When you write about music, you see a lot of bands. In fact, if you write about music, especially local music, it usually means that you were pretty used to seeing a lot of bands in the first place. You can't exactly walk into Gimme Noise HQ and say, "I would like a job writing about local music, but I don't want to go to any rock shows." (Okay, I suppose you could, but I doubt you'd be successful.
My point is, even in a town this full of great bands (or perhaps because of them), there's always a risk of hitting a saturation point, a moment where you just can't soak in one more evening of two whiskeys on the rocks, four band bills, harried note-taking and wondering how late you're going to be up to make deadline. It's that moment where you desperately need to be shaken up.
P.O.S knows the fuck how to shake things up.
So it was with great thanks to the rock writer gods that P.O.S (Stef Alexander), the Marijuana Death Squads crew, and Toki Wright (and his copious guests) delivered me out of my rock-show-by-rote funk Monday at the Turf Club, with a hip hop show as loose and free and fun as a house party and a basement punk show combined. One of several warm-up gigs this week in preparation for a P.O.S performance at Coachella, this short-notice, mostly unpromoted show still turned out a room full of faithful looking to get shook.
Worried about a viral crowd for this last minute show, and being warned that everything was set to start promptly at 8:00 p.m., I arrived at 8:05 and killed some time until Marijuana Death Squads got fired up. The room wasn't too busy, but the night was still early, as MDS--an offshoot of P.O.S's band Building Better Bombs--launched into their noise-and-effects laden jams, laptops and drum machines and DJ gear and dueling vocals, all firmly rooted around Ben Ivascu's jackhammer drumming. I am a stone sucker for excellent drummers and Ivascu satisfies that itch every time I see him play; here, the mix of digital and analog sounds was made all the more powerful with live drumming. They're harsh and abrasive, but Stef and the rest of the MDS crew know performance.
MDS wrapped in short order, playing essentially one extended jam, and then Stef turned the stage over to Toki Wright for the middle portion of the set. The room starting to look more like a Friday than a Monday night, Toki joked about the short notice--"Stef called me this morning and asked if I would rap"--and then launched himself in the crowd for a high energy hip-hop set full of guests old and new. Toki knows how to have fun and hype the crowd as well--"y'all already left the house! You gotta act tough and shit, it's hip hop!" but there was nothing jokey about the songs he served up.
Once Toki wrapped up, P.O.S--including the MDS crew--retook the stage. "We're doing something a little different," Stef announced, and he wasn't kidding. Taking the digital-meets-analog sound of their MDS set and turning it loose, the five recreated P.O.S's trademark hardcore-influenced hard hitting indie rap on stage with live drums, keys, turntable, mixers, the occasional guitar solo, and bass rumbling so hard that you could see guitar strings vibrate and drumsticks jumping in place when they weren't being played. This was familiar material being played, and heard, a whole new way, seamlessly. Perhaps because P.O.S records have always remained rooted in rock and hardcore and have a live feel, the addition of live instruments and knob turning to the traditional DJ and beats setup seemed effortless. If this unannounced show was just a practice run for Coachella, I can't wait to hear how P.O.S shakes things up for the show itself.