The atmosphere at the Black Sheep on Thursday, March 24, was even more jovial than usual, with many attendees in the packed crowd meandering by and making friendly smalltalk in anticipation of the original lineup of Oakland hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics taking the stage. The crowd was soon treated to a stunning, career-spanning set by the group, who traded rhymes with machine-like precision and brought the soulful cleverness of their debut album 3rd Eye Vision — which was released 18 years ago to the day — to vivid life. In addition, however, the showing from the Colorado Springs hip-hop scene ranked among the most memorable performances I've seen in the past decade.
The debut performance of Company 8, the new collective comprising standout emcees Kevin Mitchell, Stoney Bertz, MILOGIC, Frank G., Reflecshaun, singer Emily Strange, DJ Lord Damage and producer Naj, began the proceedings with a brisk, anarchic set led by Lord Damage's impressively chaotic turntable work. All the emcees, who are already well-regarded for their respective solo endeavors, displayed exceptional facility and interplay, while Emily Strange's vocals added an extra depth and soulfulness to the mix.
Charlie Milo and Mad Trees were next to take the stage, and the hyperactive rhymes and energy of Mad Trees acted as a perfect foil to the ultra-heavy funk supplied by Milo and his bandmates. Among the most memorable selections were a lighthearted take on the Super Mario Bros. theme and an extended jam on David Bowie's "Fame," featuring plenty of guitar and saxophone skronk, Milo's earthquake-inducing bass, and excellent scratching courtesy of DJ Gravity.
The final local act to precede Hieroglyphics was the ReMINDers, who brought a jolt of energy to the already excited room; Big Samir, Aja Black and DJ Craftmatic are among a select number of performers who instantly garner goodwill from crowds with their very stage presence.
The hometown performance was the group's first in a while, finding them fresh off a stint at Austin's SXSW festival. Their set not only pushed the crowd to dance and sing along with fervor, but also brought out Aja Black's mom for a number, gave shout-outs to many friends and fellow artists, and supplied Black Pegasus with a cake and singalong for his birthday. Also, while it was hard to see by this point, I'm fairly sure I didn't just imagine that the group was joined by the world's youngest and most adorable b-boy and b-girl crew for their final number.
Beyond the performances, it was honestly inspiring to see such a large and enthusiastic turnout, especially on a weeknight. Plus, seeing the full crowd dancing spiritedly to A Tribe Called Quest's "Check the Rhime" between sets in honor of the recently departed Phife Dawg really sums up what music scenes are all about.
Moving forward, it might be difficult to believe, given the requisite early spring snowstorms, but the summer concert season is already on the horizon, with tickets now on sale for the 2016 Vans Warped Tour, which comes to Denver's Pepsi Center July 31.
The newly announced lineup features the kind of perennial pop-punk acts for which Warped is known, including Good Charlotte, Yellowcard and Less Than Jake. But there's also some breadth of style, including Atlanta rapper (and aspiring politician) Waka Flocka Flame, Boulder electronic duo 3Oh!3, and Sydney punk-cum-synthpop quintet Tonight Alive.
Meanwhile, if you're somehow not on the Waka Flocka presidential train and are instead feeling the Bern, good news for you: The Black Sheep is holding a one-day festival in support of Bernie Sanders on May 7. The Bernstock lineup, which will perform on two stages throughout the day, features favorites such as Blind the Thief, Hydrogen Skyline, We Are Not a Glum Lot, Dead Set, Altars and many more.
Finally, coming up this week on Friday, April 8, Sunshine Studios is holding a benefit concert for local singer Jason Coahran, who is battling cancer. Performers include Guilty as Charged, Acedia, My Own Summer and Battle Chapter. Coahran himself, who has fronted numerous bands such as From Slaves to Kings and Autumn Rodeo, and won best vocalist in the 2011 Indy Music Awards, may also play a solo set depending on his health. All proceeds from door sales will support Coahran and his family.
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