Monday, February 11, 2013

Shredded Beats is torn to pieces...part 1

Copyright - Peyton Owen
SIA, the international ski and snowboard trade show, is in Denver this year instead of Las Vegas, where it has taken place for years. This is the industry event of the year with companies, large and small, showing off their products.  And, of course, there were parties that kept the streets buzzing, even on a Wednesday and Thursday night. All of this led up to the highly anticipated Shredded Winter Beats, which was hosted by the Denver based company, So-Gnar. So-Gnar is a not only a great snowboarding and clothing company, it also sponsors some of the best concerts the Mile High City has to offer.

Copyright - Peyton Owen
So-Gnar’s SIA concert event took place at CervantesMasterpiece Ballroom, which has two venues. The lineup was stacked from start to finish with headliner’s Brother Ali on the main stage and DJ Abilities on The Other Side. It is difficult to even say “a headliner” because talent was unbelievable. Any hip-hop head would drool over it.

Shredded Beats had some hefty competition. The previous night, the ski company Icelantic, threw its SIA show at Red Rocks. Winter on the Rocks included headliners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Eligh and The Grouch, and Major Lazor. From what I heard, it was insane. That isn’t much (and I love G&E) for So-Gnar to have to go against with acts like Brother Ali, Prof, K.Flay, Evidence, DJ Abilities, the MTHDS, and more performing.

So, I arrive at Cervantes ready to get down to some great music and right away get a nice surprise from Neil Yukimura, the percussionist/keys/backup vocals, of the local hip-hop fusion band, the MTHDS. We say hello and he hands me an “Artist” pass, which gives me the ability to hang out in “The Green Room” with the musicians playing on The Other Side of Cervantes. I’m surprised I don’t burst from the seams with even more excitement, but instead I keep calm and say thank you – SO MUCH!

Copyright - Peyton Owen
Neil then guides me to “The Green Room.” It’s completely empty except for Max (DJ Abilities) and the ex-manager of the MTHDS. I believe his name was Adam…Neil introduces us – this is the epic Rhymesayers legend DJ ABILITIES! – Neil and I exchange ‘this is fucking awesome’ looks as he takes my camera to catch a shot with the three of us talking. I chime in a few times, attempting to show them that even though I have a camera around my neck, I know my music.

Out of nowhere the nervousness kicks out of me. It’s out of my control for a moment, and I say something stupid about Sound Tribe Sector 9 while they’re talking about “Tribe.” A Tribe Called Quest. Well that beats the ice to pieces…no need to be nervous now. That’s what happens when you live in Denver and are around people that are obsessed with electronic music… 

One by one people are coming down to check out downstairs. I introduce myself to Johnny Schleper, the lead guitarist of the MTHDS, while he gets his guitar ready, bassist Chris “Chip” Chipouras, and drummer Dustin, like Dustin. I can’t stop smiling because what many may think of as just a room with couches, some artwork, stickers everywhere, records for decoration, and a pedestal toilet, it is cooler than making a snow angel in a blizzard naked. I’m in heaven.

Copyright - Peyton Owen
My camera and I are ready for what’s to come. There is no telling what can happen when the rest of the guys from the MTHDS are around, and this time I experience it first hand before there is even a bit of a crowd downstairs.

I snap a few pictures of the mesmerizing music layer. Slowly I lose interest and talk with Chip, Johnny, and Dustin who brings some food to eat before the show. Chip and Johnny decide we are all taking shots from the Deep Eddy-sponsored vodka bar and that he is the bar tender. What I am I getting myself into? I hope he knows how to make a decent shot at least.

“Let’s take shots…mmm sweet tea vodka.” No questions, just pouring. “I don’t really have a line to measure how much to pour. Shot?,” Chip asks me without any kind of worry about not having shot glasses.

“Sure, why not. I’m not sure about the sweet tea though.” I knew it was going to be horrific.

Johnny says back, “Just guess how much, it doesn’t have to be an exact shot.”

Copyright - Peyton Owen
I grab my camera while trying to cheers and I was right, sweet tea vodka is disgusting. They seemed to enjoy it, especially Chip and Dustin who then decide to concoct a mixed drink out of the bottle of hangovers – sweet tea vodka… 

“I bet it would be good with RedBull,” says Chip. “Let’s just test it and see if it’s good.”

Dustin and Chip agree that they don’t mind it, like they were sweet tea vodka connoisseurs, 
“There is something missing though. It tastes like grape.”

As Dustin takes another sip, “Not bad. Yeah there is something missing though.” He makes himself a drink.

“Want to try it?” I took the cup from Chip and it was still gross. “It tastes kind of like grape right?” Chip says again. It didn’t taste like grape at all, but I can’t stop laughing. 

By this time the bass from upstairs is shaking the entire room like an earthquake and it’s aftershocks. It doesn’t seem to phase any of them.

Copyright - Peyton Owen
“That damn bass!” one of the guys mumbles, but at one point we are all saying a version of this. It rattles all of our skulls.

“I feel like Cervantes has issues with figuring out how to work the soundboards.” I say, “They’ve gotten better, but it seems like they only know how to do the sound right for dubstep and whatnot.”

“Yeah, it also sounds a lot different during sound check because the room is empty.” Chip continues. “Something could have been messed up from the night before…or they just have two channels, dubstep and everything else.” He says jokingly. 

Copyright - Peyton Owen
I laugh because it is probably true to some extent. He also has a point, but that’s not an excuse for a venue to not have their sound together, which I have been to shows in the past where this has been an issue. It is a pretty important part when going to see live music…unless you can’t hear anything already. Cervantes must have hired a new sound guy since it has been much better the past year or so.

As Dustin and Chip continue the sweet tea conversation and what might go well with it, I dip into DJ Abilities and Adam’s conversation about the Coachella Music Festival in northern California. All I will say is that Jurassic 5 is being paid a ridiculous amount of money to play for only two days… doesn’t sound like they perform for the love of music anymore, but instead for a fat check. Chali2na might be the only exception.

Adam leaves after downing several beers, to go socialize elsewhere. DJ Abilities continues talking and explains what it’s like to be a DJ in today’s music scene as well as where he wants to go with his music.

“I need to put out my own album because people just know me from E&A…I want it to be upbeat and something that people want to dance to, but because of who I am as person and my background I will always have a certain style.” He goes on to explain, “If I can find that one thing, just that something, even though I don’t even know what it is…once I find it, my music will be not just heard by thousands, but millions.”

For DJ Abilities, his future album comes down to wanting to stay true to his style, but still finding that sound or whatever it may be, to give his music that extra step up from where he thinks he stands now.

I simply ask him, “Would you feature other artists on your album?” I am completely engaged with what he is saying. It’s interesting to listen to a musician talk about their own music. It’s a point of view that doesn’t always come out.

“Yeah, I would feature some MC’s on my album, but I still need to find that one thing and once I find it, I will know it,” Abilities says passionately.

DJ Abilities was part of the E&A duo, with good friend Eyedea aka Michael Larson, who passed away a few years ago. They put out several albums together and are close with the entire Rhymesayers crew as well as being signed to the record label. Abilities has recently put out a mixtape called appropriately, Now! That’s What I Call Fuck Off.

Copyright - Peyton Owen
“You have to listen to what other musicians or DJ’s are coming out with and playing in order to see if someone is already doing what you may think is original.” Abilities adds, just as my phone goes off. I relate this to my writing, and he helps me look at it from this angle as we are interrupted.  I say excuse me, and  get up to answer it. He gets up as well and disappears somewhere…quick nap before the show. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an amazing night! Wish I was there! Great job Peyton really well written