Astronautalis: I'll go PG-13 at all-ages shows, but it's impossible for PG or G

Categories: Interview
Astronautalis 560 MeganThompson.jpg
Megan Thompson
Astronautalis

One of the hardest working men in hip-hop, Astronautalis' touring adventures in 2012 have included hitting Europe with Bleubird, supporting the Flobots on the East Coast, and very soon hitting the west coast with Busdriver and Jel. In between this voyages, he's doing an all ages one-off show tonight at The Garage.

We spoke to Astronautalis about what makes a show like tonight's different, as well as the act of freestyling and what he looks for in a great show.


As someone who is constantly touring, this show today is comparatively a one-off in-between two full-fledged tours. Do you plan for shows like this differently?

Yeah. A lot of times when I do non-traditional shows like this in a garage for an all-ages crowd, I generally use this as a time to try new material a lot, as well as a time to tweak things. It's a laboratory for things that happen on tour. It's a lot more relaxed and I'm not with a full band, so I can play around a bit more.

Does specifically the all-ages aspect affect how you're putting together the show?

I won't change too much about the set, but it will certainly change the way I speak to a crowd on a Thursday. There will be lot less talking about whiskey. No matter what, I try to read the crowd pretty quickly, and if I see a bunch of kids with chaperones and what not, I'll try to tone down the cursing and the whiskey and keep things PG-13. I don't think it's physically possible for me to go full PG or G.

You've been vocal about your love of language itself. When writing for your albums, most recently This is Our Science, do you consider how the language will sound in the live show?

Language is a huge determining factor for each and every one of my records, and while This is Our Science is the most live-friendly and live-aware record I've made, I try to hold the record and the live experience as two different things. For this record, the choruses are much more simplified, but the density of language is still similar to the previous records. In terms of the live show, the choruses are what people can latch on to, but the verses get lost anyway, so I try not to stress making that too readily available to the live listener. So, hopefully when they get the album they'll sit down and dissect the verses.

What do you find to be the most satisfying reaction from a live crowd?

I love it when people go nuts. When they dance, sweat and sing along and really enjoy themselves without inhibitions. When I make a record, I want them to go on a bike ride or sit on a bus and think it over. But, when it comes to the live show, I don't want people to think at all and just lose their shit. The shows I love most are the chaotic punk shows. I like to sit down and listen to quiet, beautiful music, but when it comes to a show I kinda want beer spilled on me as I high-five my neighbor at the end. I want that communal, sweaty, dumb experience.

You've likened the freestyle element of your live show to jazz improvisation. When you're in the act of freestyling, how much of it is sheer instinct?

There's definitely parts of it where it's sort of magically flying out of my brain. And then, there's parts where what comes out of my mouth will surprise me. And then there's moments of clarity where I'm playing chess five moves in advance. Some nights I'm hammering out the story, and some nights it will fly out of my brain. It still surprises me. For as much control as I have over it, there's always parts that will be out of my hands.

Astronautalis performs at the The Garage on Friday, November 16 with Bomba de Luz, Karizma, North Star Wisdom
All Ages, $12, 7 p.m.



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The Garage

75 Civic Center Parkway, Burnsville, MN

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