hunky and kicking all kinds of musical ass last night. Shabazz were right on the money for the duration of their set(s), and the new material they snuck in (including a last-minute “demo” collab with THEESat) was aggressive, awesome, and aggressively awesome.
THEESatisfaction were likewise, er, "satisfying," and set the crowd to bobbing and swaying whenever they took to the front of the stage. It struck me last night how much more dance-able their songs are compared to Shabazz’s—is this to do with their groovy sample sources, or the fact that their tracks, generally speaking, ride higher BPMs? Regardless, if there were any haters in the house (or any left in the city) they should have had their minds sufficiently blown. Stas and Cat are pretty obviously on the next level, and more than deserve to be a part of Sub Pop’s new hiphop initiative. Also: THEESat wear their sunglasses at night. Indoors. Tendai, too.
If I had any complaints about last night’s wholly unique performance, it would be that the fog machine seemed to be set on “overkill,” and the same goes for the bass EQ on the mixing board. I’m all for insane bass, but it was too much at times—drowning out samples and sapping some of the joy from THEESat’s indelible “Obama” loop. Yo, engineer, how much would it cost for me to get you to turn
the grease up on that chicken the bass down on that board? These are pretty petty gripes in the big scheme of things, however, and I had an absolute blast last night. So, too, did the rest of the packed house.
I’ll end by sharing an anecdote from the aforementioned “Q&A” section where Ish passed the mic out to enthusiastic audience members. My friend and Everyday Music employee Hanad took the opportunity to ask Ish when Seattle hiphop was gonna reach ears outside of the city and “go national.” Ish seemed put off at first (why wouldn’t he? His band’s got Pitchfork cred), but then he settled into a tone of self-assured optimism. Seeing that glint in his eye pretty much clinched it for me, and I feel safe in predicting that the much-buzzed Shabazz full-length (due in May!) will be massive, the THEESat full-length will be massive, and people all over the place are going to be paying serious attention to a specific category of Seattle-bred music for the first time in ages.
ONE LAST THING: At one point, an audience member claiming to be Kimya Dawson asked for a "sandwich hug" from THEESatisfaction. After tweeting my skepticism last night, Ms. Dawson herself improbably replied almost instantaneously to confirm that, yes, it really was her.