Sunday, March 5, 2006

Dave Chappelle Block Party All Star Tour

It was a great night
Sure I am now immeasurably behind on a very unwieldy objective, but that does little to erase my huge grin and internal sense of self satisfaction.
I am also dismissive of the predicament caused by my overbearing need to scribe these events as they occurred, and the devastation it will manifest in my sleep time.
What has lifted my spirits and encouraged me to continue on. Why just 4 simple words:
The Dave Chappelle Block Party!!!

Tonight the Fiancé & I caught the last show on the Block Party Tour as it berthed in Dayton. It was a quick jaunt from Nicole’s apartment. We left at 4:30 and got there by 5. She drove because my batteries were low by that time. We had dinner at Olive Garden and shared a few jokes before stepping out into the world of the concert.

Our first and only mistake of the evening: Showing up on time.

Not long ago we attended the Mos Def concert in Columbus to promote his “The New Danger Album”. Mr. Mighty Mos was 3 hours late to that engagement. This meant that the doors opened at 7, we arrived promptly at 7, and Mos did not step onto stage until 10 pm. Sure the man rocked the house until 1am, but people were literally clamoring for entertainment by the time he sauntered out and took control of our souls. To this day I reserve the right to body shot Mos if I ever see him, and follow up with a yell “Respect my time Bitch!” and if his entourage/ security team hasn’t kicked my ass I will try to explain to him the circumstance and how “I love your work and I respect you as an artist.”

Also on the bill was Ms Erykah Badu, who pulled a similar 2 hour late entrance at Bogart’s in Clifton. I am not a domestic abuser so retaliation for Erykah’s indiscretions will have to be left to my more than capable Fiancé.

As an aside: I know I am mister late, but it is rare that I am more than 15 to 20 minutes off, let alone 2 hours (Nicole’s will disagree but she is a different matter all together) and If I have more than 5 people waiting who have paid anymore than $30 to see me then I deserve to get a kidney punch for being so disrespectful. Weddings and Funerals not withstanding.

So we arrive at the EJ Nutter center after fighting for 25 minutes to get through horrible traffic that separated us from our destination by the equivalent distance of approximately 2 city blocks. And we work our way into the building, passing security who made me empty my pockets to be sure I was not carrying a camera= A fruitless effort as many camera flashes accompanied the entertainment of the show. How you can really expect to control cameras in this age of multipurpose camera phones is beyond my comprehension?

So we are seated and ready for a show at 7:00. Club music is being boomed around the very large arena. A diverse group of African Americans and Caucasians are already seated and in motion towards or away from seats around us. The music makes Nicole and I uncomfortable as it is, in no way, indicative of the music that will be played when the concert starts. We are treated to the unedited versions of David Banner’s “Don’t play with me (Run Girl)” C Murder’s “Down for my Ni&&as” and other such contemporary smut. It sparks a lively discussion between us on how it might be inappropriate to play such provocative music in mixed company. I mention that The Program director for the WIZ tried to blacklist D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” song until it became the most requested song on the station. We discussed how this was further confirmation on this idiocy of the masses, and how they seem to crave intellectual depravity and moral debauchery.

The Nutter center was not filled anywhere near capacity, but the mid to high levels are packed with people. Nicole and I notice all the middle to late age white people that are actually a large part of the audience. We note how this will be a problem when they realize that this is a hip Hop concert and not a comedy show. Our concerns were made reality when the white patrons in front of us frequently left their seats during the performances and eventually left early when they figured Dave Chappelle would not return after the Erykah Badu set.

So the crowd is mixed, young and old. And we know that many of them are going to be sorely disappointed by the show. The Fiancé and I are Hip Hop Fans, we came to see Mos Def, who we thought would be performing alone. I screamed like a little girl when I found that Mos would be performing with his longtime Black Star partner Talib Kweli. I have been waiting since 2000 to see Black Star perform together. I would not be disappointed this evening. At the point when Mos decided to branch out into different medium (TV: Def Poetry Jam & Movies: Monster’s Ball, The Italian Job) I was wounded by the possibility that he would not return to hip hop My fears were put to rest when he released The New Danger Album, which took some getting used to at first, but grew on me as a powerful soul classic akin to his first effort: Black On Both Sides, (which also involved a sincere learning curve. The two albums are strong recommendations for those who enjoy the soulful crooning of Mrs. Lauryn Hill, as Mos Def is one of the only other MCs to successfully blend soulful blues and hip hop sensibilities with provocative heartfelt lyrics.)

So we are waiting for the show to begin. I begin to get restless by 8:15 because I have been sitting still for an hour, and I have a ton of work to do, which could have been completed if my laptop had been allowed in the venue. Nicole is also facing similar time crunch challenges and she felt equally as wasteful of her valuable time. I was ready to upgrade Mos Def to a two piece and a biscuit on our fateful encounter when the lights darkened and some random comic came on the floor. The time was 8:45. It was 2 hours and 45 minutes after we arrived in Dayton, and an hour and 45 minutes after we had arrived in our seats. He was the warm up comic, a local guy who really needed to work on his timing. I think his name was Ron something, I completely forgot as he told tired weed jokes and “I was so high” this one time jokes. He played race cards and joked about how smoking with Whites is different than smoking with blacks, and joked how he mistook an air freshener for a tree when he was too high. The guy w as decent but not great.

And then the show started for real. Dave Chappelle was intro’d and walked onto stage in his cool stride. He bent down like he does on stage. I always assumed he did this because the lights are in his eyes up there and he likes to see the crowd. I have never seen Dave in a more intimate setting than a stadium arena so I can never be sure if this bending to his knees is a staple of his posture or simply a habit. So Dave begins to tell jokes. He immediately goes into an obviously rehearsed bit about the seeing Meth Labs, and the time he got into a fight with a Meth crazed racist. I say obvious because I heard the bit before when we saw him in Louisville at the begging of the school year. I was a little worried that the entire show would be a retread of material I had heard before. I was pleasantly surprised but frequently I knew the punch line before he got there. His amiable and unpredictable nature made it a pleasant experience.

(Back in the day when Lou and I were still in school I quickly discovered that Lou had “bits” he would do that he had pilfered from when comedy central used to rotate comedian programming only. I was at first annoyed at how he would repeat jokes so often. Later I began to work on the routine with him, playing the straight man to his charismatic mischief. It became one of those unspoken synergistic moments where we clicked. All I had to do was get on board.)

So he talks about how he fought the meth addict, and I laughed because it is a good bit, made better I guess by frequent practice and work on the timing. He embellished the story a little more. What was before a fight to a standstill ended with Dave inviting the man for food after a 45 minute beat down, under the terms that the meth addict stopped using racial epithets. The racist said he was too high to stop. Dave also joked at the expense of Jessica Simpson and Will and Grace.

And then Dave gave the show over to Dead Prez. Now, I know Dead Prez. Their music was thought provoking and catchy at the same time. The weight of their subject matter served as a rationalization as to why they are as obscure as they are. Their music encourages revolution, and it did not capture the attention of the audience who seemed more than a little disappointed that Dave relinquished his show to a bunch of shouting nobody’s. I loved the set, despite the lackluster crowd participation that sapped the show’s energy. I promised myself that I would make good on my multiple attempts to acquire their CD.

They only did about 20 to thirty minutes and it was sad that the crowd did not feel them because they were actually good. It made me wish, as I always do, that the show was in a smaller venue than an arena. It is difficult to maintain the energy in such a large room if everyone isn’t a hardcore fan. Too many apathetic people drain the energy from the experience which will leave you feeling untouched by the music. It was the Cincinnati Outkast show that taught Nicole and I this lesson. The only show we ever saw hold the hearts and minds of a stadium arena was the 2002 Chronic t our, where Eminem and Dre held sway over nearly 10 thousand people in Ohio States arena.

Chappelle returned to perform again and went into a ribald bit on the harm of using proper terminology to discuss a woman’s genitalia, and how men should never be “woman doctors.” He then passes the show off to one Mr. Talib Kweli.
Talib is quickly joined by Hi Tek and they hits the floor with “Move Somethin” a song from off his Reflection Eternal Album. He performs a rousting rendition of his recent hits “I Try” and “Get By” As he is joined onstage by his Black Star power partner Mos Def. Mos and Talib collaborate beautifully on the song, with Mos overlapping Talib’s lyrics with his bluesy voice. He runs across the final “bye” in the hook to get by and my heart swirls in my chest. I want those two brothers I the studio together so bad I would smack my momma for the chance at a new Album. I mean it, Ethel would literally have to take one for the sake of Hip Hop, and that is not a promise I have ever made before. Mos takes the stage to solo “Close Edge” At this point I was yelling Black Star lyrics at the top of my lungs and I can assume that I severely irritated the white lady in front of me because she left her seat and did not return. I didn’t care. If Mos is onstage singing “Umi Says” then I am singing Umi Says right along with him. That is why we are all here right?

Mos performs dances to an old Aretha song before the beat drops on “Ms. Fat booty” Mos turns the song into a medley incorporating a reggae version of “Bonita Alpplebaum” and a spoken word of the most memorable verse in Pharcydes “passin me by” (My dear my dear my dear, you do not know me but I know you very well, and let me tell you bout the feelings I feel for you…). They also performed a tribute to JDilla who recently passed, playing some of his greatest hits. The one song the most people seemed to know was Pharcyde’s “Can’t keep running away.” Mos at his most entertaining as he wanders the crowd as Talib freestyles over the Kanye “Get em high” beat.

It was here in the show that I wished we were at Bogart’s because my frequent yelling and gesturing would have been lost in the sea of energy in the more intimate venue. Unfortunately I looked like a lone epileptic in a statue garden as the neighbors in the adjoining chairs sat solemn and un-aroused by the realness being broadcast in the Nutter Center at that moment. I wanted to shake every person in the room and yell “do you know when the last time Mos Def & Talib Kweli performed in the same venue? At least 4 years in the Midwest, four years. I found their album in 99 and I dreamed of this union, dreamed of it. Did I tell you I would physically hit my mother for a chance to listen to their next full album collaboration?!?!”

They tore down the house, and then backed away so Dave could return to tell jokes about the Passion of Christ, and exposing himself in public. Dave also revealed that his wife was somewhere in the audience and that he was Muslim. A funny joke was how he watched the passion and wanted to encourage Jesus to fight back due to his difference in religious beliefs.

The funniest joke of the evening was when Dave relished in telling an unruly fan “your momma’s Rick James Bitch, She’s a super Freak, she’s super freaky yeah.” It was spot on and got the room in an uproar.

After all this Erykah Badu hit the stage after a long intro set. She sung “Green Eyes, and scratched a few notes. She later coughed several times which inferred she was not in top condition for the show but she remained theatrical and entertaining. She was in a full hat and coat for the first song, and then removed it to do the “whoo” song, (not sure if that is the real title,) it isn’t even a full song but more a crowd participation exercise, with Erykah demanding the crowd to follow her in chanting whoo to the beat several times. After that Erykah’s did “On & On” from her first album, forming a medley with “…& On,” the equal from the Mama’s gun album. Her swan song was “Call Tyrone” which got the attention of most of the African A merican females in the audience, who got up to dance and throw hands wildly to the beat.

It was during Erykah’s slow start set that the Whites began their mass exodus. It was very disruptive, the speed with which they got their coats and excused themselves through the rows. Dave returned to close the show and plug the movie that hits on Friday. And then the strangest thing happened.

Nobody on stage left. Actually more people showed up. Talib returned, Mos came back, and Dead Pres returned. The stage filled with these musical giants who began freestyling and generally goofing off. It was one of the most unpredictably wonderful moments I could ever have borne witness to. Nicole and I quickly relinquished our mid level seats to get closer to the action. We got up to the rails to the floor, which was as far as the stalwart security would allow us. We rocked out as the Mos drummed on the drum machine and Dave cracked up among the musicians. Erykah and Dead Prez began jamming to “Block on Lock” and the remaining crowd began flailing to the music. Nicole was ecstatic that she got to see the real version of the song performed with the Badu version.

And then it was over. The music began to taper off, and the acts left to return to their entourages and busses. Nicole and I stayed for a moment to see if the crowd would encourage an encore. As previously stated the crowd was not Hardcore, so they quietly began to shuffle away. Nicole and I walked back to the car hand in hand, enamored and giddy at what we had experienced. We wanted to write Chappelle a thank you note for bringing us such a rich musical experience. We talked about it all the way back to the car, and most of the way home.

Truly a great show
Crap, it is 3am, and I have class in 3 hours.
I got to go.
I am going to hate tomorrow
But yesterday was worth it.