A-Plus: The Spring Cleaning Tour Show Review

 

 

The show itself was an experience like no other. A-Plus lyrical fluidity and classic, boom bap, hip hop beats transported me from a modern so-cal setting, to the golden age of Bay Area hip hop. Sounds dope, but who is A-Plus, you ask?

A-Plus began rapping at the age of 8 in Oakland, California. He continued honing his skills throughout his teen years, and when he reached high school he helped form the underground hip hop collective formally known as Souls of Mischief. This monumental hip hop group, consisting of A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai, made their first mark on the game in 1993 with the release of their album, “93’ till infinity.” This album was dropped under the Jive record label, but once the group deviated from the major label route, they became part of an umbrella collective known as Hieroglyphics. The collective was founded in the early ‘90s by a man known as Del the Funky Homosapien. The Hieroglyphics movement sent shockwaves throughout the Bay Area that are still felt today. Their iconic three eyed logo can be found scattered throughout various hip hop scenes, and they paved the way for a new generation of artists.

A-Plus’ success in the hip hop group circuit did not deter his ambition for solo ventures. Since the release of his last group project, A-Plus has released three solo albums. The latest was released in 2014 and is titled “Molly’s Dirty Water.”

I had the opportunity to meet up with A-Plus before the show and talk some hip hop. I first asked him about the origin of his passion for music. He went on to name the hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Run DMC as two groups who heavily influenced his love for hip hop. That love and passion for the genre is what A-Plus credits for his longevity in the music scene. This mindset empowered A-Plus and other like-minded individuals within his collectives to push the boundaries of underground hip hop and force the world to take notice. The Hieroglyphics movement was a vital catalyst which helped push the culture forward into where we are today. And, A-Plus respects the direction current music has gone and is grateful for having played a role in that direction. A few notable contemporary rappers who he enjoys are Joey Badass, Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar. In regards to where A-Plus himself is today, he is still going around the country doing what he loves: making music and putting on shows. The tour he is currently on is called the Spring Cleaning Tour and features other notable artists, such as Knobody and J. Lately, all supported by the spinning skills of DJ Nocturnal.

The Show

A-Plus and company’s second stop on their Spring Cleaning tour brought them to one of downtown San Diego’s premier live music bars, the Kava Lounge. The Kava Lounge is a small venue that hosts some big entertainment. As I was walking up to the venue, I was awestruck at the sight of a Boeing 747 descending over the beautifully lit San Diego skyline, and unlike the plane, my night only went up from there.

The show itself was an experience like no other. A-Plus’ lyrical fluidity and classic, boom bap, hip hop beats transported me from a modern SoCal setting, to the golden age of Bay Area hip hop. My head instinctively rocked to almost every song as the truly experienced MC showcased his ability to handle a mic and ride a beat. He played songs spanning all the way from the early ‘90s to his upcoming album collaboration featuring Knobody, titled “Grow Theory.” Knobody joined the rapper on stage. The duo’s back-and-forth style was truly captivating and reinforced the old school hip hop vibe. The Souls of Mischief rapper seemed at home on stage, and rightfully so, given that he has been doing this for decades. To conclude the show, he performed one of his group’s most beloved hits, “93 ‘till Infinity.” This was the moment I had been waiting for. This song features one of the most legendary hip hop beats on record. It was truly an honor to witness a living legend masterfully weave his words within rhyme and rhythm over such a historic instrumental. Given the small nature of the venue, at times it felt like the rapper was speaking directly to me, and that made for a truly one-of-a-kind experience. A-Plus performed for the intimate crowd with just as much passion as he would a crowd 10 times its size; even though the quantity of space was limited, the quality of the performance did not suffer.

Overall, I went to go see an A-Plus show, and that is exactly what I got: an A+ show. Twenty-four years ago, A-Plus said, “you will see, from now ’til infinity.” And, he seems to be keeping his word.

 

State Champs at the Observatory

On Sunday, April 23, State Champs put on a stellar performance at the Observatory in North Park. Openers included London based rock band Don Broco, newcomers With Confidence and fellow New Yorkers, Against the Current.  Although I only knew a few songs from the opening bands, I can say they were successful in hyping up the crowd for the main event.

Don Broco energized the crowd with its heavy guitars, groovy bass line and Rob Damiani’s unique vocal melody. Up next was With Confidence. This Australian pop punk band first started by uploading covers onto Youtube and playing local shows. Now, they are running with the big kids. They expanded their fanbase after performing at the 2016 Vans Warped Tour and releasing their new record “Better Weather.” This pop punk quartet takes a soulful approach to the genre’s sound – a similar vibe to State Champs. This band is going to get big, just wait and see. The last opening band to take the stage was Against the Current. The major problem I have with them is not their music itself but their sound system. The bright guitars, synth sounds and instrument effects drowned out Chrissy Constanza’s vocals. Despite the cohesive sound made by the band, the singer’s vocals were not my cup of tea. Overall, the performance was mediocre at best.

Finally, it was State Champs’ turn to blow away the audience. And they did. From start to finish, the group put their all into the show, playing old songs, new songs and fan favorites. Their setlist included oldies such as “Stick Around,” “Deadly Conversation” and “Mind Bottled.” They even played a new song, “Slow Burn,” and “Around the World and Back” from their latest record. Opening with “Remedy,” Derek’s vocals blasted throughout the venue as he sang “I got no time…” over and over again. Arguably, he has the best vocals in the pop punk scene, and his performance merely solidified that. Each note, each verse, each vocal run he sang was perfect, and hyped-up the crowd. However, with the rest of the band included, State Champs becomes an unstoppable pop punk act. Each member has their own musical finesse and is capable of creating magic in the studio and on-stage.

By the end of the concert, the crowd was going insane and the atmosphere was electric. Crowd surfers were flying through the air, stage lights were flashing and everyone was going wild. I, for one, was right at the barricade, dripping with sweat and having the time of my life. After the show, I even had the pleasure of meeting Ryan Scott Graham, the bassist, and had him re-sign my inhaler. You could say I was overwhelmed.

This was my third time seeing State Champs and they never disappoint. Pop punk is not dead, kids. It is bands like this who keep that spirit alive.

Featured Image (State Champs @ Masquerade 11.21.15-52) by Nicole Kibert. No changes made. 

Concert Review: The 1975 at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater

The 1975 brought all their heavy hitters and fan favorites to their set at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater on Tuesday, April 25.

The massive, dedicated community of The 1975 fans gathered in excitement, screams piercing from the band’s first sign of movement to the final bow.

The night began with “Love Me,” the first single from “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.” With the first distinctive guitar riff, the audience’s enthusiasm was palpable. Matty’s dancing was the sporadic movement of lanky limbs.

“UGH!” and “Heart Out,” the latter from their eponymous debut album, continued the high energy start, but the band soon slowed down for the more personal tracks, “A Change of Heart” and “Robbers.”

Aside from fan favorites, the band pulled out deep cuts (songs) throughout the night, like “Menswear,” “M.O.N.E.Y.,” “Me” and “fallingforyou.” The fans’ excitement did not waver, and their dedication to The 1975 was made even clearer with their knowledge of these more obscure songs.

Healy talked to the crowd in between songs, praising the audience’s liberalism and compassion, before dedicating the “I like it when…” single, “Loving Someone,” to the LGBT community. He also made sure the fans knew that a percentage of the revenue made from the band’s merchandise was going to be donated to charities supporting the LGBT community.

Despite Healy’s showmanship, the excellent music and the crowd’s energy, the show stealer was the lighting design. Each song had its own lighting scheme: rainbow during “Loving Someone,” a cityscape during “UGH!” and “I like it when…,” and pink during “She’s American.”

“Somebody Else” proved to be a favorite performance among the audience, as Healy led their shouts of “F—k that, get money!” during the song’s bridge. Even Healy himself noted that the crowd reached peak energy during that song.

The set rounded out with the bona fide anthems “Girls” and “Sex,” two of the most famous tracks from The 1975’s debut album. The band members walked offstage, but were quickly ushered back for an encore by the passionate crowd, who was not ready to let the night end.

The encore brought about the best, and last, performance of the night, “The Sound.” The shouts of, “I know when you’re around ‘cause I know the sound, I know the sound of your heart,” almost drowned out Healy’s own singing.

The 1975 ended the night with their most vigorous performance, and the fans were left more than satisfied after hearing every song a 1975 fan would have wanted to hear.

Featured Image by Julianna Ress.

SDSU choir and symphony orchestra concert

San Diego State University choirs and symphony orchestra took the stage at the College Avenue Baptist Church on Saturday, April 22, to perform Brahms’s “Symphony No. 3” and Dvořák’s “Mass in D.”

Conducted by SDSU music professor Michael Gerdes, the concert consisted of the SDSU Chamber Choir, Aztec Concert Choir and University Chorus, along with the SDSU Symphony Orchestra.

Gerdes introduced the show, emphasizing his genuine gratitude for the audience being there.

“If it wasn’t for you, this would just be another rehearsal,” he said.

The the first half of the two-hour concert featured the symphony orchestra performing without the choirs, playing Johannes Brahms’s “Symphony No. 3,” which was originally written in 1883. The piece is divided into four movements, “Allegro con brio,” “Andante,” “Poco allegretto” and “Allegro – un poco sostenuto.” The performance was largely driven by the sharp melodies of the string section, especially the violins.

The most famous movement of the piece, the third movement, opened with the low, rich sound of the cello and moved into a solo horn before entering the fourth movement. The climax of the entire piece was reached during this finale, peaking with the mightiness of the cellos and horns. The theme of the first movement was brought back before the piece ended in the most complete and satisfying way possible.

An intermission followed before the choirs joined the symphony orchestra onstage for Antonin Dvořák’s “Mass in D,” originally written in 1887. The religious Latin song is divided into six sections, “Kyrie,” “Gloria,” “Credo,” “Sanctus,” “Benedictus” and “Agnus Dei.” The audience was given English translations of the lyrics, but the power and emotion from the choir was enough to transcend the language barrier.

The choir was fronted by four student soloists: Carly Cummings (soprano), Mary Saffell (mezzo-soprano), Shahen Ohanian (tenor) and Zlatoslav Sokolov (baritone). Each singer brought a unique voice to the mix, but they complemented each other stunningly. The intricate and pleasing sound of the Latin language provided an additional layer of beauty to the piece, making the prayer even more compelling.

Overall, the choirs and the symphony orchestra clearly showed that they were well prepared for the concert, yet they did not lose any of the passion the pieces called for. They did not view the music as pure academia, but as art to be shared with the audience through their dedication and coordination.