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Blue Scholars CD release party pretty impressive.

Caught the show on Saturday, the second of two sold out gigs at the Showbox in downtown Seattle. It's been a while since I saw the duo live. In fact, the last time I caught them, it was the release party for their first edition of their debut disc back in '04. That was at a little club in the International District, and might have had about 100 people in attendance, most of them friends of the groups playing.

This was a little different. The all ages show was packed with teenagers who fucking love the Blue Scholars. I knew they had become popular, but this still surprised me. It was crazy.

As fans filed in, a lackluster DJ played a laid back, informal set. It was nice to have something other than a pretaped playlist running, as most shows tend to have, but this guy needs to work on his transitions, nevermind his scratching. Dude played for about fourty-five minutes before we were treated to a much more impressive performance from Kidz in the Hall. I guarantee you 90% of the crowd had never even heard of these guys outside of seeing them on the posters for this party, but it didn't matter. The pop friendly fusion of hip hop, funk beats, and soul strings, reminiscent of Slum Village, and the format of "one DJ and one MC" worked as an excellent prelude to the Blue Scholars. The crowd was game, and Kidz's Naladge and Double-O took full advantage, making an instant connection with their young audience and building on that enthusiasm. These guys have chops, musically and as performers. If you have the chance to catch 'em live, don't miss it.

Next up was Black Anger. These guys are old school, 'real' hip-hop, and they're not afraid to let you know or to make you feel bad for not being as versed in the underground. These condescending bastards played a decent set, but they guilted the crowd into reacting to them and participating 'enthusiastically', and although the mainly young, white crowd ate it up, it didn't feel natural to me. So fuck those guys.

The last set of the night was, of course, the home team, the Blue Scholars, who came out swinging. They grabbed the audience right away playing two songs in their traditional style, with Geo on the mic and Sabzi handling the tables, but they soon brought out Geo's side band, the seriously cool eight piece Good Medicine to back them up, and Sabzi moved over to his keyboard, and the band stayed onstage for the rest of the concert. They had a four horn section, a drummer, two guitarists, and a guy on congos. The remainder featured revised versions of familiar songs and a smattering of material from their new disc, and guest appearances from fellow label-mates, Gabriel Theodros and Ra Scion. The vibe in the room was electric. Band members were smiling, Geo and Sabzi were on, and the crowd jumped and cheered like their best friends were up there on stage. The Scholars rocked the house, and everybody loved every second of it.

It was great.


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