Devin the Dude, Phranchyze, etc. Warehouse Live November 21, 2012
It's good to spend the holidays with friends and family. For Houston hip-hop fans on Wednesday, that meant celebrating Thanksgiving Eve with everyone's beloved stoned uncle, Devin the Dude, and his whole Coughee Brothaz clique at Warehouse Live.
There were a lot of couples in the crowd, and a lot of groups of what looked like high-school friends. Everyone was back in town, it seemed, and nobody had school or work the next day. An appearance by the Dude provided the perfect excuse to get blazed as fuck with old pals before submitting to family obligations.
Now, it's not quite December yet, but the festive greenery was already aglow with winter cheer inside the Warehouse ballroom, from practically the moment the first needle hit wax. Devin's long career has afforded him fans young and old, black and white. One thing they all seem to share is a love of the herb.
When I arrived, it was Austin's Phranchyze who faced the fog. Opening for Devin the Dude in Houston can be a rough gig, and the noted battle-rapper had to deal with a few chants of "Devin! Devin!" during his set.
He handled them deftly, encouraging the chants and energizing the crowd with "Exodus," his pointed, personal rumination on the limits of faith from his latest mixtape, Phranye West. It's a song that can't help but get a crowd's attention, and those who opened their ears were introduced to a rising Texas talent.
That much was made clear by an excellent set-closing freestyle that informed the rapper's competition that their "flow is mediocre like the Astros." It was pretty fucking funny, despite a few good-natured jeers from loyal 'Stros fans in the audience.
Devin the Dude's big Warehouse shows over the last couple years haven't entirely been hip-hop concerts. The rapper has taken to performing with a live band, and the ensemble he brought out on Wednesday lent a jazzy R&B feel to every tune he played.
Despite much of the crowd's youth, Devin is unapologetically peddling grown-folks rap music these days, live in concert, and his fans of all ages appeared down with it Wednesday. In addition to guitar, bass, keys and drums, the band was rounded out by a trumpet, a tenor sax, a flute and a goddamn vibraphone. You do not see this at Waka Flocka Flame shows, one presumes.
Devin opened with a cut from his semi-recent Landing Gear record, "In My Draws," that served roughly the same function as that tune Willy Wonka sang about "Pure Imagination." It was time to leave all troubles behind and enter Devin's happy headspace.
The crowd lit up in more ways than one when the Dude broke into big, funky jazz arrangements of classics "Sticky Green," "Lacville '79" and "Do What You Wanna Do." While Warehouse Live doesn't overly encourage smoking at these gigs, they certainly didn't lift a finger to stop it on Wednesday, either, as the crowd got loose to some flute trills and church organ. It was something to behold.
The Coughee Brothaz came out front for nice arrangements of "Who Got That Funk" and "We Get High," but the band sounded its best on "Right Now," a soft, exhilarating track from To tha X-Treme. It had never been performed live before, the rapper said, and the band sounded tight.
"They rehearsed vigorously!" the Dude exclaimed, and the crowd responded with genuine appreciation.
That same easy, friendly flow extended to "Doobie Ashtray," the most crucial bit of musical communion to be experienced at a Devin concert. The crowd was feeling the band's snappy rendition, and they were squarely in the palm of the rapper's hand when he delivered a brief sermon introducing the set-closer, "Anythang."
"Every heartbeat's a new start to do something positive with your life, if that's what you choose," the Dude said.
Devin's music has the power to make such sentiments ring true. I mean, c'mon: "Anything is plenty, man." If there's a better rap lyric to kick off Thanksgiving, I sure as hell didn't hear it. As promised, the Dude delivered glad tidings and warm feelings to all who attended, sending them home to their families in the true holiday spirit.
Let's just hope nobody got pulled over on the way back.
Personal Bias: Devin is a favorite.
The Crowd: Like, really high.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Do you have my lighter? I just had it."
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Random Notebook Dump: It was nice to see a rapper fill a stage with musicians instead of a bunch of useless dudes hanging out and bobbing their heads.