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by Branden Hart
If there is one thing I’m positive the editors and readers of FTTW share in common, it isn’t venereal disease—it’s a love of live music. Last Tuesday, I went to legendary concert venue Stubb’s Barbeque in Austin to watch one of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever seen: The Roots.
The Roots are one of the most important hip-hop ensembles ever to exist. Started by Black Thought and ?uestlove (pronounced “Quest love”) the band relies heavily on jazz beats and melodic progressions, as well as live instruments and as clever, often poignant rhymes. They are known for their exceptional live shows, and this one was absolutely incredible. Not to mention they were playing with LUPE FIASCO, who I’ve mentioned several times over the past few months.
When we got downtown for the concert, we stepped out of the car (where we were listening to Lupe Fiasco’s American Terrorist) and into the street (where we could hear Lupe doing a live version of the same song). Even though it was completely surreal to go from recording to the same live song instantaneously, my heart sunk, because it meant one thing—I was missing Lupe. We mistakenly figured that Lupe would do some songs with The Roots, but ended up being wrong. No matter, we were able to listen to the Lupe songs as we stood in a line that was fifteen fucking minutes long, trying to get in.
When The Roots finally took the stage, we had our beers and were ready to go. This drunk idiot and his drunk ass girlfriend bought me a beer in exchange for a cigarette, so I was trying to balance three beers while standing there cheering for the band. “Why didn’t you just get two beers?” you ask me. “You obviously don’t know me that well,” I reply. But I digress.
The band had everything. ?uestlove plays the drums. Other instruments include sax, keyboard, trombone, and a Sousaphone. That’s right. A FUCKING SOUSAPHONE. At a hip hop concert. I couldn’t believe it. And that Sousaphonist was rocking out man. Moving as much as he could. I thought he was going to fall over at one point. When the other members took a break, ?uestlove (who doesn’t take breaks and is known to DJ at local clubs after concerts), the guitarist, and the Sousaphonist covered Bob Dylan’s Masters of War. The Sousaphonist did the bass line, dancing on stage the entire time. It was the second truly surreal experience of the night, and absolutely amazing to see.
The band played a lot of their more popular songs, then did a lot of covers as well. I realized at one point I was bobbing my head to an instrumental version of Justin Timberlake’s Sexyback. I promptly punched myself in the testicles. Other than that, hearing The Roots cover a song is something special: not only do you get the feeling that they understand what the song is about, but that they really care about the song in the first place.
The big thing for me about seeing live music is the different senses you can observe music with. For example, the bass produced by the giant speakers on either side of the stage was body shaking. I could watch the sleeves on my shirt vibrate against the sound, and I was at least one hundred yards away from the stage. Being there, seeing the band live, kind of negates some of the things we take for granted when listening to an album or an mp3. You begin to realize the organic nature of what you’re observing, and it’s then that the music takes on a new feeling. THAT’S what is important about live music to me.
The concert ended after about two or three hours. My friends, who have seen the band before, said that every time it gets better, and every time they leave a concert they start looking forward to the next one. Lord knows I’ll be back in Austin next time the band plays. I might even find out where ?uestlove is playing afterwards so I can go listen to him, because I know that the experience will be unlike any I can experience anywhere else, no matter how great my home stereo system is.
So readers, what are your favorite groups to see live? What about favorite concerts? What do you love about seeing live music? Where’s your favorite concert venue? Let’s chat it up motherfuckers. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for you in the beer line.
Uberchief rocks it sousaphone style.
*eds note: he's wrong. we really do all have VD