Yelawolf at Epic, 10/19/12

Yelawolf with promoter Soda (left) and club manager Beecher (right)
Yelawolf with promoter Soda (left) and club manager Beecher (right)
Photo by Jen Boyles

With Vajra, Trouble Andrew, and Rittz
Epic, Minneapolis
October 19, 2012

Yelawolf was in a weird mood from the jump on Friday night at Epic. And by jump I mean the shocking plummet he took from the second-floor balcony at the club in the beginning of his set. Hands down the most memorable moment of his near-90-minute performance, 'Bama's bad boy hoisted himself up on a speaker stack and clung to the railing of the 2nd floor, throwing his mic down for a handler to catch. Security feigned concern and fans, eyes bugged, cheered and hollered for him to jump. As Yela would likely not be as talented a rapper flat as a pancake, they caught him.

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The energy was palpable after that and never really caught up to that moment, understandably. But let's rewind to the evening's first hours.

DMC champion Vajra opened the gig with an MPC-type contraption slung around his neck like an accordion, flinging out crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser and telling this young suburbanite, skater-mallrat crowd that if they keep this up, "This could be the best night on the tour thus far."  Oh, swoon! I bet you say that to all the cities.

Photo by Jen Boyles
Photo by Jen Boyles

Trouble Andrew went on next, slowing momentum for a time and likely surprising Yelawolf's fans that there was actually a live band opening. But if there's one thing that's true about the professional snowboarder-turned-musician, it's that he has a good grip on style and an uncompromising perspective (something you'd expect from a man married to Santigold).

A skeleton skewered on a mic stand wearing Ray-Ban-ish shades and stuffed with roses gawked at the crowd. Wearing a black button up shirt with a skull and "Trouble Gang" emblazoned on the back, Andrew began a short set of six songs with "Bang Bang" and it was clear people weren't sure what to do with him.  Luckily, his energy level was high and though he had some pitch problems throughout, it was a well-assembled half-hour of music inspired by garage-rock and pop punk. 

Following that was Rittz, who can best be described as a red-headed B-Real from Cypress Hill -- a description that will likely not satiate his small but dedicated fan base (I met several of them in the line at Pizza Luce after, and they'd driven all the way from Iowa just to see him). Of course he played his creepy stoner anthem "High Five", but what came before and after I really couldn't say. Apologies to the Rittzies.

Backstage, Yelawolf paced among an assemblage of promoters, club staff and tour managers, at one point peering down from the upstairs green room wearing a wonky camouflage bucket hat ala Bill Murray in Caddyshack (that reference is most assuredly lost on at least half of the young crowd, but what the hell). Yela looked like a little boy trying to sneak away from a time out. Eventually he came down to take some photos and within minutes he was, like I said, jumping off the balcony.

A flurry of wet hair, baggy shorts and blazing tattoos, Yelawolf's set cranked up to 11, but with a slight undertone of "I've done this twelve times in the last month". His verses spit from his mouth like if they didn't, they'd implode him. "Sexy tomboy" girls in sideways hats and knit caps struggled shoulder to shoulder to get noticed by the rapper, who had proven himself invincible to them just a half hour before. The steamy grind of "Hard White (Up In The Club)" was an obvious high point, as was "My Box Chevy" and "Good To Go." At one point Yela pulled a bar stool up next to Vajra and rapped seated. Though his set went on for more than an hour, it felt like it was over before it began.

The house lights came on around 1:30, patrons emptying out onto 5th St, amped by what they'd seen tonight. "Can you believe he did that?" more than a few fans asked, obviously referring to Yelawolf's nine-lives move from the top floor.  It was an entertaining sweaty mess of a night overall, and that's probably exactly how he wanted it. Well, that, and leaving in one piece. All's well that ends well.  

Critic's bias: This was my third Yelawolf show in the last couple years, and I'm a fan of his earlier collaborations (Big Boi, Juelz Santana). He's great live. Highly underwhelmed by his last album.
Overheard In The Crowd: Friend #1:  "I've never seen so many beer cans on VIP tables." Friend #2: "Is beer even allowed at those things?" Friend#1: "It is tonight."
Random Notebook Dump: The security guards didn't seem to try nearly hard enough to get him not to jump.

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