Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Village

Big Village: Big Things Volume 2 Tour

Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
14th September 2012

Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
5th October 2012

Gearins Hotel, Katoomba (not Toowoomba)
6th October 2012

I want this to read like a personal journal for those of you that wanted to go but couldn't, I want you to feel like you were there and you wrote this. I want this to read like a love letter for all of those that have continued to share these experiences with me: to those that are always by my side (you know who you are), to those that I now recognise in the crowd night by night, and to those on stage in this crew that have never been anything but nice to me, and have always taken the time out to talk to me, and encourage me to ask the questions which will help define their point of view. (And put up with me when I'm embarrassingly drunk too.) I want this to read like a postcard for all of those who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing this music yet. Cause it says “Wish you were here,” in big bold print. The photo on the front alone will be enough to make you want to dive in, but my colourful prose will catch you on the hook and sink you for sure. 

First a little background info, this album/ tour is truly a family affair. Not only is the whole crew involved but it's almost like the emcees drew names out of a hat to see who got to work with who this time. Although there's some familiar combinations- Loose Change, Daily Meds, Reverse Polarities, True Vibenation, etc. There are also some new, not yet seen before combinations (ie. Jeswon & P Smurf, Klue & Billie Rose, Mute MC & Verbaleyes, and Tuka & Loose Change, Billie Rose & Reverse Polarities). And the highlight of it all, is the posse track where absolutely everyone gets to throw down a verse. That's 16 clowns squeezed onto an itty bitty stage for a BIG finale.

My journey to this particular show actually began months ago when the lives of Kathy and I first started to become intertwined with the members of this crew. I won't take you through the details of how we became advocates, spokeswomen, and top sticker distributors for Big Village. But one particularly memorable night happened just before the first show of the tour, in Sydney. Now it turns out that a lot of times, when I'm planning to have a big night, it tends to get slightly ruined by the night before. In this case, my friends and I had been planning on and looking forward to the Friday night gig at the Oxford Arts Factory for months, so what do I do? Well, I spent the Thursday night drinking moonshine at a warehouse in Marrickville and... well I'm sure you can already tell that this isn't going to end well... (or is it?)

 My favourite song off the Big Things Volume 2 album, as I'm sure a couple people can attest to, was immediately “Lingua Franca.” The song is a collab by Mute MC (Reverse Polarities) and Verbaleyes (True Vibenation). Lyrically, this song spoke to me more than any other has in recent times. It communicates how music is the only absolutely universal language. It has the ability to bring the people of every culture and background to the understanding that we are all just one people. It's basically everything that hip hop as a culture attempts to express.

On the night of the 13th August, a special day on it's own, I partook in a particularly special event, we did a video shoot for “Lingua Franca.” We may have lacked the representation from all cultures of the world that we had wanted to showcase in the video, but we all came with an earnest desire to make something out of nothing and to give this song the energy and communal feeling that it deserves. I'm pretty sure we succeeded, although I've yet to see the video. I did get to rap to the camera though, and I met Damon finally, after hearing so much about how awesome he is, but that's a whole other story.

And so the BIG night had come around finally, I really meant to get there right when the doors opened. We should have been the first people standing by the door, bright and eager with our tickets clenched in hand, like little girls going to see our first concert cause that's certainly how excited we felt. I have been wanting to see Sketch the Rhyme which is, well what is it? From what I can guess/ imagine- it's like a hip hop pictionary game show, with lots of live freestyle raps and live art, you can't get much more hip hop than that. It is such a cool concept and takes a lot of skill. The ability to drop a tight freestyle these days is almost like separate skill to being an emcee, when it used to be a requirement. These kind of rapping games really keep rappers on their toes and fine tunes their skill. Unfortunately, something called “Fat Ass Scrumpy” (and that is a type of beverage) delayed our arrival time by at least half an hour, so I missed out on the first part of the action. 

This was my first time at the Oxford Arts Factory and I can see now why it's such a popular venue. It's intimate without being too small, it gives the feeling of being in a theatre (velvet curtain and all) without any seats to get in the way of dancing. Immediately upon entering you could tell this was a hip hop gig. Not like a 360 show which I've talked about before, or Illy which I went to recently, where the vibe just felt a bit off. Here, it was like there was something in the air, a highly contagious airborne allergen that did the opposite of making you sick, in fact as soon as you caught it you felt energised, alive, and connected to all the people around you. It was like arriving home, and although most of the people there were strangers, they were all people that I wanted to know. My eyes were sparkling as I looked around. I was on a drug but I wasn't. I was on the edge and about to jump.

 Reverse Polarities was on now and I went straight to the front of the stage as if we had assigned seats and I had to take my place. Mikoen, P-Smurf, and Mute MC said their hellos to me from the stage not like an artist communicating to a fan, but like we were here together and we were sharing something. A couple of songs into the set, everyone except P-Smurf mysteriously disappeared from the stage, then out popped Jeswon to perform what is most likely my second favourite song on the album, although it's a close call. Lately it's only lyrics with a message that really do it for me, Evolutionary Cells was a stand out from the first listen. As far as lyrics and subject matter this song is right where I'm at. It is time for evolution, come on people lets do this. BIG of course came on soon after and I couldn't stop myself jumping around to this insane beat. It's probably the catchiest song on the album, and with Billie Rose joining them, they became Reverse Polarities- Daily Meds hyphenated like a beautiful marriage of sound.  

Security is minimal at these events. It's not like at some shows where there has to be a big barricade separating the performers from the audience, in case desperate teenagers get overcome with lust and throw themselves onto the stage. (I haven't seen it happen yet anyway.) And the inevitable fighting that tends to happen at a lot of hip hop shows, was completely absent this night. The vibe was excellent, it's like we were all friends. Artists were also audience members, keen to see their friends performances as much as we were. When the show was about ¾ of the way through, Rochelle turned to me we both just looked at each other in astonishment, we couldn't do much but just shake our heads and say, “amazing.” She tilts her head and says, “this could be... the best?” “Yes,” I nod in agreement. “The best one.” we agree.

It was all about the vibe this time and the vibe was alive and the crowd was feeling something intense together, the sets were tight. What can I say about the rest of the night? Loose Change is a change from just your average Australian hip hop. “Ode to the Beatmaker” is a performance and track to check out from the album. Rapaport solo is truly unstoppable. He's got a style that no one can touch. As he said during the set, “this is like workout music,” you can't help but move around to the beats. As proved by my video of “Claptrap” where he is joined by impromptu dancers. True Vibenation bring the whole reggae, jazz vibe, with the saxophones and love for all, and Bob Marley. It's a good chill interlude. It was really exciting for me when Mute came out and they performed “Lingua Franca” after working on it so much the night before. It was a great energy song that got a crowd response. Daily Meds just absolutely killed the night. I'm pretty sure everyone literally went “Insane” and had to be removed from the activities of normal society the next day. Daily Meds have the most intense high energy performance I have yet witnessed. You cannot help but dance to the music. Well it helps that they have a song called “Dance” as well but, you would anyway. Tuka and Ellesquire are the smoothest lyricists. Their raps are thoughtful and their singing soulful. They both have a soothing, yet eye catching stage presence, it was certainly interesting to see these two form a pair and bring us something new from their combined greatness.

Ellesquire and Tuka
Going to the Newcastle and Blue Mountains shows turned out to be a beautiful last minute decision. Three weeks had gone by since the Sydney show already, and the BV'ers had taken a massive bus all the way down to Melbourne and then up to Brisbane. Our decision to go to the Newcastle show was a last minute one as it was. And then following mine and Kathy's normal procedure, we left about a hour and a half later than we had planned to. But I'm sure it wouldn't be half as exciting to get there if we weren't always racing the clock. This time we raced the clock all the way up the coast, half hoping that the show wasn't actually over when we got there. Lucky it wasn't too bad, we made it in about halfway through Loose Change's set. Saying to ourselves of course, it's ok we'll see the whole thing next time. Hahaha....

The Newcastle show was a little bit of a disappointment. I don't know if we were just a bit put off from the start by one very strange coincidence, a chance meeting. But the whole night certainly had a very different feel to it. After the super high energy of the Sydney show, this one felt a bit strained and a little bit awkward. But that just goes to show how every show, even though it's exactly the same, can have a completely different feel just depending on the crowd. The performers feed off the crowd's energy and give back whatever they get magnified tenfold. A disinterested crowd will always get a slightly disinterested performer, but when it's on, it's on.

True Vibenation
Have you ever had the experience of witnessing an absolutely incredible performance, and then afterwards you just feel completely drained? It's like coming down off of a high. That's because you have given up all your energy to that performance as well. The performer has received an incredible burst of energy from the buzzingly excited crowd and was able to use it all, to gain almost inhuman abilities, giving it all back with the best performance possible. The performer and the audience form a special bond. It's why I go to the shows night after night, it's what I live for these days. That one moment where you're not just yourself anymore, the moment that the performer and the audience creates together, where the whole room is on the same level.  We drop over the edge. We all feel the same feeling. The one moment. The posse track, This Is That, which of course was the last song of the night describes this push and pull between the audience and performers perfectly. “We got the energy to give it out, give it back... what you want is what you get, keep it all in check, come on.”

How to sleep in a car.  Where are her legs??
Anyway not to say that the Newcastle performance was anything less than awesome. But compared to what we had already seen and what was to come, it definitely lacked energy and crowd participation.

Getting to the Blue Mountains was painful. This was the same day we left Newcastle, drove back to Sydney and then off again to Katoomba. Of course we were late again, and the rain was so heavy as we turned onto the highway that lead into the mountains that we almost had to pull over. Lucky it wasn't a tad colder or we would have been blanketed with snow. I'm sitting in the back of the car with the rain bucketing down on us, completely covering the front windscreen. Kath is trying to drive but we can barely see a metre ahead and I'm just thinking to myself. “Why the FUCK are we doing this??” We parked down the side of the building so we could smash a few drinks before we went in and we could hear BIG just barely coming through the wall, of course we missed the whole beginning of the show AGAIN! We made a sneaky side entrance so as not to attract too much attention. The room felt old but friendly and comfortable. Small town vibe, everyone was friendly. There was so many familiar faces in the crowd. And then all the hassle of getting there, sleeping in the car the night before, the whole day of driving, everything was worth it.  We had made home again.   

It felt so good to get out of Sydney for a little while. I moved down from North Queensland about 8 months ago, chasing some excitement, something happening. I certainly found what I was looking for, but I realised that I haven't left the city since about March (except to go to Canberra, which doesn't really count cause it's a shithole, sorry) and it was so relaxing just to chill somewhere were people aren't always rushing to get to the next thing. The small town vibe is definitely a needed break for the mind.

Daily Meds
This show was much smaller than the Sydney one, and it started off slow, even by the time we got there the crowd was a bit sparse. But I think what we got to in the end of that show exceeds where we were at in the Sydney show. I felt like all of us together were building and building up to the last moment. The ultimate push and pull, the energy flying. I think because we had already seen the show a couple of times now, we weren't particularly focused on each set like we had been, but that meant that we had plenty of time to connect with friends. And it gave us the ability to throw all of our spare energy into that last all important moment, in the last song. And it paid off. That end result that I try to describe? It can't be mimicked or faked, it can only be felt deep inside. And if you know what I mean then you know now, or else you have a new aspiration to achieve. This hip hop thing is slowly killing me. And letting me breathe. If you don't know what I mean, then get onto this thing.

I'd say we're pretty close to starting our own society, yeah? Big Village.
(you'll see me rep that in the street)

I think you'll find all your needs will be taken care of here.

Check it out, Tuka's 2nd solo album "Feedback Loop" will be released this Friday, 26th October! 

No comments:

Post a Comment