Live: Atmosphere/Eyedea and Abilities

Eyedea and Abilities pic #1
(l to r) Abilities & Eyedea. Photo by Darien Chin.

WAREHOUSE LIVE -- 8/4/2009: Rock Houston here. The parent company and I went together to Warehouse Live to see each of our top three favorite rappers. [Ed. Note: Well, almost. I'd actually put P.O.S. & Mike Ladd higher on the list, but y'know.] Mine, Eyedea and Abilities, and his, Atmosphere. This was my fourth time to see Eyedea and Abilities, although I'm not a rap or hip-hop connoisseur. In fact, most hip-hop is boring to me. I just happened to catch Eyedea and Abilities at SXSW five years ago and was blown away (I was waiting to see Cave In that night, but that's another story).
I've been searching for a similar rapper ever since, but Eyedea and Abilities are completely different from anything else I've ever heard. First off, Eyedea is probably the fastest rapper I've ever come across. His DJ, Abilities, has a rare talent for combining rhythm and melody and appears to do turntable solos almost like he's playing guitar. He makes the turntables look like you should be able to major in it as an instrument in college.
Eyedea's lyrics, for their part, seem to come out of the alternative/grunge genre. They're self-deprecating and introspective; he never uses tired clichés like "put your hands up," yet he's more entertaining than most musicians. With their new album, By The Throat, the duo has departed even further from hip-hop norms. I'd almost call it post-punk rap, as there seems to be a heavy Joy Division influence on tracks like "Burn Fetish," "Junk," and the title track.
"Spin Cycle" even has a My Bloody Valentine vibe to it, while "This Story" sounds like Tom Morello playing guitar, though it's really Abilities manipulating a record. As a side note, I was really happy to see Eyedea and Abilities perform to such a large audience, as the last time I saw them in Houston, they were playing to a nearly empty Engine Room. They deserve an audience.
Atmosphere pic #1

I had never heard of Atmosphere 'til the week before, so I checked them out to hear what I'd be hearing at the show. My first impression was that it didn't sound much different than other hip-hop I'd heard and rejected, so they had two strikes against them already. They quickly and completely won me over, however.
I've never seen a rap artist with such stamina. Slug had the crowd in the palm of his hand for nearly two hours and was extremely complimentary to his audience for their participation in the show. Though a master of the spoken word, he seemed like one of the guys you might have just been behind in line at the bar. This is no "look at me, I got a stable of ladies" kind of rapper; unlike a lot of rappers that claim to speak about life, his lyrics actually reflect the truth.
When it got time to do the "encore game," which I personally see as a waste of time, he said, "This is the point of the show where we could go back and hide behind the curtain until you make noise and we come back out, but how about we just skip that and play some more songs?" That's when I really knew that this was my kind of guy. END