An all-ages crowd of sweaty bodies were piled into the art deco Fox Theater in Pomona, Calif. May 5 for the sold out Atmosphere show. Heads were bobbin’ and booties were shakin’ in eager anticipation. The vibe was friendly and chill, while clouds of smoke formed a thick blanket overhead.
The stage was dressed with black & white trees and a backdrop with a snowy forest of trees in front of a barn house that was revealed once the Rhymesayers banner dropped.
“Put your hands up Southern Cali.,” said Grieves.
Grieves & Budo – Grieves soulful, strong and sage voice comes bursting out of a wiry white boy from Seattle who bounces around the stage with pure enthusiasm. “You need to slow down every once in a while…you don’t need to go soooo fast,” he tells us in the song “Lightspeed.” Grieves’ voice does not match his body. Introspective, emotion driven and yet still lighthearted…Grieves pours his soul onto the stage and throws it out to the audience like keepsakes. Budo plays guitar, keyboard, trumpet and samples on a Mac…a well-rounded producer and one-man band. “Burn It Down” is easily one of my favorite Grieves and Budo tracks that they rocked that night with strong call back from the crowd.
DJ Abilities – DJ Abilities, aka Gregory Keltgen, cut & scratched wicked sets between Grieves and Blueprint. Mixing Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” and some crazy metal with an MPC. He paused between songs for the crowd’s reaction, which brought a huge grin to his face. Turntables and a MacBook Pro are his chosen set up and make him an exceptional DJ. It was really great to see DJ Abilities so happy, but the whole time I kept thinking to myself “Where is Eyedea?” I imagine he thought the same thing once or twice that night.
Blueprint and DJ Rare Grooves- DJ Rare Groove was rockin’ a Mac & turntables and a bass player who looks like he belongs in a Viking metal band also accompanied Blueprint. “Fuck all that drama, I’m a real artist,” Blueprint tells us in “The Clouds.” He plays a keyboard off to the side of the stage. The beats are raw and experimental with some jazz and rock flavor mixed in for good measure along with some video game sample sounds. DJ Rare Groove danced like nobody was lookin’ and the bass player with a scruffy beard, long reddish blonde hair and glasses swayed to the beat. Blueprint sings and raps with sincerity and intense passion. And then he busted out the keytar for an up tempo indie rap rock song called “So Alive.” A super positive song with the chorus “so alive, feel so alive” and after that, I did!
The whole crowd sang along to the Weezer sweater song between sets. Evidence of a bunch of indie hip hop kids in the house. Every few minutes the crowd would erupt in screams and clapping when someone would come on the stage to set up for Atmosphere.
Atmosphere – Ant, Nate, and Eric, the other parts of Atmosphere, came out to set things off. Slug slowly sauntered out in a black fedora and a Rhymesayers windbreaker to a crowd with cell phones already raised up to snag pics & video. They kicked the set off with “Until The Nipples Gone.” Then they took it back to the old school a little bit with “Guns & Cigarettes” and had everybody singin’ along. Fittin’ Southern Cali references into the song wherever he could, Slug had everyone in the balcony up on their feet.
“Is it cool if we keep doin’ some old shit?” Slug said. He asked to kill the light switch and the crowd went wild in the darkness. “In the dark we all the same,” Slug said, bringing a sense of unity and anonymity to the show. At this point, the crowd was like putty in his hands. “I had a lot of friends or I call ’em family up on stage tonight, give it up for my family,” Slug said. Leading perfectly into the hope filled and inspirational “To All My Friends”that talks about following your dreams. The live guitar was a little overpowering, but clean as hell. He kept it old school still with “God Loves Ugly” and the crowd ate it up. The people love Slug and Atmosphere just like “God Loves Ugly.”
Although his mic level was a little low, Slugs intensity and fury came through loud and clear. Slug strips down and bears all in his lyrics, exchanging bits and pieces of heart with those in the crowd whose stories he is telling. “This is a community that you all came here to build tonight…you all came here to smile…this is the closest thing to church that some of y’all have, let’s be honest,” Slug said and then launched into “Love Life.”
He ended the encore with “Trying To Find A Balance” in keeping with the old school theme. “I just got super intimidated…maybe it’s cuz I’m in Cali where muthafuckers aren’t easily impressed or maybe it’s cuz my weed brownie just kicked in…creeper brownie,” Slug said.
The sound was a little bit shot out with the levels for the live instruments, but it was not enough to stifle the boundless energy of Slug and his boys.