Showing up to work on the night of Shabazz Palaces’ first live public performance was one of the worst decisions I’ve made in 2010. As such, I made it a point to see them in action as the first set of my Block Party experience.
Though both of the group’s EPs/microalbums have been in my regular rotation since last year, I had some doubts about how SP’s dark, heady beats and relevant, afrocentric lyrical content combined with its South End/CD aesthetic would translate with the party-ready, almost entirely white crowd. Especially considering many in attendance likely hadn’t heard a single Shabazz Palaces track before Friday.
From the start it was evident the sound levels were mixed in a horrendous manner, not exactly placing the odds in SP’s favor. One moment Ish Butler’s vocals were clearly audible over the turned-down laptop backing track, the next they were drowned out and garbled by the thunderous bass knocks. Still, the beats were unlike anything many of the attendees had heard before and the masses looked intrigued by the electronic and traditional instrumentation on stage.
Aside from the crappily-mixed levels, I personally thought the show was great. The set list included some of my favorite Shabazz tracks – “Hottabatch,” “Blastit..,” (one of the only songs that sounded spot on, the tinkling live instruments accompanying the chest-caving bass perfectly) “Kill White T…” and “Find Out.” The crowd seemed enthused but unsure, as if seeds of curiosity had been unknowingly planted in their brains. I couldn’t help but curse the sound guy for hindering Shabazz Palaces’ chances of completely converting the ignorant masses, but people still seemed to dig it. Fair enough.
*** Shabazz Palaces at CHBP 2010 photo by Jason Tang