Live Review: Victor Shade @ Bumbershoot 9/6

photos by Matthew Thompson

Monday 12.30pm
Fisher Green Stage

The first thing you notice about Victor Shade is that he is clearly all about the performance.

Ambulance sirens welcome the comic book superhero alter-ego of Ra Scion of Seattle hip hop duo Common Market. Four breakdancing henchmen bring out Shade on a stretcher while he begins his set while rapping from under a blood splattered white sheet in the middle of the stage.

Emerging in a shiny emerald green superhero suit with gold Superman undies and a yellow cape with gold spray-painted boots, Victor Shade is charged and brimming with energy and launches into ‘Soothsayer’ – a heavyweight hitter with wall-to-wall rhymes and a looped apocalyptic soul vocal sample that simultaneously provides the momentum, drama and suspense.

“Thank y’all for being here” he raps. “Thank 206 for being here.”

The Flying Sneakers Crew henchmen then come back on stage with comedic money sack props and Victor promptly ‘battles’ them literally with the mic as he takes hip hop to the pantomime theater, smiling all the while as he’s in on the joke. On Henchman number 3 he accidentally drops the mic but hastily picks it up again to comically stage-hit the villain in slow motion out cold. “I still got him!” he shouts to the crowd, grinning.

As the DJ throws out CDs into the crowd, you notice that there’s very little banter from Shade in between songs as it’s completely unnecessary; this is a performance in the fullest sense of the word and no add-ons or extras are needed.

The comic book story continues to unfold in front of us as a dancing angel ballerina (played by Shade’s daughter Madison) enters and hands out crystal props to the breakdancing henchmen while Victor deftly rhymes aggressively but intelligently with a lava flow that’s smooth but scorches every bar it touches. He then finally receives a crystal from the angel, lifts it to the sky in mock rapture like he was Frodo, and then proceeds to shove it down his pants. “I got my mojo back!” Victor shouts as his daughter rolls her eyes and dances offstage as the Flying Sneakers come back out again and spin on their heads, ears and elbows. It’s all very, very impressive and a brilliantly entertaining show.

High: Realizing that there is definitely much more room in most live shows for some tongue-in-cheek theatrics and live breakdance performance, be it hip hop, rock, techno or country. Let’s face it: tuning your guitar or whispering a quick thank you in between songs just isn’t that entertaining. Unless you’re doing it on roller skates.

Low: Finding out that those crystals, while important sources of mojo and superhuman strength, won’t actually charge your phone once your battery’s flat.

In a Tweet: Hip hop and comic books collide with Victor Shade but his literate, informed raps are all nuke and absolutely no nerd.

Did you see Victor Shade at Bumbershoot? What was your highlight? Who else is representing the best in 206 hip hop for you? Let KEXP know in the Comments section below!

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  1. phil
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    it was better when doom did it.

  2. sherry
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    love it!~

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