Live & Loco: Uptown Saturday Night with Camp Lo in Northern Liberties 6/11/17
Welp, it’s been a minute since we’ve had a completed piece to toss onto the wood pile and use for kindling in the RE-JECT-ED files. That’s a good thing. But per usual, that loss becomes The Wudder’s gain. This time, we won’t discuss the details, because truthfully the reason this couldn’t get used was more of a misunderstanding and timing issue than anything else. It had nothing to do with the quality of the piece or the objections of editing staff who dug it.
You will see another show review utilizing the below format at a new outlet, the publication for which this was originally crafted, we can’t yet disclose where, by the end of next week.
That will be followed by some other more story-driven journalism pieces to follow there this summer and hopefully beyond.
I’m nine days off cigarettes (shout out to Lag, I’m finally heeding your advice 15 years later), so my summer hustle game is about to go from a jog to a sprint!
Keep an eye out for a Ziggy Stardust anniversary piece on Albumism this week, the return of Streaming Consciously to The Wudder this weekend, a Live & Loco on Sunday’s U2 show at The Linc on Monday or Tuesday and an OCNJ Daily report on Monday’s Dave Mason Summer Concert Series show Tuesday or Wednesday.
If you missed the Trombone Shorty piece on OCNJ earlier this week, click here.
If you missed a Game 5 NBA Finals piece, whatever, we didn't make one. Congrats to Durant. Not much more to say on it.
The Nostrabombus Finals record landed at 3-1 (we missed picking Game 4) with our "Warriors in 6" prediction off by one game. LeBron averaging a 30+ triple-double for these playoffs is pretty insane. We'll be back to talk Sixer draft in the future.
In the meantime, enjoy this preliminary sample as a Live & Loco bonus track...
About Last Night
Artist (or event):
Camp Lo & Friends, backed by The Boom Room House Band, 6/12/17
The upstairs room at Johnny Brenda’s, a compact, bi-level live music venue and bar/restaurant on Frankford Street & Girard Avenue, in the Northern Liberties section of Illadelph, for the bargain-basement price of twenty bucks.
A 50/50 male-to-female ratio crowd, containing a warmly familiar, multicultural mix of approximately 150 grown-and-sexy, or old-and-washed folks, depending on your perspective, spread out across the dance floor and bar area.
In typical rap show fashion, doors opened at 9, but any rap show vet knew not to get there a minute before 11 hoping to see any of the advertised artists on the flyer, unless they wanted to hit the bar early, or put in preliminary bids for dance partners during an unobtrusively unremarkable classic hip-hop pre-show DJ mix.
The featured opening act was Reesa Renee, who came on sometime shortly after 11. At the risk of being unfair, you can probably Google Image search her name and have a good idea of the music you’re gonna get before hearing a note. This is the type of stuff Philly would have caught back in the early days of Okayplayer, when Jill Scott, Jaguar and Kindred were rocking The Five Spot on Black Lilly night. Basically, some nag-champa-with-the-ankh soul/funk, with a hip-hop vocabulary. Being that Renee’s from DC, we also got splashes of go-go percussion and since it’s 2017, some dashes of ATL-ish Trap-&-B beats. That being said, her stage presence was energetically pleasant and infectious. It’s hard to get a crowd, who aren’t there to see you plus old enough to be minding the time, singing along with some songs they didn’t know before you got up there. For that alone, she’s one to check for if you’re into that oeuvre. I would not be at all surprised if she captures a Corrine Baily Rae or Georgia Anne Muldrow level of loyal audience in the future.
The unbilled local MC, whose name I’m forgetting, that swooped in to perform a few forgettable cuts in the post-Reesa/pre-Lowah changeover segment didn’t fare nearly as well. By the time he got to his third join, the cricket-like peacefully polite indifference might have begun building towards Philly hostility. Sensing this, the rapper helpfully informed the crowd that he was just going to drop one more cut and only perform his opening verse off it, “before I get up outta here”, which prompted his biggest cheer. Inspectah Deck’s set-the-track-off #1 spot is still safe.
Camp Lo came out ‘Round Midnight like Dale Turner. The crowd was ready for them without much of any prompting from DJ Craig Dash. The distance from the dressing room door to the stage is approximately three paces out and two steps up, so the small but feverish crowd was audibly whooping it up the moment the Low-Ah was onstage. As we’ve come to expect, the duo was dressed impeccably. Suede decked out in some Hawaii-Five-O type gear with beaded necklaces, and Cheeba in ripped jeans plus a Vietnam jacket replete with patches, reminiscent of Larenz Tate’s Anthony in Dead Presidents when he first got home.
What was surprising, considering the Boom Room House Band’s billing, was that they spent the first stretch of show on two mics, backed by two turntables. Of course, that’s no problem, since that’s how we’d all come to know and love them in the first place. Still, it did seem odd watching them standing around a rack of empty instrument set-ups we’d watch the staff set before they came out. It also was made more pronounced by them not dipping into anything from the Uptown Saturday Night catalog, so the crowd wasn’t able to add much accompaniment.
Regardless, the pleasure of experiencing this pair seamlessly tag-teaming mics, Double Trouble style, still feels pretty damn good. You could sense they were into it, and are still too damn cool to beg you to be. Full disclosure: for this reviewer, if they were gonna be digging into their more recent material, I would have loved to have heard “Black Jesus” off Ragtime Hightimes or “Ladies & Gentlemen” off 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s. But that’s just me being picky. It’s cool to see some veterans still confident and inspired enough to lead with recent material. The highlight of the bunch “2 Dope Boyz” off 2009’s Rob and Stone Caught on Tape, which flips ‘Kast’s famous hook into “It’s just two dope boys in a paddy-wagon/getting crushed by buildings”, somehow managing to deliver a bit of social commentary and a wink to one of Cool J’s most ridiculous phrases, at the same damn time. They closed out the DJ-only portion of the set with the underrated 2011 Smokey and the Miracles-sampling cut "Lumdi".
As the last calls of "Lumdi" faded, it was as Suede announced, “time for the second part of the show”. Now, live instrumentation at rap shows are historically closer to a coin-flip, than a can’t-miss proposition. But something about the prospect of hearing the classic Uptown Saturday Night, along with material from the recently released Parkay-buttery On the Way Uptown (Uptown Saturday Night Demos), made it seem like a safe bet. The resulting marriage? Bet!
Starting the band-accompanied second set from literally the beginning, “Sugar Streets”, which they told the crowd was “the first Camp Lo song ever”, this particular union delivered on its promise with each selection they played. “Coolie High” curled up next to you like a warm fire. The trumpet weaving its way through “Black Connection” had a dizzying, borderline mystical effect, peaking with a solo turn at the end. Considering this writer had just been covering NOLA legend Trombone Shorty performing Satchmo runs at a show the night before, it was going to be harder than ever to be impressed, yet somehow still was, as were Suede & Cheeba, who clapped as hard as anyone after the final note rang out.
The best part:
For most, it would probably be getting to see and hear Geechi Suede & Sonny Cheeba perform “Luchini” live, with a full band featuring a beautiful female horn player re-creating the song’s trademark trumpet line impeccably, which you can see here:
While that certainly was great, for me and the female that I bonded with, while sipping a drink at the corner of the bar during their performance of “Sparkle”? It was finding someone to clink glasses with, while grinning ear-to-ear, then looking each other in the eye, and declaring enthusiastically, “I got the bub-ble-ly, flowin’ thru me, got the bub-ble-ly, flowin’ thru me”, each time the chorus came around. The live keyboard flourishes during the verses made for pure head-nod bliss. It even had me closing my eyes at some point, exclaiming almost involuntarily, “How beautiful is this?!?” to which she laughingly replied “So Beautiful!”, before the hook section returned and we both instantly got back on our job.
The worst part:
Camp Lo's running time was probably no more than an hour. Which means the billed band collaboration was likely at best 30 minutes, including the “encore” of sorts, after the crowd hungrily protested after they seemed to be attempting to end following “Luchini”. This resulted in an onstage huddle between the two Camp Lo rappers and local Fishtown recording studio house band, in which everyone involved seemed to be trying to figure out if they knew any more songs that they could perform together which hadn’t already played.
The most random observation:
For someone known to dig for random shops searching for the perfect Kangol, like crate-diggers hunt thru record spots, I can say this room now holds the record for the event where the highest number of people in one spot either complimented my hat selection, asked where I had procured it, or both.
My evening stock answer(s): “Thanks, yours is fresh too” and “at some consignment shop in downtown Mobile, Alabama, that still had a flat-top Steve Harvey Fathead advertisement for his suits in the window”.
I suppose it should come as no surprise that a Camp Lo show would feature a high-percentage of folks who seemed to fetishize the ability to accessorize.
The likelihood you would go again:
Twenty bucks to see a legendary, still vibrant rap duo in an intimate venue?
Without a doubt.
I might even order an Amaretto next time.
3 - I'm glad it was part of my already packed evening