|Photos by Shea Serrano|
Walking in, Pac Div, a serviceable hip-hop trio from L.A., is just finishing up their set. They're cool. They make fun of some guy for wearing a Fubu jersey. We automatically like them for it.
There are two hipster-rap fans in here, one close to 13, the other close to 30, dressed almost exactly alike. The weird thing though is that one that's 13 looks adorable and the one that's 30 is deplorable. Revelation of the day: Hipster-rap fans are like dogs. Shit they do that comes off cute as youngsters is the same shit they do as adults that makes you want to hit them in the nose with a newspaper.
Drake was in town not too long ago. He showed a lot of love to Houston, even going so far as to include Z-Ro's "Mo City Don" freestyle into his set. We're curious to see which of the acts tonight plumbs the "You should like me because I reference Houston rap" tree the most.
B.o.B. is next up. The last time we saw him perform was on TV when he was being completely ignored at the ESPYs. Curious to see how he does tonight.
Oh no. How's this for a horrible opening line: "What's up, Austin?!" B.O.B. is immediately booed. Going to be a long night for him, we suspect. He plays it nicely though, saying something along the lines of, "Oh shit. My fault. Okay. I'm gonna go off stage and then come back and you all act all excited." Funny.
The DJ makes reference to B's earlier transgression and says they're going to make it up to us. Empty promise, we think. And then Bun B bursts out onto the stage! That's the ultimate trump card. All is forgiven. If rap were a game of spades, Bun B would be the ace.
Hipster-rap fans make us feel strong. The crowd continues pushing in closer, but nobody is being rude about it. We might be the meanest guy in the room. It's the same way we feel when we take our kids to Gymboree. We are running shit in the level 2 toddler class.
Asher Roth starts his show with the theme song from Saved By The Bell
. It's somewhat cool, if not expected. He then rides out on one of those Cadillac Escalade Power Wheels.
Asher's hype man comes out and hands him a CD. Asher makes small talk about mix CDs and then feigns inserting it into the tiny Escalade's plastic CD player. Dre's "Tha Next Episode" comes booming out of the speakers. Cool. Asher makes more small talk then says he'll put it on track four. Scarface's "My Block" blasts. The crowd erupts. Asher milks it one more time, this time playing Paul Wall's "Sittin' Sidewayz." Nice touch.
Asher is on point tonight. Occasionally, costumed characters will come out on and run around. Roth's all over the stage. Very energetic. The crowd is feeling him. Not a bad showing for his first Houston show. At one point, he performs a goofy Temptations impression with three of his cohorts to "Candy Rain."
Some girl who is sans the necessary photo badge has just flirted her way into the photographer pit. Poor Creepy Camera Guy. A couple minutes later, while at our side of the stage, Asher reaches out and high fives a whole bunch of fans. Sadly, he misses Creepy Camera Guy's hand. Man, he can't catch a break.
For the second time tonight, Roth is pulling the "R.I.P. DJ Screw and Pimp C" card. Easy there, new guy.10:08 p.m.:
Asher's performing "I Love College" as the closer. Gotta appreciate his obvious enthusiasm for the live show. He just stage dived (dove?). Gets back on stage, thanks everyone, walks off. The crowd buzzes. Solid, solid show.
"Roth Boys" just came blaring on and Roth came flying back out onstage. The crowd is berserk. Dammit. How did we not see that coming? Nice showing from Roth. Way better in person than on our iPod.
The selection at the HOB merch area seems a bit superfluous. We mean, we don't know, maybe it's just us, but we've never been so moved by a visit to a venue that we felt the need to purchase a bedazzled tank top.
Okay, note to everyone: a Mohawk that's wider than two inches is not a Mohawk. It's a flattop that touches the back of your neck. And it's ridiculous.
After much petitioning from the crowd, Kid Cudi is finally starting. The stage is almost completely dark, and there's this bedtime sleepy chant playing. The lights open a bit and he's standing in the middle of the stage. I wanna hate on the move - he certainly thinks himself important - but we can't front; it's dope.
He's performing "Down and Out, the tape that started the Kid Cudi hype machine was really, really good, but very mellow. He's made an effort to livened it up a bit by adding lots of booms and crashes and whatnot. Also, he's tapped John Goldstein, Kanye's famed stage light guy, to help him create an actual feel to his show. Hipster rappers get derided a lot as not being "real rappers," but they put on a hell of a show. The crowd is already his.10:47 p.m.:
There's a big light wall behind Cudi that plays various graphics with each song (stars, a burning sun, a city skyline). It's very cool. Gigantic light walls make everything seem more artistic.
The unenviable plight of Creepy Camera Guy continues. The girl whose spot he's saved several times, the same girl we assumed to be his girlfriend ,has just been taken in by the arms of another man. This is heartbreaking. Despite CCG's clear creepiness, we've grown partially fond of him and his wide, wide back. Wonder how he'd respond if we tried to hug him?
The end of the evening is nearing. The crowd senses it. People are cramming in even tighter. Everyone know "Day and Night" is coming. Curious to see how Cudi plays it: artistic and low-key (and, inevitably, a cappella), or over-the-top hype?
Smartly, Cudi has tapped the Crookers remix of "Day 'n Nite," which is way more house-y, thus way more intense. It bangs, lasting near nine minutes. The crowd is swarmy. When it hits its bass-y height, the screen plays this outer space warp-speed shot, Cudi screams out "1, 2, 3, 4!" and the crowd explodes. He's bouncing around like a ferret on stage. (See the 7:15 mark of this video from Dallas for the best moment.)
The show tonight has been way better than anyone was expecting. It's like a great big rave in here. He's not even trying to be cool right now. He's balls-out, engulfed in the scene. Bravo, Cudi.
He (questionably) comes back and performs "Heaven and Nite." This would be the falling action, we suppose. Were it us, the show would've ended at "Day 'n Nite."
P.S. Big ups to 16-year-old Jonathon Scroggins, an enterprising young man we met early in the night. He's part of the next generation of hip-hop culture writers. See him online here.