It’s been a damn long time since I dropped a post here, in fact it’s been so long I’d bet that most of the people who go to Bass Republic these days weren’t even living in Saigon yet the last time I posted. Still, with Samiyam having just played in the SGN it seems like like a good time to fire up the keyboard and return to posting about what used to be one of my favourite subjects back in ’09 – the LA beats scene.
I remember how excited we all were when Jase brought the Gaslamp Killer to Cage (RIP) almost 2 years ago. It was hard to believe that somebody associated with the legendary Low End Theory club would actually appear in Vietnam. The GLK came and dropped a mindblowing set and many hailed that night as the beginnings of a true underground scene in Vietnam. Fast forward to 2 years later and there’s been an impressive line-up of left-field names that have come through Saigon, including such luminaries of the LA scene as Free the Robots, Frosty, Daedalus and Nobody.
Sadly I’d left Vietnam for good soon after that groundbreaking GLK show, so I missed out on all the good LA artists coming through in 2010-11. With my hands full adjusting to the demands of life and work in a brand new country, I started to sleep on the whole LA scene too – the time for sitting around listening to lots of cool new music just wasn’t there any more.
Finally in June this year I had the opportunity to travel to California. I was determined to grab the chance to reconnect with the whole LA music scene while I was there. I deliberately scheduled my trip so that I would land from Asia just in time to go to one of the most legendary bass music nights in the whole world – Low End Theory at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights, LA.
Alas, my long-held plans came to nothing. The jetlag from flying across the Pacific knocked me out cold. For more than a year, Da Remedy had been sleeping on the LA beats scene. Now, on his first night in LA, Da Remedy was sleeping – literally – at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverley Hills while across town Death Grips kicked out the jams at Low End Theory. When I finally woke up the next day to realize that I’d slept right through the chance to visit Low End Theory, I felt like my trip had started off on a huge bummer.
I never did make it to Low End Theory, but I did spend part of the next 10 days making up for it and that’s what the rest of this post is going to be about. Some of the coolest music and art stuff I managed to cram in to my California visit.
Free The Robots in San Francisco
The first show I ended up catching was the awesome Free The Robots in San Francisco a couple of nights later. I’d only just been waking up to the greatness of his Ctrl-Alt-Del album so I was stoked to have the chance to see him in the flesh.
The show was in a venue located in what is allegedly San Francisco’s most crime-ridden neighborhood, which might have explained the low turn-out of only about 30 people. Still, I had a blast watching Free The Robots. With his pork-pie hat and hyperactive antics on stage, I almost felt like I’d stepped back in time and was watching some be-bop era jazzman reaching for the next note in a smokey San Francisco dive 60 years ago.
HVW8 Gallery – Los Angeles
Later on my trip I headed back to LA, arriving on Thursday and just missing Low End Theory. Not all was lost though – I had tickets for a Brainfeeder label showcase in Hollywood that night. Before going to the gig I decided to go and check out an art gallery I’d been hearing a lot about – HVW8.
I’d read a lot about this art space which seemed to constantly be doing amazing hook-ups with musicians – from Kutmah book launches with the GLK playing to exclusive in-gallery appearances by Snoop Dogg. Check out their website at www.hvw8.com
Anyway the gallery seemed to be easy to get to from where I was staying in Hollywood, so I figured I’d go down there to check it out and maybe see if I could score some of the cool Kutmah t-shirts and mix cds they were advertising on their website. Kutmah is almost my favorite DJ (as opposed to producer) from the whole LA scene (even if he’s in England now). His “Dusted Soul” mix cd from a few years back was the mix which first got me into checking out LA-based stuff beyond Flying Lotus. The gallery was actually closed when I visited, because they were prepping for an exhibition and live event featuring legendary dub producer Scientist! Luckily, Tyler, the owner was there setting things up and let me in and showed me around when I explained how far I’d come and how keen I was to see the place.
After checking out all the cool artwork for the Scientist event, I left with my purchases: an Obey T-shirt with a Kutmah print and Kutmah’s “New Error 3” mix cd, plus an unopened packet of vintage 1991 Yo! MTV Raps bubblegum cards that Tyler gifted me. There really need to be more galleries like HVW8 in this world, I hope one day somebody opens something similar in Vietnam.
Brainfeeder Showcase in Hollywood
Finally, it was time for the main event. The Brainfeeder Showcase at the Music Box in Hollywood, featuring Strangeloop, Teebs, Samiyam, Austin Peralta, Thundercat and Flying Lotus all on one bill!
As soon as I got inside the venue, I made a left to the merchandise stand and ran into none other than the GLK wearing the same Kutmah print t-shirt as me. The GLK actually remembered meeting me in Saigon in ’09, and told me that he would be making a special guest appearance that night! After chatting with the GLK I had a good chat with Roam, who was manning the merchandise stand and who actually manufactured the Kutmah shirt I had bought earlier that day. We talked about the Saigon and Manila scene and I raved on to him about the greatness of the Roam & Urth mix that Red-I gave me. Roam’s parting words to me were “Say hello to Jase”, showing how the Saigon scene has become part of the global beats family.
I’d missed Strangeloop and most of Teebs while chatting outside, but the little bit of Teebs that I saw was excellent and I’ve been spinning his awesome album on Brainfeeder ever since. Next up was Samiyam, who some of you lucky people saw recently in Saigon. That night, Samiyam brought some old-school boom-bap mixed in with the Brainfeeder sound.
Following Samiyam was the GLK doing his surprise guest appearance. There’s not much more I can say about the guy that hasn’t already been said. He really must be close to the greatest party-rocking DJ on earth right now – Dubstep, Wonky, Boom-bap and Black Sabbath. Hopefully he’ll come back to the Far East one day and go through Hong Kong too.
But the most awesome artists were yet to come. Austin Peralta, Thundercat and Flying Lotus. Austin Peralta is the son of legendary Dogtown skater Stacy Peralta, and is a very acomplished jazz pianist despite being ridiculously young. I highly reccomend his “Endless Planets” album on Brainfeeder to beat heads looking to get into more Jazz – listen to this and it could be your gateway to Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra! I probably don’t need to say much about Thundercat with all the excitement about his “Golden Age of Apocalypse” album dropping right now, but let me add that he has a pronounced stage presence and I love the fact that he’s also in Suicidal Tendencies now (sorry Jase, had to put that in one more time).
Things kicked off with Austin Peralta and Thunder Cat jamming together, and some of the things I was hearing somehow reminded me of Nels Cline records from the early 80s, underscoring the continuity of LA music.
The jam session was followed by Fly Lo coming on to do a solo DJ set, and the excitement in the crowd was running at a high level by that stage. Fly Lo dropped all kinds of dubby and even 2-steppy stuff, not sure whether any of it was his forthcoming productions. Things went up to yet another level when Thunder Cat and Austin Peralta came back on, joined by a drummer. For the next hour Fly Lo and the three instrumentalists proceeded to kick out the jams in a session somehow held together by Fly Lo. I must admit that not absolutely all of it worked (I thought the drummer was a little off sometimes, and I wasn’t totally won over by the jam over “Yonkers” – actually I reckon most of the OFWGKTA stuff is just an overhyped waste of time), but most of what went down was spectacular and I felt like I was witnessing a little piece of LA music history being made. At last I’d been to one of those legendary gigs by an artist at the crest of a pop-cultural moment, like the Who at Leeds, the Clash at the Rainbow or the Stone Roses at Spike Island.
I walked out of the venue that night feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I’m not getting any younger and the dubstep scene ain’t quite what it used to be, but there’s still plenty of amazing music being made and right now a lot of it is coming from LA. All about the sonics instead of the image, and drawing on so much good shit from LA’s past, the Brainfeeder collective and the LA beat scene is where it’s at for me in 2011. You people in Saigon don’t know how lucky you are to have so many of these artists come through, so make sure you get out and show your support every time they do.
P.s: Here’s some more professional footage from the night: