B L A C K I E, Talk Sick Brats Moon Tower Inn April 20, 2015
On 4/20/2015, surrounded by the subdued celebration of marijuana's own Christmas Day, B L A C K I E took the stage at the Moon Tower on Canal Street armed with his horn, his microphone and his soul, sacrificing everything, performing as if these were his last moments on this planet.
Ten years ago, B L A C K I E released his self-titled EP to an unassuming world of hip-hop fans who had become accustomed to hearing anything from the Third Coast as lean-inspired, screwed and chopped music. The once-groundbreaking production spearheaded by the patron saint of Houston's sound, the late DJ Screw, was adopted by a throng of MCs and beatmakers from around the city and outside its coveted boundaries. In La Porte, Texas, a teenage rapper/producer heard the same sounds, yet he scorched his own earth and began crafting a sound that reflected his bleak, chemically contaminated environment.
These bilious lines from 2005's "Window Gazing" -- "More recycled scenery / The greenery teasing me / Pleasing me / Jealousy sweetly breathing / Needing to exhale..." -- come from the bowels of cavernous introspection. Even the emotive pendulum swing in today's hip-hop lyrics fails to reach the same bottom B L A C K I E reached then.
But before B L A C K I E took the stage, the Talk Sick Brats barreled in with zero intent of taking any prisoners. Offering a blueprint for how punk should be performed in the 21st century, drummer Bryan Funboy flailed his sticks and wailed into the mike without sparing a single second. With the Minutemen's time-based ethos, the Brats -- flanked by Stephanie on guitar and the bass-murdering Jeff -- filled space and time with a mixture of joy and power.
The songs reflected on themes from Bryan becoming an unnecessary victim of violent crime to the day-to-day struggle to survive. If anyone in the audience blinked, or even took a breath, he or she missed it. Despite the discombobulated middle-aged man making hay angels on the Moon Tower's barn-like floor, the Brats reached near punk perfection.
Opening for B L A C K I E is no easy endeavor, but that is not a measurement of his own making. Although performing appears to be his natural environment, his execution onstage would take years off of any other performer's life. His back against the audience, the mike cable tightly wound around his hand, B L A C K I E unleashed a fury antithetical to the contrived mellow mood of 4/20.
He screamed these words from the first track of his brilliant album, Imagine Your Self In a Free and Natural World, like they were his last: "A vulture rises / It turns itself into a fist / A vulture rises / It told me its name was injustice." Both prophetic and profound, he accompanied his backing tracks with the tortured sounds of his horn, blowing one excruciating note after the next.
There was no time for exhaustion. Reminiscent of a prizefighter who will either be victorious or go out on his shield, B L A C K I E's two-song set could not have united a crowd more, amazed at the warrior who gives it his all in spite of the consequences. The most appealing fact of the evening was his newly honed ability to expand the range of emotions. The notes from the sax, although strained with tension, were also spiked with warm tones. Not all fury, but reflective.
In the end, nothing but the audience's wonderment remained. B L A C K I E exited the Moon Tower's stage quietly, humbly and without regret.
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