Aesop Rock at Exit/In (Nashville, TN)
Published in Blog, Break on a Cloud. Tags: Live, Music, Nashville.
I went to a fight and an Aesop Rock show broke out…
It wasn’t without incident, but for the most part Aesop Rock’s show at Nashville’s Exit/In felt like something of a light-hearted family affair. Ace, Rob Sonic & DJ Big Wiz opened strong with a series from the MC’s recent album Skelethon, immediately setting the bar high with the powerful “Leisureforce,” “Crows 2,” and “Homemade Mummy” (which wound down with a “Make Mummy, Mummy, Make Mummy, Mummy, Mummy/Take Mummy…” play on the Make/Take Money hip hop standard — it was funny, it was unexpected, and it encouraged a playfulness that would remain throughout the set).
“Smock” followed as the first from the trio’s Hail Mary Mallon release which dropped late last year via Rhymesayers. While seeming a little disengaged late in the set, Rob Sonic shined early through this song and the track which followed (introduced as some “Brand new never heard before Rob Sonic shit” from his forthcoming Alice in Thunderdome release), with Ace taking a supporting role, appearing equally as enthused to be lipping Sonic’s lyrics off-mic while slipping deeper and deeper into the music.
A bit of crowd-interaction turned an intermission letter-association-game into the powerful “ZZZ Top,” lifting the energy of the room before slinking into one of the night’s most memorable moments. In recent years it’s become fashionable to mash media on stage in an attempt to create a value-added sensory-overload rock show extravaganza — many times this takes the form of a video accompaniment (as it did during this show) or something like a painter creatively slopping a brush over a canvas while their stage-brethren sail through some this-is-coming-straight-from-the-heart indie rock interpretation. (This isn’t always the case, but it’s been my experience… just sayin’.) Not so with Ace & his band of merry men though.
Enter the show’s openers for the Dark Time Sunshine Barbershop, with tonight’s V.I.P., Mandy A. The crowd huddled closer to the stage as Mandy was invited on stage and sat down on a chair, putting the fate of her well-kept mop in the hands of two questionably qualified barbers while Ace, Sonic & Wiz broke out with “Racing Stripes.” If there was a personal highlight of the night, this was it: chanting along to my favorite song from Skelethon, hollering “muthafuckin’ bzzz bzzz” while the crew on stage proceeded to leave Mandy with a surprisingly-presentable dew. The performance was great and the haircut ended up looking sharp in a sort of “I just got my hair cut on stage at an Aesop Rock show” sort of way. Satisfied by the final product himself, Ace joked with the crowd how they could have left her looking like Friar Tuck (Think they’re joking? Think again.) only to apologize moments later in the event he inadvertently insulted any Friar Tucks in the room. No harm, no foul…
Within moments of “Grubstake” opening though, things began to fall apart as a fight broke out near the front of the crowd, leaving the crew on stage shutting down the Hail Mary Mallon track to play peacekeepers. As the situation settled down someone yelled out how their Jack & Coke was spilled, and Ace threw out an order to replace the wounded soldier. Keeping that light-hearted feeling alive amid all the bull-shittery in the crowd, Ace joked about how someone else spilled a large pizza and coke, proceeding to beg for a replacement while he was in such a giving mood.
“Cycles To Gehenna” followed, with another new Sonic track (“Rock, Paper, Scissors”?), and “Zero Dark Thirty,” before (another personal favorite) “Grace” kicked in, somehow sending a universal message to those same mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers in the crowd, encouraging them to start fighting again. “Broads be goin’ hard in Nashville, yo,” joked Sonic as a petite blonde-haired trouble-maker was literally dragged out of the club. (Sidebar: It’s at this point in the night where my buddy Rob leaned over and dropped what might remain the night’s finest moment of commentary, adding “They were literally rapping about vegetables and a fight ensued.” Well played, sir.) “Anyone wanna take a swing before the next song starts?” mocked Aesop (or Sonic, I didn’t really catch which one said it — my bad) before the duo took a backseat to Wiz as he kicked in with his “Making a Beat From Scratch” mainstay. The man’s turntablism and mixing is excellent, and his ability to improvise on the spot is insane… though I can’t but feel like it was overshadowed by the surrounding nonsense.
HMM’s “Meter Feeder,” “1,000 O’Clock,”and Sonic’s “Happy Land Disco” played through before a brilliant version of “Fryerstarter” hit, and “Gopher Guts” closed out the main set. The group took a moment to gather themselves before the dozen-year-old “Big Bang” exploded, with the crowd fist pumping its way into the introduction of the “Night Light”/”Daylight” blend, which served as the final shot for the show. It was nice to end the night by hearing something so comfortable (though predictable… I mean, Van Halen’s not leaving the stage without playing “Panama,” are they?), properly book-ending the night’s wide-reaching circus of human emotion. If I have one regret about the show though, it’s only that I wish I would have been the one with the pizza-joke. It still makes me laugh… maybe you had to be there.
[This article first appeared on Break on a Cloud.]