Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Final Fantasy and Cadence Weapon, reviewed by Drew Cook

My friend and I went for Final Fantasy, but I loved Cadence Weapon- I enjoyed both of the touring headliners, but a pleasant surprise was Cadence Weapon.
Both were from Canada and played such up.

I had been eager to get to the Bottletree for some time, but the trip (though not that bad), and other conditions: lack of money and a catalyst for going (tickets/friend/band I knew and liked playing) hadn't come together.

My friend wanted to go anyway, as a viola/violin performer she had special interest in seeing Final Fantasy (the guy) performing and to possibly pick his brain as she had interest in doing what he does.

A friend I got in on the station ticket bought me a drink and I enjoyed such, but lamented for a little bit not having any money as the guy next to me at the bar bit into a delicious smelling burger and my friend continued buying drinks (I was DD anyway, so no biggie).

The starting band, Lylas wasn't bad, but the first song they played would have been completely forgetable traditional song, but they did it slightly out of tune (I believe my friend remarked that the vocals were) and were somewhat loud, but played their instruments well, but we had come for Final Fantasy and my friend was soon distracted by other matters as Cadence Weapon came on and I quickly enjoyed that.

For those uninitiated to Nerdcore, Cadence Weapon is either a good introduction or just a damn good rapper. He isn't Nerdcore hip-hop though, a genre almost solely ruled by MC Frontalot- of internet fame. Cadence Weapon doesn't have a rap about webcomics (he isn't the unofficial rapper of webcomics like MC Frontalot) or math and computer science stuff...soo much. But he is clever, well read, and references things like video games, literature or even Boots Riley (of the anarchist hip hop group The Coup- old UA people like me will remember that he came to this campus before the Iraq war started and possibly that their album "Party Music" became controversial for its original cover after 9/11).

I wish I could properly quote a couple lines from "Black Hand."

While I felt somewhat reminded of clever rappers of decades past (Chuck D of Public Enemy or even Ice Cube), the stand out of the performance was the backing music- ably delivered by DJ Weasel. Stage presence overcame the stuttering machine gun delivery of lyrics mixed with not so catching or otherwise confusing title lyrics (which people still jumped to). I got a close standing position early on, and even when I briefly left the huddled masses, I managed to get it back, more or less.

The beats were killer, and Cadence Weapon kept the crowd pumping- those that weren't sitting on the porch area anyway. It was loud, but worth it, the acoustics actually seemed to be more merciful on people closer to the stage than a bit farther away (but maybe that was because I didn't mind as much).

They even did a cover of Joy Division's "Isolation."

Now, Final Fantasy- Mr. Owen Pallett came on and did a very long set (almost exhaustively long to my friend, but mostly I just found myself uncomfortable standing so long, but he had me from the start at least).

He did something I didn't totally expect, he used a slew of pedals to loop and/or distort the sounds he was making with this violin. This at first blew my mind then immediately became more obvious as a solo tactic- nonetheless he shifted through them pretty flawlessly, only noting his mistakes a few times and thus exposing them. He was charmingly self-critical, but almost annoyingly so toward the end, but for most of the show he couldn't have annoyed me as I was more or less enchanted by the songs- the lyrics however were either not terribly well miked or he didn't deliver them very well in my opinion though they sounded nice- I understood him better on the first few songs.

As my friend pointed out later, his performance would have done well with some actual percussion- he used some techniques that I was impressed by at first, but would admit to becoming somewhat less impressive or even almost irritating later...I guess the novelty wore off, but I'm not a classically trained musician so I doubt my impression was as borderline negative as my friend's. He's talented, that is for sure, but so was Cadence Weapon, and as much as I'm sure everyone in the Bottletree enjoyed the show (myself included) my friend's point that he didn't stand all too well on his own as a solo act has me thinking I somewhat agree with her. He's played well and sung back up lyrics with band such as Arcade Fire, but apart from the hipster geekdom in the Bottletree, other venues and some Canadians I won't meet- I doubt he'll go mainstream any time soon on his own.

I accepted his producer not being there to assist at least on the piano songs (which were a welcome inclusion after half an hour or so of straight violin with looped percussive techniques or backing phrases).

He did do an encore as demanded- but brought on the now drunk duo of Cadence Weapon and Dj Weasel so they could "battle" out their apparent backstage arguement.

Both groups had apparently been on the road for a while and both groups had also consumed a fair number of PBR tallboys- which was understandable, and Cadence Weapon was still comprehensible, but barely whereas Dj Weasel actually gained a voice with his inebriation and seemed to win the crowd's favor on his freestyling even though Cadence Weapon had a few choice slams.

I believe Final Fantasy closed with a Maria Carey cover and did such rather well in fact, but I'm not sure of the song's origin's, merely that the crowd enjoyed it.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, both groups were interesting and even with some mild to moderate criticisms coming from my friend about Final Fantasy's not terribly impressive technical expertise with a lack of percussion versus his good songwriting. I enjoyed the show and was impressed by his playing quite well enough I think. Classically trained or not, he's doing more mainstream stuff with this- and with it makes an interesting progression of potentials for violin and other classical instruments- I realized I could in theory apply the looping and pedal set up to other instruments, including my harmonicas potentially.

The venue was also nice, though small it was intimate and if I had more money and didn't have to pay for gas to get to Birmingham, etc...I'd definitely go early enough for food and the show as well. The bar wasn't bad either- beer selections looked interesting and they had at least 2 or 3 of my preferred whiskeys.

The Show gets 2 thumbs up 3 and a half to 4 stars out of 5, all in all a great show and a great venue I don't even mind that Lylas can't sing too well but plays their instruments in their rather largish band rather well or that Cadence Weapon is increasingly less articulate the more he drinks (big surprise) or that the Final Fantasy guy had a great time but I thought he might have cried if we didn't like him as much as we did.

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