with Dem Atlas and Allan Kingdom
Amsterdam, St. Paul
Saturday, April 26, 2014
After six years since their last record, Heiruspecs have returned in a big way for the release of their latest Night Falls
. With the help from openers Dem Atlas and Allan Kingdom, the exemplar St. Paul hip-hop band powered through new material for a packed Amsterdam this past Saturday.
The warm-up acts were perfectly chosen, as Dem Atlas and Allan Kingdom each represent different burgeoning rap sounds emanating from the current St. Paul scene. They've each got a youthful energy that finds its way into the performances and the songwriting, and their inclusion was a sign to the mostly older crowd that the spark Heiruspecs first brought to local rap some 16 years ago is still alive and well.
Allan Kingdom has been growing with every new track he drops, and he translated his progression onstage with a spritely stage presence and loose sonic weirdness. His set captured hip-hop's core sense of fun and he was able to engage with the audience with aplomb. Seeing new local MCs in context with the longtime heavyweights gave an idea of where they could develop from here.
Heiruspecs took the stage to big cheers from the excited audience, which essentially filled the whole of Amsterdam. Opening with "On The Ground," Midway Felix and Muad'dib immediately proved their newly developed skills with harmonizing vocals by filling in for Chastity Brown, who tackles the song's hook on the record. Night Falls incorporates a number of big sung choruses and melodic verses into the mix, and it was impressive to see the vocalists handle that end in addition to rapping and beatboxing. "I can't tell you how weird that is onstage," Felix said after "Been Around," presumably talking about the melodies permeating through the song, both in the hook and the rapped verses. If any of the songs were outside the band's comfort zone, it was impossible to tell, as they confidently rolled through a long, solid set.
The set focused almost exclusively on the new album, and the band seemed very glad to be unveiling the material for their eager fans. It's impressive to see they've maintained the feel of their early career while continuing to progress. Exploratory without getting far off track from their initial sound, the new territory gave the band the opportunity to stretch their talents live. They're an incredibly tight unit, and each member feeds off each other on stage while maintaining a core individual sound. Exemplifying the band's chemistry, Twinkie Jiggles mouthed the words and vibed with the drums as he pounded out his basslines. The audience followed suit and grooved similarly throughout the set, and they sustained an excited energy level all the way through.
It's heartening to see a band that formed in high school still killing it this many years out. As Felix and Muad'dib traded bars and bullshitted with each other between songs, it was clear they've sustained their chemistry. Heiruspecs have always known how to keep the balance as a live hip-hop band, and the tongue-twister rhymes and thoughtful lyricism sat above the instrumentals in a way that never overshadowed them. Moments like Peter Leggett's drum solo at the end of the triumphant pre-encore finale "Water White" highlighted the player's individual talents, but the whole was greater than the sum of it's parts. The mixture of musical moments came together in a way that's rare to see, and the group put on likely one of the best sets of their career.
Personal Bias: I grew up listening to lots of Heiruspecs in high school, and they've been a long-time favorite.
The Crowd: Mostly older, likely has followed the band for some time.
Overheard In The Crowd: Lots of complaints about an out of order bathroom stall.
Random Notebook Dump: Very nice Felix The Cat wood chain!
On The Ground
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Guns And Knives
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