Show Recap: Shabazz Palaces struts into Yoshi’s with THEESatisfaction
Kevin / February 3, 2012
Shabazz Palaces invites an interesting crowd. The duo, who performed last night at Yoshi’s in San Francisco before departing on an European tour in a few weeks, seems to straddle that line between indie rock and hip-hop only if you look at their audience, because their music is doesn’t sound like rock at the least bit. The avant-garde duo of Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael “Ish” Butler) and percussionist Tendai Mariare has pieced together a theme of bluster, black power, african diaspora, jarring beats and psychedelia, and perhaps that last part is what brought together the two different scenes.
While it’s Ishmael Butler’s name put the act in the limelight, it’s his newfound persona that gives it its momentum. Far from the bookish alter ego, Butterfly of Digable Planets, he walks in with a certain attitude steeped in 70’s black power and blacksploitation. His upper lip seemed perpetually to be in a Elvis-like curl, and he glared into the crowd like a slam poet. It’s swagger without swag, the attitude and persona you can project credibly only if you’ve passed your advanced thirties. It’s almost like he took lessons from Richard Roundtree personally.
But what really stood out was the psychedelic riffs, full of seeming contradictions, that they have managed to pull out of their samplers and thumb pianos. Tendai Mariare, son of Zimbabwean legend Dumisani Maraire, could take a usually airy and light instrument like the Mbira and make it sound foreboding and sinister, like he does on “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum”. The constant use of reverb on the mics, the drum samples purposefully distorted, and long riffs punctuated by stray sounds and rhythms permeated the set to create this airy, intangible melange in the air that rock bands of the 60’s like Steppenwolf and The Doors made a trade from. And with the other parts of the set were undeniably hip-hop, especially the encore when they emphasized the boom bap and raps while the front rows bobbed their heads, there was such a diversity in the music that it could explain the composition of the crowd.
THEESatisfaction came out midset, and helped out on their parts of Black Up, including “Endevours for Never” and “Swerve…”, then they stuck around to perform a few of their own stuff, including the sing-songy and off-kilter “Do You Have The Time”. Cat lent her singing voice to the hooks and her afro to the ambiance, while Stas’ rapid-fire high-pitched monotone raps added urgency to Cat’s breezy vocals. The pair, long plying their craft in Seattle’s underground scene, is steadily becoming a more polished presence, and are making progress to a national unveiling with a record release, awE naturalE, in March.
Siddhartha, a local band, provided the opening tonight with its own brand of psychedelic rock. The band added a twist to the usual formula with the addition of a saxophonist, who played with an avant-garde, free-jazz style that added a bit of needed chaos to their steady but a bit droning guitars.