Photos by Matt Sonzala
Some interesting things happened on the way to Bun B's gracing the stage at Warehouse Live Wednesday, his first local performance since winning two Ozone Awards last week. Those interesting things came in the form of the night's openers Orgone, an eight-piece North Hollywood band who describe themselves as "funk/soul/ Afro-beat" on their Myspace page: the band never engaged the crowd.
And this was their smartest and most powerful move - not because they suck, which they most certainly didn't, but because they were under no delusion whose night it was. While there were a plethora of avant-garde coifs, skinny jeans and extra-medium shirts in the audience (the show was sponsored by car company Scion, you know), there were just as many fitted ball caps, ankle-length shorts and 3XL tees (the show was in Houston, you know).
It may have been the perfect place for Orgone to peddle their CDs and otherwise say, hey, we got some John Blaze, too. Instead they simply funked out admirable breakbeat-heavy covers--Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa," George McCrae's "I Get Lifted" - like they could only win by being themselves. It seemed a waste until Bun took the stage, and Orgone remained.
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It was rapture before Bun even broke into "Draped Up" from his 2005 solo debut Trill. And when he addressed the audience and offered his first of many R.I.P. calls to Pimp C, his deceased partner in UGK, the crowd put cups in the air and threw H's to the sky. Mike Jones' "President of Houston" schtick and Bun's Port Arthur upbringing accounted for, no one besides Scarface commands the respect, adulation and loyalty of H-Town's hip-hop scene like the King of Trill. He could have asked for a drink of water and the crowd would have broke into praise.
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Bun deftly ran through 15 years of hits in 45 minutes, slipping from UGK classics like "Pocket Full of Stones" and "Front, Back & Side to Side" to guest spots "Big Pimpin'" and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" to newer cuts like II Trill’s "Keep It Gangsta" and "Swang on Em" with the ease and precision of a professional who’s been in front of crowds for almost half his life. He never lost his breath, even when running through pearl necklace lyrical passages.
Bun's hype man for the night, Mddl Fingz' Young Wee, was more of a backup vocalist, ceding the shine to the big man with the big mic. There aren't many rap acts that can translate their tunes with the help of a live band, but Orgone tackled everything from Timbaland's big-beat madness to Pimp C's sticky bass grooves with aplomb.
At one point, Bun, who remained connected to everyone in the packed house, asked the crowd to "Give it up for the band. Come on,” he said, “they jamming like a motherfucker up here." The gathered obliged, but still, everyone knew whose show it was. - Kris Ex