Kristen Blush

Last Thursday at the Funhouse, MCs Terry Radjaw of Mad Rad and Sir Thomas Gray of Champagne Champagne stepped onto the venue's back-patio basketball court for a one-on-one challenge. At stake were the MCs' iconic beards, as the winner of the match would get the odd honor of shaving off the loser's facial hair. The game (which was followed by live performances by Fresh Espresso, They Live!, Lamborghiniz, and We Are Not a Cult) was the result of months of good-natured trash-talking between the two similarly aligned gallery rap crews, and whoever won, it was bound to be an event.

The patio was packed before the game even started, the crowd full of Seattle hiphop scenesters and journalists in about equal measure. Macklemore, sporting a referee's jersey and whistle, explained the rules: The game would be to 21, the winner would have to be up by two points. After a couple leisurely long shots scored by Gray, the crowd got restless, shouting, "Y'all wanna change it to 11?" and "Next one to score!" The players picked up the pace, the game got a little more physical and aggressive, and the crowd kept with it, chanting, "Raaaad-Jaw" and "Souuuuuth End." Gray and Radjaw mean-mugged between shots, Radjaw pinching his shirt up off his chest like it was expensive, Gray grinning maliciously or making a throat-cutting motion with his finger.

Someone shouted, "Yo, ref, get that dog off the court!" It wasn't trash talk—someone's dog had wandered onto the court, disrupting play. Gray came up from behind to even the score at 9, people shouting, NBA Jam–style, "He's heating up!" and "He's on fire!" Radjaw pulled ahead again, 16–10, and then it was time-out to rehydrate.

When the game resumed, Gray came back hard, turning the score to 20–18, his favor, in what seemed like moments. And then Gray scored the winning point and all hell broke loose, the crowd rushing the court, Macklemore shouting, "Bring on the clippers," members of Mad Rad tossing the fake beards they'd been wearing into the basketball hoop, the crowd chanting, "Shave that beard!" An extension cord and clippers were brought out, and a tight circle of flashing cameras and video crews closed in around the real action of the night. Radjaw put on a strong face while Gray buzzed off chunks of his beard. Some people, possibly Mad Rad, shouted, "Let him keep his 'stache!" Gray left him with an almost Charlie Chaplin–small tuft of lip hair.

In the days after the game, the usual anonymous naysayers turned up on Line Out, The Stranger's music blog, to criticize Mad Rad and Champagne Champagne's "excellent PR work." Not to feed flames, but it brings up a point: The Stranger gets scores of demo and promo CDs every day and hundreds of e-mails from bands and promoters. If you're in a band, you're competing in a very crowded marketplace of art and ideas, and while some acts will succeed based solely on the merits of their music, you might as well do whatever you can to make yourself stand out. In short, there's nothing wrong with a good publicity stunt. recommended