review by RJ Cubarrubia
photos by Katy McCourt-Basham
The third and last Semifinal Round of Experience Music Project’s Sound Off! went down February 28th, bringing four noticeably strong acts from across Washington to battle for the last spots in the Final Round and the Wildcard Round. Competing for the opportunity to join Dyno Jamz and Makeup Monsters in the Finals or the chance for placement into the Wildcard Round with Dearboy and The Mission Orange, the night brought two MC’s from Seattle and two very unique bands from outside the city. The crowd at the start of the night was noticeably smaller than last week, which lulled me into a false sense of security; little did I know I was about to get my ass whomped by four intense sets and a crowd that grew out of control.
The night started off with a bang, as Pullman, WA’s Cyrus Fell Down graciously tore the skin off my face and turned my brain into baby food with their peyote-induced metal, funk, and progressive-math rock carnival. The night’s Runner Up for Most Interesting Hairdo went to the drummer, with the Gold Medal going to the bassist. Only a three piece, the band created insanely complex sounds with a variety of guitar effects, intensely elaborate drumming that went up to 11, and a super skilled and outrageously wacky bassist. The bassist played extremely intricate tap bass, with flying fingers and bizarro behavior reminiscent of Les Claypool. This guy shredded the entire set while curling his tongue like a chameleon and tearing up the stage with moves fresher than the Minister of Silly Walks. “65000000 BC” captures the group’s strange bass driven brew and bizarre personalities; Cyrus Fell Down is an awesome live act that will damage your mental capabilities, leaving you with a funny feeling like you just left a psychedelic circus.
Next up was the hip-hop, alt-metal, R and B, and soulful pop posse of Seattle’s Razpy and the Vigilantes. Bringing tons of gear and lots of band members (two computers, a sound board, keyboard, three back-up singers, two guitarists, live drums, etc.), Razpy rolled deep with his clique, bringing an aggressive set featuring his forceful and powerful flow. Razpy mixed many genres, combining hip-hop with alt-metal and rock early in his set; Razpy seemed to be on a rock-rap crusade with his blend, asking the crowd if they “liked rock music” and making tons of shout outs to the rock world. However, halfway through his set, Razpy ripped off his shirt, exposing an impressively large chestpiece tattoo (THUG LIFE) and followed it up with a bumpin’ jungle beat (G-CODE) and Carlos Santana guitar (BLING, BLING. Oh, wait…). The second half of Razpy’s set shifted to a poppier feel with more R and B and soul influences and was noticeably stronger than the first half. His powerful flow meshed well with the smooth and emotional keyboards and vocal melodies provided by his backup singers and band. “When I’m Down” featured great lyrical verses by Razpy and a powerful chorus of beautiful female vocals, giving it a soulful choir feeling. Razpy is a talented MC with original ideas and his long set expressed his diverse talents and musical interests.
Ok, this may be the only time I’ll ever admit this, but I’m part-Asian (AZN?) and I’m lvl 99 in Life. So when Everett, WA’s Kids Get Hit By Buses (KGHB) invited me on their quest to defeat the Final Boss in their 8-bit Nintendo dance-punk world, I couldn’t refuse (I’ll admit, though, without a cool 80’s spacesuit similar to Ultraman‘s like theirs, I didn’t feel I could battle the baddies as well as they could). Arming themselves with the most ridiculous array of instruments, including an Alesis Micron (pretty normal), a funky old plastic toy keytar (a little less normal), a Theremin (even less normal), a keyboard (like, I mean, a keyboard), and a Dance Dance Revolution Pad (we’re getting pretty weird, right?), KGHB played a super energetic set that included dancing to their own music with signs of faces on their hands and faces. Special moves, power-ups, and songs like “000000×000″ fought off the waves of young girls with expensive haircuts on our way to the Boss, and thanks to the 1337 h4x0rz of KGHB, I’m now lvl 100 in Life. Their fun and hyperactive set left me exhausted, but then again, power-lvling always leaves a gamer beat.
After such an involved experience, I was in the mood to chill and get ill. Thanks to Seattle MC Sol (pronounced like Saul), I know I can count on him if I ever need to burn one; my man spit a hot set of straight hip-hop fire behind varied and dangerous beats ranging from harder and grittier gangsta thumps to the more playful scribbles and jazzy grooves of the old school Golden Age. Sol’s extremely clean, versatile, sometimes aggressive, but always smooth and agile flow blended well with each and every different beat showcased by the DJ, creating a wide range of heady hip-hop headbangers that took us all to the infirmary. When fellow Seattle MC Scribes joined Sol for a feature appearance onstage, the combination of the very involved and responsive crowd and two of Seattle’s finest made heads nod way out of control as they skillfully bobbed and weaved their flows to spread their illness and love to the mesmerized audience. “Spliff” particularly highlighted Sol’s dexterous flow and ability to handle and dismiss an absurdly intoxicated female fan, who joined him onstage, mid-song, unannounced, while continuously licking his lyrical lips and never letting his flow falter. Sol’s nasty neckbreakers left the crowd hyped and closed the show beautifully.
Unfortunately, even with such a strong showing, only two bands would still have a chance to move on and win Sound Off!. The judges submitted their ballots, and Sol was named the winner and automatically advanced to the March 7th Final Round. Cyrus Fell Down was named runner-up and moves onto the Wildcard Round, where votes online will be tallied until March 2nd at 5 P.M. PST (that’s today!) with the winner taking the last spot in the Finals. Kids Get Hit By Buses took home the Audience Response award. The Final Round is March 7th at the EMP Sound Church; for more information on the Final Round, including voting in the Wildcard Round, visit Sound Off!’s MySpace page and website.