J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Perceptionists - Local 506, Chapel Hill, North Carolina - 9th November 2005

The Perceptionists (l to r: Akrobatik, Mr. Lif) and DJ Therapy of Asamov.

It's easy to get disheartened about the way the public responds, or doesn't respond, to music. Green Day's American Idiot, with all its pretensions to being the year's greatest political commentary track, earned a Best Album nomination at the Grammys. But in hip-hop, politics is not such a hot seller. 50 Cent, the rest of G-Unit and various other commercially oriented rap artists have marched to the top of sales charts repeatedly. 50 earned a Grammy nomination as well, even if it was the kiss-of-death Best New Artist award. Not them most socially minded artists on the planet.

How much politicization will the public accept? Despite its wide acceptance as one of the best albums of the rock and roll era, it's hard to imagine Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back successfully spawning a single like "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," a song brazen enough to suggest that black Americans should never be forced to serve in the military of a country that has repeatedly used and abused them for 3+ centuries.

And while the Perceptionists (MCs Mr. Lif and Akrobatik and DJ Fakts One) certainly aren't on a label as highly promoted as Def Jam was, Definitive Jux is a label with serious clout when it comes to credibility. So despite being out since the spring of this year, The Perceptionists' Black Dialogue album hasn't exactly torn up the charts. But it has been getting notice, especially with its single "Memorial Day." And why not? With a chorus that is undeniably poignant and catchy ("Where are the weapons of mass destruction?/We've been looking for months and we ain't found nothin'./Please, Mr. President, tell us something./We knew from the beginning that your ass was bluffing."), it's ready made for radio. But such are the questions that go unanswered when it comes to the demand of the music market. With the average block of hip-hop videos on MTV spouting nothing but regurgitated lines about how much a person shines, dines and wines, if that's all the market is aware of, they can't necessarily be blamed.

Still, it was rewarding to see The Perceptionists this past Wednesday and realize that like minded individuals exist. Openers Asamov (from Florida) and Cool Calm Pete/Junk Science were entertaining enough. Asamov was a collective of 4 MCs and 1 DJ who, for all their doubtless energy and showey performance, were just a bit too slow for their number. A group of 4 MCs needs to move and fast, but their words came at a calmer pace, something more fit for a duo, not a group of 4. Cool Calm Pete injected a sense of the absurd and geeky into the show, something surely fans of The Perceptionists ought to appreciate.

Despite having to wait until nearly 12:30 for the headliner to come on (something that is honestly ridiculous for a show on a weeknight), The Perceptionists delivered. Incredibly energetic, precise and relentless, their song selection shined. Blowing through most of the Black Dialogue track listing (including the aforementioned "Memorial Day," "Let's Move," "What Have We Got to Lose?," "5 O'Clock," and "People 4 Prez"), the energy was actually up a notch from the original recorded versions. An entirely different beat and melody was brought in for the live version of "What Have We Got.." that was just as envigorating as the original. New tracks were debuted, but surely most exciting was the performance of two tracks from Mr. Lif's I Phantom solo album; "Earthcrusher" and the masterful "Live from the Plantation."

Even though the show went far too late for a weeknight concert (after sticking around to talk with Lif and Akrobatik, I didn't leave until 2:00am), the show was worth every bit of time and expendature. Mr. Lif is one of the most envigorating MCs in independent hip-hop and Akrobatik is a skilled and marvelous acomplice for the music being delivered as The Perceptionists. The crowd chant of "Where are the weapons of mass destruction," despite being only 60 or 70 people strong, seemed all the more deafening from the passion on display; both in the crowd and on stage.


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